When The Mask Came Off: Lockdown 2020 – A People’s History Of Cruelty And Compassion – Ed. Harsh Mander, Natasha Badhwar & Anirban Bhattacharya


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The Indian state responded to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the world’s most sudden, comprehensive and punishing lockdown. Overnight, there was an explosion of joblessness leading to a large-scale hunger crisis. Highways across the country became the location of one of the largest distress movements of humans in history as migrant workers and their families risked their lives to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their home districts. The fractures of our society—across caste, class, gender, religion and ethnicity—were laid bare and exacerbated. This anthology of narrative essays documents the time the mask came off, revealing the distress, shock and resilience of the most vulnerable groups in India as they bore the brunt of state negligence and brutal apathy. It reveals the psychological toll of the loss of dignity that came with looming uncertainty for the working class as well as the struggles of relief volunteers to process the shock of witnessing mass hunger and deprivation. This book lends a human face to this immense state-created tumult in the lives of the working poor and destitute, with their stories and voices. This is a history we must not repeat, therefore a history we must not forget.


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