As a student of political science, we have been familiar with Samuel Johnson’s amazing words on patriotism, an essential ingredient of nationalism. He wrote: ‘Patriotism is last refuge of scoundrel.’ History has been witness to the truthfulness of this dictum multiple times globally. Back at home what does it mean could be witnessed personally and closely by observing what RSS-BJP Indian rulers; the darling of the rich and middle-classes, did and continue to do to the working class of the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Indian ruling classes and so-called gentry which generally hail from the high Castes keeps on sermonizing that Bhartiya civilization is one which treats the whole world as a family (वसुधैव कुटुंबकम:), our guests are treated as we honour gods/goddesses (अतिथि देवो भव:) and all Indians are the children of Mother India.
But after seeing what the Indian State has done to crores of the Indian working class which included children, women (many of them pregnant and disabled) and men, these claims prove to be fake and bogus as always. These workers who created wealth through their labour, made what metropolis of India are today, were the main human force which brought Green Revolution in India, kept on running the giant industrial wheels of India and who played the most crucial role in contributing to the GDP of the country with the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic were left in the lurch; to suffer horrendous life which words cannot describe. The visuals of their suffering would shame any nation.
When rich and middle classes were beating thalis (utensils/plates), clapping, lighting candles, discussing the brands of face masks (our PM appeared six times on television screens, every time wearing a new designer mask, he even released a video of himself showing how he was keeping fit during the lockdown!) and hand sanitizers and how many times hands had to be washed these devastated jobless, homeless, penniless workers in millions were walking on roads, some of them riding broken cycles, cycle rickshaws, hand carts, tricycles etc.
Many of them covering 1500 kilometres. State had totally withdrawn from the scene. When these multitudes were punished for journeying through roads in the name of ‘social distancing’ (using it for physical distancing only showed the Casteist attitude of the ruling elite), the large number of them diverted to rail track where many of them were crushed under moving goods trains. Countless of them died in accidents riding trucks and vehicles.
The ruling elite of India and media did another unforgettable crime. These devastated workers were called as ‘Pravasi mazdoor’ or migratory workers as if they had come from outside India. By using this term we were not only humiliating these suffering Indian but also underlining Racism ingrained in our world-view. It is strange that IT experts, white-collar employees, engineers, doctors, managers coming from different parts of the country working at Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad Chennai, Delhi, Gurgaon etc. are never described as migratory. They become Mumbaikar, Bangalorean, Delhite, Kolkatan, Hyderabadi, Chennaiite etc. They are described as the gentry of their respective cities of work. However, the poor workers hailing from different parts of the country remain alien to be described as ‘migratory’ workers. Those who call Indian workers as migratory are, in fact, preparing the ground for disunity.
Is not it strange that?
Money bags which establish factories in Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh are never described as migratory capitalists,
In the North-East of India major part of the business is owned by Marwaris and other outsiders but they are not called migratory businessmen/women,
Two leaders from Gujarat become Indian PM and home minister but we do not designate them as migratory,
A baba from Uttarakhand becomes chief minister of the largest Province of India, UP but he is not described as migratory,
They all remain national but Indian only workers who toil to create wealth for the whole of Indian despite the absence of even minimum facilities which a human being requires for existence remain ‘migratory’! In fact, the Indian working class is the only nationalist as they care least about regionalism. How is this different from Racism which was prevalent in the USA and South Africa?
There seems to be no end to the shameless and inhuman attitude of the Indian capitalists and RSS-BJP government promoted by them. They did not bother about their workers who were left to die of hunger, to be maimed on roads and walk hundreds of kilometres. Now they are beating their chests that all workers have left. The rulers are obliging them by forcing workers not to go and doing away with even so-called labour laws. Eight-hour work is going to be history. It is time that workers of India should put conditions before returning. They should demand robust labour laws, no meddling with 8-hour working day, housing, complete medical cover, education facilities and sufficient wage instead of minimum wage.
The Indian working class must realize that Indian billionaires may have money but it is human labour which multiplies it.
The embedded media and experts are trying hard to spread the canard that workers are in crisis. The fact is that it is capitalism which is in crisis and the Indian working class must rise to the occasion, demand a fair deal. They have nothing to lose!
Remember these couplets of Faiz Ahmad Faiz:
When we, who toil by the sweat of our brow
will ask the people of the world for our share,
we won’t be content with a farm or a country,
we’ll ask for the whole world for ourselves.
May 23, 2020.