Book Discussion by Prof. Vinay Lal: The Fury of Covid-19, the Politics, History and Unrequited Love for Corona Virus

Report by Sumna Sadaqat, Research Intern at CSPS

CSPS organized an online Book Discussion on the topic; The Fury of Covid-19, the Politics, History and Unrequited Love for Corona Virus’ by author Professor Vinay Lal on 13th September 2021, from 11 AM to 1 PM via zoom. Dr. Omair Anas, the director of CSPS, delivered the welcoming note and introduced the attendees to Professor Vinay Lal of the University of California known for his renowned authorship of numerous books including The Fury of Covid-19, which was the subject of discussion. Before handing over to Professor Lal, he also gave a brief of Covid 19’s social and political ramifications and introduced CSPS and how this budding centre hopes to increase academic work on pluralistic societies in a multi-dimensional way. The meeting was attended by all the interns of the CSPS who benefitted from the illuminating thoughts shared by Professor Lal.

Professor after introducing himself revealed how his work on the social and historical perspective of Covid-19 came into existence. The author highlighted that human history has been periodically combating diseases, like the Spanish flu, bubonic plague, smallpox although they have not been recorded adequately due to state intervention and other political and social reasons. He referred to the period of 1870-1920 as ‘catastrophic death’ in India alluding to the census data of 1921 and 1931, emphasizing that in the common historic perception these diseases and deaths have been scarcely recorded, while events like Jalianwala Bagh, World War I amongst others have been highlighted immensely. Professor also explained how the pandemic has been used as a pretext to augment state power uniformly across borders, giving the example of China suppressing Hong Kong’s protests, the abrupt conclusion of the Shaheen Bagh movement in India, the sudden announcement of lockdown by the Indian Prime Minister at a few hours- notice leading to the abandonment of labour migrants. On the sidelines, the speaker suggested that pluralistic society is a vast concept pertaining to how well one gets into the others’ shoes and perceives life from his perspective referring to Gandhi. He advised the Centre to keep undertaking such activities for widening the scope of pluralism. Professor Lal not only enlightened the attendees with his lecture but encouraged the interns to ask burning questions so that a healthy and effective discussion could take place. Interns, Mohammad Shahrukh, Sanjana, and Sithara asked key questions to the Professor which were answered elaborately.

In a nutshell, the Book Discussion was a success, where the Professor touched upon the political and historical perspectives of the pandemic, explicated the state-citizen relation during pandemics, reactions of societies to catastrophes, consequences experienced by the state and civil society, and shed light upon the ethical, social and historical questions emanating from the pandemic. The interns were engrossed in the intriguing session with utmost enthusiasm and zeal. Dr. Omair winded up the session by thanking Professor Lal for devoting his valuable time, provocative thoughts, and constructive suggestions for the Centre’s improvement.