India is struggling to contain the spread of the new ‘double mutant’ Covid-19 variant which has turned out to be quite lethal. The positivity peaked with 3,82,315 new Covid-19 cases pushing the country’s overall caseload to over 2,06,65,148. With fresh infections, the total active coronavirus cases in the country have mounted to 34,87,229, according to the data released by India’s health ministry.
The New York Times reported, ‘The sudden surge in recent weeks, with an insidious newer variant possibly playing a role, is casting increasing doubt on India’s official Covid-19 death toll of nearly 200,000, with more than 2,000 people dying every day (New York Times April 24, 2021). However, some reports indicate the death of 2,26,000.
How the virus ran amok
White House chief medical adviser and America’s top pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says, `India’s home-grown COVID-19 vaccine (Covaxin), has neutralized 617 variant of the deadly virus. The mounting deaths are apparently due to India’s failure to inoculate its whole population.
India’s prime minister Modi had declared a premature “victory” against the virus. India announced that it has enough vaccines to export to over 76 countries. The government looked the other way when police carried out a witch hunt against the foreign Muslim preachers when they visited India. They were labeled “super-spreaders” and even “terrorists”. However, the courts exonerated most of the preachers of the charges.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party fumed and fretted about the preachers. But, it allowed a Hindu religious congregation of naked or semi-naked pilgrims (Kumbh) to be held without any let-up or hindrance. The BJP chief minister of Uttarkhand declared that faith and the purificatory power of the Ganga River would suffice as a Covid shield, though it did not.
The mounting deaths are apparently due to India’s failure to stop congregations and inoculate its whole population. India’s health minister, Harsh Vardhan, audaciously claimed that India’s fatality rate is still “the lowest in the world”. Two months back, he declared that his nation was “in the endgame” of the pandemic.
His boss, Modi, boasted to the World Economic Forum in January that India had “saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively”. Narendra Modi’s claim was preceded by the announcement that he was bringing a “message of confidence, positivity, and hope from 1.3 billion Indians amid these times of apprehension”.
How the world sees India & Modi Govt's Covid response today pic.twitter.com/CZimc1sE5Y
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) May 5, 2021
The new variant ‘B.1.618’ is a major immune escape variant. India hit the world’s highest single-day tally when it recorded more than 300,000 active cases in a day. Hospitals in the country are running out of oxygen supply, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of deaths.
Viral videos showed desperate people exhaling into the mouths of their dying kins. Wood became short to cremate dead bodies. While patients kept dying for want of a bed or oxygen, the para-medical staff kept minting money by stealing medicines from hospital stores, allocating and re-allocating beds, or charging an exorbitant price of about Rs. 3000 a kilometer.
The situation in occupied Kashmir
The situation in occupied Kashmir became particularly gruesome. Oxygen cylinders from the disputed state were “bought out” for other states. Vaccination centers soon vanished as no vaccine was available.
The viral videos indicated that Kashmiri leaders were languishing in jails without medical treatment. Kashmiri women mourned the deaths of their relatives outside hospitals. Simultaneously, cordon-and-search operations continued to kill innocent Kashmiris.
For a population of nearly 1.2 crores, there are only 600 ventilators. In Srinagar city, there is an availability of only 13,000 liters of oxygen per minute which, the medical experts say, was too low to cater to the ongoing rise in the cases. Several doctors said that each patient requires between 5-10 liters of oxygen per minute and the existing supplies at Srinagar hospitals are sufficient only for 2,000-3,000 people in a given time.
The work on the oxygen plants at the government hospitals is either stalled or has been going on at a snail pace. Although two more plants were opened in the northern Kashmir areas of Kupwara and Sopore on Sunday and another one was ready for use in southern Kashmir’s Shopian. The plants with their capacities of 1,000-liters per minute could cater to a few hundred people in a given time only.
Hospitals have no drugs, not even Remdesivir. A court observed, ‘Death of Covid patients due to non-supply of oxygen not less than genocide’. Another court asked people to register murder charges against the election commission for allowing election gatherings.
Taking advantage of the abrogation of special status, the Indian government is bringing people affected by the Corona epidemic into the Kashmir Valley.
Covid-19 exposed limitations of propaganda
Modi’s gung-ho announcements of victories against the virus did not end the pandemic. He owes many of his electoral victories to the power of propaganda. He blamed Pakistan for bomb blasts in India and Kashmir.
A self-styled businesswoman Madi Sharma (RAW surrogate) arranged a guided tour of far-right members of the European parliament to the occupied Kashmir (October 30, 2013) through a fake International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies. The Institute paid for the travel and accommodation of an unofficial far-right delegation of 23 European Union parliamentarians to Srinagar.
The delegation’s shikara (boat) ride in Kashmir Lake (dal) pictured Kashmir as heaven in serene peace. Some members however smelt a rat and abandoned the free joy ride. The aim was to convince the world that it was all hunky-dory in the occupied Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status and age-old hereditary-ownership law.
Modi acted on Hitler’s propaganda playbook
It appears India has meticulously implemented Hitler’s propaganda theorems:`The bigger the lie, the better the results. The success of any propaganda campaign ultimately depends on the propagandist’s down-to-earth understanding of the “primitive sentiments of the popular masses”. Mein Kampf (pp. 179-180).
The Arnab Goswami transcripts exposed Modi’s fake “surgical strikes”. Goswami referred to the Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019. Three days before the Balakot airstrike on 26 February 2019, Goswami purportedly said India’s response would be: “Bigger than a normal airstrike. And on the same time something major on Kashmir (abrogation of Special Status)”.
The leaks of the WhatsApp messages of Arnab Goswami (Republic TV) brought into the limelight some bitter truths. One bitter truth is that the general public is a ‘bewildered herd’ (to quote Noam Chomsky) who could easily be made a fool of.
The leaked WhatsApp chats revealed that the Balakot ‘surgical strikes’ were conducted to shore up Narendra Modi’s image as a `strong man’, a Brobdingnagian among the self-centered Lilliputian Indian politicians. The ‘strike’ helped Modi win elections with a thumping majority.
Though Modi is educated only up to high school, he understands the power of propaganda. He has done a three-month course in the USA on Image Management and Public Relations. His campaign blitz cost about $700 million. Modi is considered the most techno-savvy leader of India as he is very active on various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The WhatsApp chats between Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta run into 500 long pages. They revealed the nexus between the media and politicians to hoodwink the masses.
Modi considers Indian people a “herd”. Modi owed his electoral victory to the power of propaganda. He made a fool of not only the Indian masses but also the world around until the West Bengal debacle.
History tells that the people, even the Americans, are gullible. Propaganda deeply influenced even independent-minded Americans who laid down a constitution, beginning with the words ‘we the people’.
Chomsky says even the American masses are like a “bewildered herd” who have stopped thinking. He asserts that, in a “properly functioning democracy”, there is a “specialized of the people”, a “special analysts of citizens” who … “analyze, execute, make decisions and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems”.
Chomsky reminds, ‘Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace without Victory”, right in the middle of World War I. The American population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European War. The Wilson Administration established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Committee, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist war-mongering into a hysterical, war-mongering population that wanted to destroy everything German, tears the Germans limb from limb, go to war an,d save the world…. After the war, the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare…’.
Conspiracy theories exposed
One of the first conspiracy theories that came to light was that China created COVID-19 as a biological weapon in a laboratory in Wuhan (Jaaved, 2020). Another widespread conspiracy theory is that 5G technology is the primary cause of the highly contagious virus or even the amounts of deaths.
Without enough evidence there are two sides to this theory: it is the direct cause of the virus because it has a very high level of frequency or it uses these high levels of frequency to weaken people’s immune systems and that way causing a lot of damage and fear. But this 5G theory also comes back to China.
China has a very impressive technological security that uses 5G technology, and some traces show a connection between 5G hotspots and the first COVID-19 outbreaks (Thomas, 2020).
According to “The WHO terms the conspiracy theories as “infodemic” that “spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous”.
The pandemic has proved that propaganda does not always succeed. Abraham Lincoln was right in saying “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing freelance for over five decades. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.