„It can not be allowed to take back the human values that we have!“

Lockdown in Indien – Unser Projektpartner Bappaditya Mukherjee, von Prantakatha, Teil des Youth Collective, einer indienweit tätigen Partnerorganisation der Dreikönigsaktion erzählt in einem Mail an unsere Kollegin Eva Wallensteiner vom Alltag im Kampf gegen COVID-19 und gegen die damit einhergehende Ausgrenzung und Ächtung:

Dear Eva,
we are indeed on a learning curve and very much consciously than ever before!  

While Achintya locked herself at home for now nearing two weeks (we started much early before the Govt announced it ), I am at twenty Kms away managing my 70 up parents doing everyday household work, trying to unlearn and mitigate new challenges everyday.
On the flip side, social distancing doesn’t and should not mean ostracising! It can not be allowed to take back the human values that we have! 
Hence the trade off is, between social distancing, learning to keep us healthy to keep others around us healthy while not isolating people, isolating marginalised! 

I couldn’t stop sharing something in this regard which happened just yesterday! Yesterday morning around 10, I received SOS call from a friend in Delhi. He shared that two young  volunteers from Armenia were supposed to fly back home from Kolkata but since the whole country is under lockdown got stuck. 
The crisis is, the hotel room they were staying near airport has to close due to Govt notice,  so they want this youngsters to leave but they have nowhere to go! Arjun asked us to help. 
By the time I got these news, the whole country has gone into lockdown!  Moreover, given the paranoia this virus has generated, people who six months back used to hanker for selfies with Europeans are now ostracizing them in fear!
So no hotel, no cab, no houses, not the nearby locality wants to provide shelter to them! I was shell shocked!  Both of them are amazing youngsters,  crazy artists and loving youth!  Since 10 am I along with two colleagues started working how to a) arrange a shelter for them for next may be one month or more b) how do we arrange transport to help them reach shelter! 
To my disbelief, one after other famed NGO heads who have ambulances, human resources,  shelter homes and stays near the airport kept turning down our earnest requests. Mostly because of the fear of local backlash and their own fear around COVID19!  The funny thing is, the two young volunteers were completely healthy and had no symptoms.They have visited a Hospital to get tested and authorities said according to the current protocol of the Government they cant test them since they are completely asymptomatic! 
These two youngsters were sitting on the roadside and we kept trying to arrange for any support. In the meantime local people came to them and because of their accent it created a lot of misunderstandings and it reached a tipping point!

Thanks to one of our youth, Anitesh, who walked 3 kms to reach them, the misunderstandings got cleared.
We still tried to make the hotel manager change his mind till we arrange an alternative! But all in vain. Then by 4pm, with the help from police higher authorities,  amazing lady IPS  took personal attempts despite police being overburdened,  arranged a transport and one of our youth’s mother welcomed them to her home.

But in the process, while we could see ostracising behaviours from development sector professionals, we also got support from youth from different walks of life. That was very beautiful and touching. One young doctor even called me, offering his own car and wanted to drive them to his home.
Today we arranged for a test at the Medical College Hospital to testifying that they are fit to stay inside a home. This was needed  to help that senior woman who is keeping them with her.
Just few minutes back they called me to say thanks and that they both want to do something for our Youth organisation, Prantakatha 😀 I told them, now best thing is to stay indoor and stay healthy till this manic phase is over!

The moral of the story is social distancing should not be turned into Ostracism. It should not bring back untouchability in a different package! 
Especially when now hundreds of  migrant labourers have come back from Mumbai, UP, Delhi to their home states and we don’t know what is their COVID status! There is a high chance of surging of xenophobia that we have to remain extremely cautious of! 
Hence,  we as an organisation and as individuals have to co-learn how to do the tight rope walk between creating  a health conscious community while keeping it a connected and humane commune!
The key to that in my mind is Love! Love for self without love for others is a disaster!
As the worlds second largest populous country with such a high population density, probably India is at a critical junction of human history! If we win, may be world will also win! 
And we have to learn it and create a Melting Pot out of this!

With love, B

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