Vaccine Racism or India-phobia?

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

As reported in the Indian media, ‘Britain’s decision to force visitors from India to quarantine for 10 days even if they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 has been blasted as “racist”, “unscientific” and “utterly bizarre”.’

It is pointed out that ‘Both countries have made widespread use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab – known in India as Covishield – for their vaccination drives, with Britain even taking delivery of about 5 million doses made under licence by the Serum Institute of India before the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer halted exports amid a devastating second wave of the virus earlier this year.

‘Yet unlike vaccinated travellers from other countries, vaccinated Indians travelling to the UK must now undergo a 10-day quarantine, complete with two rounds of compulsory testing, even if they have received the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab.’

One wonders if it is the money that Britain is after – since the Indian travellers will have to pay for both quarantine and the double-testing themselves, a hefty sum –, in which case that could have been stated in as many words. After all their policy as regards students allows for tweaking, as the mother of one Indian student said: ‘When they wanted the fees that Indian students were going to pay universities, they conveniently relaxed the 10-day hotel quarantine rule because they wanted the money. Now they’ve gone back to treating us differently.’

Understandably, there has been an uproar in India against this biased decision by Britain, and the topic was discussed between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week. Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have announced that they will consider reciprocal retaliatory measures if this issue is not resolved.

In a partial U-turn, the UK then reversed its stand and said it would recognize Covishield, which has received WHO approval, but maintained quarantine and self-testing on the flimsy grounds of what they called ‘certification issues.’ Subsequently, Britain’s High Commission in India said that ‘We are engaging with the government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India.’

In fact, in an earlier presentation by WION, the anchor Palki Sharma Updadhyaya had shown visuals of India’s vaccination certificate, which is a properly certified one, in sharp contrast to that of the US which is a ‘mere scrap of paper’ – but which is accepted by the UK. It may be noted that the US is shortly to allow entry of all double-jabbed travellers, and that Germany and France have had no issue with Indian travellers.

Why Britain persists in discriminating against India is something that it only can answer. Thinking aloud, one may justifiably ask whether it is aligning itself with the rag-tag gang of so-called academics who organized the recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ Conference a few weeks ago? Based at Rutgers University and led by a certain Audrey Truschke, known for her anti-India, anti-Modi and anti-Hindu rants, they claimed to have had the sponsorship of several prestigious universities in the US.

However, there was a massive backlash by the Hindu American Foundation and other bodies which contacted the named ‘sponsor’ universities, besides the viral video that was put up by Pt Satish Sharma of the UK aptly titled ‘I am Hindutva,’ in which featured prominent scholars and peace lovers like Jeffrey Armstrong, Sahana Singh, Vaishali Shah, Sinu Joseph, Subuhi Khan and others. The result was that several universities dissociated themselves from the organizers and the so-called conference was a total flop.

As Minhaz Merchant, a well-known commentator in the Indian media, wrote in the Swarajya magazine of Sept. 22, 2021, ‘With PM Modi’s first in-person bilateral meeting with the United States President Joe Biden in Washington this week, expect a surge in Modiphobia and Hinduphobia.

‘I’m not a Hindu but never cease to be astonished at the venom certain Hindus spew at Hinduism.

‘In a liberal democracy, self-criticism is an asset, not a liability. But Hinduphobia is not self-criticism. It is an extreme, anarchic form of hate. The online conference “Dismantling Global Hindutva” would have deserved little or no attention but for its attempt to mainstream anti-Hinduism.’

Perhaps it is time for Britain to regain a bit of its lost glory of empire by reverting to some of its traditional values, which are also Hindu values, as underlined by one of its Members of Parliament, Bob Blackman in 2014, and that still resonate:

‘When we talk about British values, some people think that is excluding others. Standing on your own two feet, loyalty to country, family, rule of law are great British values. ‘These are also great Hindu values. Remember the Hindu contribution to the country. The power of our economy is driven by Hindu contribution. Hindus are the most law abiding citizens with 0.005% rate of imprisonment. The smallest sector of any identifiable group. They are more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators. So actually, when you see young people learning the art of self-defence that is a big deterrent to being victims of crime and there is nothing wrong with defending yourself from aggressors. So that is something to celebrate.

‘We should also remember that belief of education is embedded in Hindu religion and that is great. Parents want their children to become doctors, engineers, scientists and dentists etc. Also remember, tomorrow we will commemorate 100 years to the start of World War One. Great contribution was made by India and now commonwealth. So many soldiers sacrificed their life so that we can be free and their contributions are often forgotten and we should not allow that.’

Already then there was media bias, as he pointed out: ‘We recognise media bias exists out there against the community in general. During Indian elections several accusations were made on Mr Modi, mainly false. He was banned from coming here by the previous government and the coalition government has now removed the ban. We expect him to visit us this autumn and hear his wise words about he turned around Gujarat and will now turn around India as well.’

Time for Britain to acknowledge the new world order that is emerging. All the more so in light of the ruling of the International Court of Justice in the matter of Diego Garcia. If anything, at the very least, this should show that the days of colonialism are long gone.

* Published in print edition on 24 September 2021

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