Nationalism Kills

Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:

The actual problem for India is huge. According to estimates, only 2.2 percent of the current population has been fully vaccinated. India needs 200 to 230 million vaccines a month to vaccinate its 1.5 billion population. Hardly any are available; the much-touted vaccination drive that would make the vaccine available to everyone over eighteen years old lies in disarray. Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute, has come under fire for undersupply of vaccines and “profiteering” from Covishield, a version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. (India shipped sixty million doses abroad before the spike in cases.) In response, Poonawalla noted that the Indian government had ordered only 2.1 million doses in February, and then 120 million more in March 2021 when the numbers started to creep upward. He had not increased capacity, he said, because there simply were no orders from the Indian government. Despite scaling up, he noted, the shortage would last until at least July.

The Modi government did not have any plans to vaccinate its population and the only way out of the cycle of endless death wrought by the virus is just that: the vaccine. A million people may die in India because of this and many will not even be counted, cremated in the makeshift parking lot crematoriums that are the only option for many. Trump’s loss has not eliminated the white nationalist and nativist ideology that gives his supporters the sense of self and superiority to which they believe they are entitled. Having engulfed the Republican Party, and unwilling still to believe that Trump lost, they are addicted not to what Trump did as head of the government but rather how he affirmed their sense of white racial superiority.

The massive deaths, the shortages of beds, of oxygen, even of wood to burn the bodies, may still not be the end of Modi. In Trumpian fashion, he gives his supporters, many new entrants to the Indian middle class who dislike being outdone by either Muslims, Christians, or even lower caste Hindus, a sense of primordial Hindu superiority. Even far poorer Hindus can buy into this, as laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act suddenly render their Muslim neighbors non-citizens, leaving their assets up for grabs. Like Trump’s followers, Modi’s Hindu nationalist diehards may be too addicted to the idea of reclaiming Hindu dominance to give him up.

More here.