Una Olimpíada de diferencia entre la India y China

Los Juegos Olímpicos de Tokio han terminado, y en Japón, pueblo y gobierno suspiran aliviados, ahora que el espectáculo pasó sin que hubiera un brote importante de COVID‑19 en la villa olímpica u otros desastres. Aquí en la India, aún duran las celebraciones por la primera medalla de oro que obtiene el país en la competencia masculina de lanzamiento de jabalina (y su mejor cosecha de medallas en cualquier Olimpíada). Pero ¿hay tanto de qué alegrarse?

Hace unos diez años, era común mencionar juntas a la India y China en la misma oración. Se suponía que tras siglos de influencia occidental, eran los nuevos contendientes por el predominio global, la respuesta oriental a generaciones de éxito económico de Occidente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Aug. 15. (Manish Swarup/AP)

Aug. 8: A crowd chants slogans calling for the genocide of Muslims during a rally in New Delhi called by a former spokesperson of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party. The instigator is arrested and released in 24 hours.

Aug. 8: Anmol Pritam, a young journalist from the online news organization National Dastak, is heckled by Hindu nationalists at another event in the Indian capital. He says the crowd wanted him to chant “Glory to Lord Rama.”

Aug. 11: In Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim man, Aftar Ahmad, is dragged by a mob and mercilessly beaten as his young daughter begs for mercy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sorpresas entre los creyentes de la India

Es raro que una encuesta de opinión pública sacuda las percepciones establecidas en un país como lo hizo un estudio reciente del Centro de Investigaciones Pew sobre la religión en la India. Las revelaciones de la exhaustiva encuesta del Pew —basada en entrevistas a 30 000 adultos en 17 idiomas entre fines de 2019 y principios de 2020— dejaron a muchos estupefactos.

En especial, este estudio multirreligioso halló que los indios valoran tanto la tolerancia religiosa y la coexistencia por un lado, como la exclusividad y segregación religiosa por otro. Pero esta aparente contradicción no es, de hecho, enteramente sorprendente.

Desde hace más de 25 años —principalmente en mi libro de 1997 India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond [India: de la medianoche al milenio y más allá]— sostengo que la India no es un crisol de razas como Estados Unidos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Catholic priests and nuns hold placards during an October protest against the arrest of the Rev. Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest, in Secunderabad, India.

On July 5, the Rev. Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, passed away in a hospital in a suburb of Mumbai. Swamy spent nearly nine months in jail, without trial, under an Indian anti-terrorism law. Despite living with Parkinson's disease and having contracted Covid-19 in prison, he was denied bail.

His death was cruel -- and likely preventable. The blame lies with Indian authorities as much as it does with everyday Indians who looked on, wondering -- silently -- how this would end. The government has said that Swamy's detention was "following due process of the law" and that he was allowed medical treatment at a private hospital where he received "all possible medical attention."…  Seguir leyendo »

Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

En la cumbre del G7 el mes pasado, la India se sumó a otros 11 firmantes —desde Canadá hasta Corea del Sur y la Unión Europea— en una declaración conjunta que afirma la «convicción que comparten sobre las sociedades abiertas, los valores democráticos y el multilateralismo». La declaración promociona el compromiso de los firmantes con las reglas internacionales y normas relacionadas con, entre otras cosas, «la libertad de expresión, tanto en línea como por otros medios» e identifica los «cortes de Internet con motivaciones políticas» como amenazas contra la libertad y la democracia. Según esta definición, ya no se puede considerar a la India como un modelo de los valores democráticos.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past an informative coronavirus mural in Mumbai on July 4. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the White House announced that it is deploying response teams, composed of officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies, to combat the “hypertransmissible” delta variant of the coronavirus spreading across the United States and the world. This variant first emerged in India, where a devastating second wave of virus infections have been accompanied by a parallel epidemic of mucormycosis, or “black fungus,” that is maiming and killing patients.

India’s humanitarian tragedy is linked to a deeper political crisis — that of democratic erosion. At independence from colonial rule, India had relatively low economic development and industrialization, widespread poverty and illiteracy, and immense ethnic diversity across linguistic, religious and caste lines.…  Seguir leyendo »

India mira al oeste

Los últimos gestos conciliatorios del gobierno nacionalista de la India en su flanco occidental despertaron el comprensible interés del mundo. Pero el cálculo del primer ministro Narendra Modi es bastante sencillo. Frente a la agresión continua de China en la frontera septentrional de la India y un probable resurgimiento talibán en Afganistán, parece prudente una mejora de las relaciones del país con su vecino occidental (Pakistán).

Estas últimas semanas, se habló de la existencia de conversaciones extraoficiales secretas entre funcionarios de seguridad indios y pakistaníes (facilitadas por los Emiratos Árabes Unidos) con el objetivo de aliviar las tensiones bilaterales. La tregua que se acordó en febrero de 2021 en la «línea de control» que separa a las fuerzas indias y pakistaníes en la disputada región de Cachemira se viene respetando desde entonces, lo que permitió una atmósfera de relativa normalidad en la zona.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pedestrian walks past a mural for front-line workers in Navi Mumbai, India, on Monday. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

As the covid-19 pandemic rages across the globe, India has seen some of the most catastrophic losses in the world. Images of helplessness, pain and despair have become emblematic of the crisis: overflowing crematoriums and funeral pyres, a torrent of pleas for oxygen and beds, and a health-care system in shambles.

At a time when the country reels from the compounded effects of this devastating pandemic, social media abounds with falsehoods: unscientific claims that cow urine can prevent covid-19, baseless allegations that Muslims spread the virus and unsubstantiated narratives that Western media is making up death tolls, among others. Social media groups have morphed into havens of misinformation.…  Seguir leyendo »

On December 11, 2020, I found myself in an ambulance, rushing my father from a government hospital to a private one, in search of a state-of-the-art ventilator in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata. The day before, my mother had breathed her last.

I lost both my parents to the coronavirus in a span of 10 days. I am still grieving six months later but I am also grateful that Covid-19 found my family last year, and not now. Here's why.

As I write this, India, where I've lived all of my life and worked as a journalist for the past decade, is experiencing one of the world's worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.…  Seguir leyendo »

As far as many viewers in the West are concerned, India's pandemic crisis is encapsulated by one enduring image: flaming funeral pyres. On an almost-daily basis this disheartening tableau can be seen in outlets ranging from the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and BBC. These outlets typically preface their coverage with "trigger" warnings that some might find the content upsetting.

While the concern for reader sensitivities is commendable, many Indians wish that they were not shown at all. Their frustration can be gleaned from outbursts on social media and print platforms, where some Indians complain about a Western media bias.…  Seguir leyendo »

A health worker tests a man for the coronavirus at a market in Chennai, India, on Tuesday. (Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images)

The second wave of the pandemic has been devastating India, with well over 300,000 daily covid-19 cases for days in a row, exacerbated by acute shortages of oxygen and hospital beds. India now has the second-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide and the actual number of cases may be a lot higher.

While India’s crisis has many causes, one key ingredient is weak competition among the political parties. Party competition ensures that policies result from consultation and deliberation among different political constituencies. Such an effort delivers policies that are more likely to be comprehensive and benefit the whole society — something that’s especially important for a diverse country like India.…  Seguir leyendo »

Children hang their face masks in the net and play a game of soccer in Kochi, Kerala state, India, on Oct. 6. (R S Iyer/AP)

In the past two months, 7-year-old Tarun’s world collapsed around him. He lost both his parents to covid-19 during India’s devastating second wave. With the deaths of the family’s primary earners, Tarun’s grandfather Mohan is forced to work extra hours as a daily-wage construction laborer. Even after working overtime, he earns a mere 40 rupees (or $0.55) per day. The family anxiously worries that food will run out within the week — and they are not alone in this predicament.

India’s second wave has generated conversation about vaccinations and funeral pyres. Yet the staggering number of children who have lost both parents, and families who have lost their sole earners, also warrants immediate attention.…  Seguir leyendo »

Relatives carry a body for cremation past the graves of people believed to be covid-19 victims on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur, India, on May 20. (Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

The disturbing video went viral across India in a matter of hours: Scores of bodies, feared to be of covid-19 victims, washed up on the shores of the holy Ganges River in the northeastern state of Bihar. The villagers were surprised and suspected the bodies had floated from far away, according to a reporter on the ground.

Investigators are still trying to understand what happened, but it appears to be another grim reminder of the raging death toll in the country — a death toll that is going largely undercounted, especially in rural areas, even as the official figures break records: On May 19 there were more than 4,500 deaths reported in a single day.…  Seguir leyendo »

India failed to save the living from covid-19. Now, it won’t count the dead

For the past 10 days, at the peak of India’s second covid-19 wave, I have traveled through remote villages in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, documenting corpses that have been dumped in our holiest rivers. I have counted hundreds of bodies abandoned in mass shallow graves molded from the sand and stones of dried-up riverbanks. My count stands at 1,000 bodies at six different towns, spread across a few hundred miles.

A formal audit will reveal many more bodies are out there. But no one will order it.

First, the Indian government failed abysmally at saving lives. Now, it is refusing to count our dead.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why Is the Virus Killing So Many Pregnant Women in India?

The doctors at the Government Institute of Medical Sciences, also known as the G.I.M.S., a public hospital in Noida, a suburb of Delhi, recently told me that during the first wave of Covid-19 last year, most pregnant women had moderate symptoms and were able to return home after being hospitalized for a few days.

The G.I.M.S. serves about 2,000 patients from the suburb and its surrounding villages every day without charge. Throughout March, April and May, the doctors there told me that most pregnant women arrived with acute respiratory distress syndrome, their lungs collapsing. Out of the 15 pregnant women who were in the gynecology ward of the hospital when I spoke to the doctors, two weeks ago, 11 were on oxygen support, two were on ventilators and one was recovering.…  Seguir leyendo »

El virus del Covid es un animal oportunista: se cuela por las puertas abiertas y nunca fuerza las puertas cerradas. Cuando se le niega el acceso, por medio de las mascarillas, la distancia de seguridad, el aislamiento o la vacuna, el virus desaparece. Por lo tanto, la pandemia es el reflejo y el indicador de nuestro comportamiento y las estadísticas no revelan tanto la letalidad del virus como nuestra voluntad o falta de ella para bloquear su camino. De modo que un mapa mundial de la pandemia es como una fotografía de nuestras culturas individuales y colectivas, de los relatos y políticas dominantes que influyen en nuestras actitudes ante la enfermedad, o incluso las determinan.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman getting the Covid-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India. Credit Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As of Tuesday, India had over 23 million reported cases of Covid-19 and more than 254,000 deaths. The real numbers may be much higher, as the country reported an average of more than 380,000 new cases per day in the past week.

As a virologist, I have closely followed the outbreak and vaccine development over the past year. I also chair the Scientific Advisory Group for the Indian SARS-CoV2 Consortium on Genomics, set up by the Indian government in January as a grouping of national laboratories that use genetic sequencing to track the emergence and circulation of viral variants. My observations are that more infectious variants have been spreading, and to mitigate future waves, India should vaccinate with far more than the two million daily doses now.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ayudemos a la India, ahora

En mi niñez, en el Valle de Cachemira en el norte de la India, a menudo mi padre, que era médico, me acompañaba a mis vacunaciones anuales. Yo le preguntaba cómo funcionan y se crean las vacunas. Tras explicarme la biología básica del sistema inmune humano, siempre recalcaba que eran el resultado de esfuerzos globales en que científicos y empresas de todo el mundo colaboraban meticulosamente para asegurarse de que todos quienes las recibieran estuvieran bien protegidos.

Hoy solo una acción global puede afrontar la creciente crisis de COVID-19 en la India, donde la cantidad de casos diarios superó hace poco los 400.000 (un récord mundial) y más de 245.000 personas han fallecido.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman mourning her husband at a cremation site for victims of Covid in New Delhi. Credit Adnan Abidi/Reuters

It will be a while before it’s fully understood why India has been so swiftly and so disastrously engulfed by the coronavirus. But there is one thing for sure: India’s problem is now the world’s problem.

India shut down too abruptly when the virus arrived, and then was too quick to reopen. In March 2020, the country was locked down at four hours’ notice though it did not yet have many cases. Millions of people, many of them migrant workers, were left stranded without food and shelter. Facing economic disaster, the government reopened the country before the pandemic really took hold.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man waits to refill a medical oxygen cylinder at a charging station on the outskirts of Prayagraj, India, on April 23. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)

As India reeled from the devastating and catastrophically mismanaged second wave of the covid-19 pandemic and its government ordered social media platforms to censor critical content, our Twitter account, “Watch the State,” was temporarily restricted twice in one week — the first time globally, the second time only in India — after sharing news articles related to the unfolding crisis.

In December 2019, when protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act broke out in India, student protesters approached our organization asking for support in tracking the growing police violence against citizens. We set up a system to document instances of state violence against protesters, which included illegal detention and custodial torture, the use of tear gas, surveillance, police brutality and hate speech.…  Seguir leyendo »