Perhaps in 10 years, the world might develop the ability to look at pictures of the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc in India and not shudder in fear. Perhaps in 10 years, the memory of being horrified may have subsided enough for us to write more dispassionately about what happened in the terrible summer of 2021. Perhaps in 10 years, a new disaster may have befallen the human race, proving that nothing is the worst so long as we can say this is the worst.

And perhaps in 10 years, we may also have the clarity to pinpoint exactly when the apocalypse came home in India. On January 30, 2020, India reported its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in a medical student who had returned to Kerala from Wuhan. That was not the beginning of the apocalypse. It begun much earlier, on May 26, 2014, when Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister.

By electing Modi, India effectively signed up for a disaster that would begin with the persecution of minorities and end with a pandemic that does not differentiate between religions. The old identity that India had forged for itself, of a ‘non-violent’ state that was the birthplace of Gandhi and his freedom movement, came crumbling down on that fateful day in 2014, to be replaced by a Hindu Rashtra. The RSS, of which the BJP is part and Modi a member, has never shied away from its ultimate goal, i.e. the end of secular India and the birth of a Hindu Rashtra. Modi had promised to fulfill this goal by building a new country, one whose foundations would lie in the very worst days of India’s internal history, a live repeat telecast, if you will, of the Gujarat riots, of Babri Mosque demolition. And so it has come to be, that with every lynching reminding the world of the mutilated bodies in Gujarat, that Modi has indeed fulfilled his pledge. Unfortunately for his poor country, his promised land came at a cost.


And that cost we now see being extracted from hapless people, breath for breath, gasp for gasp.

Much has been written about how India allowed matters to reach this point, where the entire healthcare system has collapsed so completely. ‘How could the government have been this callous,’ ask the people. The answer lies in going just a few years back in time.

Did the BJP government’s indifference to its people’s suffering begin with this wave of the pandemic? No. The indifference began with silence and tacit approval of Muslim lynchings at the hands of cow-vigilantes. It began when Dalits were stripped and flogged for skinning a dead cow. Did the Modi administration began sacrificing people at the altar of its popularity just now? No, that ritual began with anti-Muslim dog-whistles. It began with bringing all of India to the brink of war with Pakistan to win another election. It began with calculating political dividends in human lives.

And now, as the world watches in horror, the true cost of having a populist fascist at the helm of affairs is obvious. Words fall woefully inadequate to describe the scale of the horror. The image of mass graves in New York and army trucks carrying away bodies in Bergamo seem to have paled in comparison to New Delhi’s overflowing crematoriums. If Modi had his way, the visuals coming through would have only been of overflowing graveyards. The virus had other plans.

Biblical accounts of the coming of the apocalypse involve elaborate signs, trees sweating blood, stars falling from the sky and the burning of heaven and earth. For India, the apocalypse came home in a similar manner. The weak cried tears of blood, Bollywood and cricketing stars fell from grace. Finally, the earth burnt under one smoldering pyre upon another.