The mismanagement by the authorities during the second wave of infections is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

… As we battle the second wave of Covid-19 within our homes, the situation for India is no different than the Second World War. This “war” is marked like all others by families decimated, children orphaned, with a stench of helplessness abound. However, unlike other wars, the enemy here is as much an invisible virus as it is the state that served to be grossly inadequate to discharge its foremost duty of protecting its civilians against it, and rather ended up thrusting them in its way. … Both the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court, while deciding matters pertaining to oxygen allocation to states have, in separate instances, rendered instructions to the governments to secure supply of facilities on a “war footing”. The Allahabad High Court took it a step further and stated that the death of Covid-19 patients due to non-supply of oxygen was a “criminal act” and no less than a “genocide”. … The wilful disobedience, or even ignorance, of human rights and the apathy toward the loss of lives that the authorities are exhibiting, even as thousands die in India on a daily basis due to deprivation of basic healthcare, is nothing short of a crime against humanity. … The absence of a system for holding the wrongdoers responsible is conspicuous. The analogy of the war being perpetrated by the governments and the courts needs to be extended to seeking accountability and retribution on behalf of the citizens who these vestiges represent. … If a criminal liability approach would be enough is an open question. But a special court would allow an expeditious culmination of trial singularly focused on Covid-19 crimes. Whether it be a Nuremberg-style tribunal or a truth commission committed to fact-finding, collective healing and memorialisation, reconstruction after the Covid-19 tsunami needs a firm foundation of a semblance of justice.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor himself, poignantly noted that “purpose” was one of the elements that could help one survive through the most dire of situations. Purpose to punish, correct and prevent a repetition of the vast devastation we see today.

Why India needs to set up a truth commission to help it really heal from the Covid-19 pandemic: Abhinav Verma & Radhika Roy

Justice is retrospective – it can only punish what has happened, restore what is already lost and reconcile what was once broken.  In that way, justice – taken to be broader than just retributive – is a means for fairness, closure and wherever possible, moving on. This, in part, was understood at the end of the Second World War. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was constituted, almost with desperation, to hold some party accountable for the destruction and human suffering.
It was the first time in human history that there was an institutionalised attempt to apportion blame to individuals and hold them accountable for acts committed during the conflict.  The idea of transitional judicial mechanisms, be it formalised international tribunals or community-based truth and reconciliation commissions, is vastly seeded in the idea that the end of the conflict is conflictual itself. It is marked by ruined institutions, collective trauma and grief and disposition to slip back into conflict.  Under the larger ambit of national (re)building, the advocates of these mechanisms have articulated multiple goals for these institutions – truth-finding, telling and accepting, ending impunity and breeding deterrence and most importantly, punishing misdoers.   The state – through its vestiges and leaders – has already equated the pandemic to war in its chest-thumping bravado. At the beginning of the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi equated the war against Covid-19 to the Mahabharata. A few months later in November 2020, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, stated that we are “living in a phase of a silent war”. “Covid-warriors” or “frontline workers” is the phraseology that abounds in mass media, including especially by the government.  The crux, however, is that war has ramifications. It has victors, it has the defeated, and at the end of the war, it has accountability for violence. The question of accountability looms large. Are those who indulged in illegal hoarding of essential medical equipment and profiteered off scarce medical supplies and oxygen in the black market responsible for India’s Covid-19 crisis? Or, is the dereliction of duty by the state the violent culprit here? …

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