Divjot Bawa

Divjot Bawa is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and minoring in Computer Science. Originally from northern Virginia, he plans to use his education to leverage data-driven solutions to help optimize the way in which the public sector serves its constituents. As a proud Sikh American, he is passionate about raising awareness and advocating against the marginalization of underrepresented minorities; he currently is overseeing a national advocacy coalition involving thirty universities to support the #SaveAfghanSikhsandHindus campaign.

About the collection:

Divjot collected digital content circulating on WhatsApp from Amritsar, in northern India, sent by his grandmother every day. He organized the content as follows: 1) misinformation, 2) humor, 3) relief efforts, and 4) historical impact. First, he wanted to highlight a unique part of the world and an aspect of how their online space is reacting to the ongoing pandemic. Second, he chose WhatsApp specifically as this platform plays an instrumental role in daily life in India– especially among seniors. Third, by the nature of the app itself, the content that is circulated is forwarded or re-shared, so that popular content will reach a vast number. Recently, this has become detrimental, as some of the content is misleading or outright wrong. This is problematic when seniors use this information primarily to educate themselves about the  pandemic.

 
 

Misinformation

This forward claims consumption of warm water and acidic fruits will cure COVID-19.

This claims that the 'manufacturer' of the novel coronavirus is the head of the "chemistry and biology department at Harvard University," and was just arrested for 'selling' the virus to China.

This Punjabi forward claims the rich in Italy threw money on the streets for the poor.

This claims that the deceased Chinese whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang had discovered that tea cures COVID-19.

This forward suggests sipping warm water can cure COVID-19.

As Times of India’s Fact Check on March 23, 2020 noted, “Instant messaging platform WhatsApp is abuzz with a message that claims that US-based ‘Roche medical company’ (Roche Diagnostics) has finally readied a coronavirus vaccine by the name of COVID-19 lgM/lgG. Covid-19 lgM/lgG is a testing kit and not a vaccine. The kit has nothing to do with Roche Diagnostics. It is manufactured by Sugentech, There is no vaccine for coronavirus yet.”

This is an image and actual description of the COVID-19 antibody testing kit developed by Sugentech, that was incorrectly being hailed as a vaccine developed by "Roche medical company" on WhatsApp.

Humor

1/3
Working from home
Working From Home
Punjabis in Quarantine
Punjabis in Quarantine
Nostalgia for Eating Out in Amritsar
 

Historical Impact

These photos of an abandoned Amritsar are accompanied with a caption marveling at how the city, in crowded developing India, looks like the developed world of western Europe.

This forward highlights the date of an image purporting to be a public notice from the town of Kelowna, Canada, announcing closures of public spaces during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

This forward humorously compares the coming end of a global lockdown to the "grand reopening" of a store closed for renovations.

 

Relief Efforts

TikTok video posted by Gill Saab (@gillsaabpb02) of volunteers distributing food from a truck in Punjab.
TikTok video posted by Gill Saab (@gillsaabpb02) of volunteers distributing food from a truck in Punjab.
Newsclip circulating in Punjabi social media about Sikhs providing food to the hungry in Queens, New York
Newsclip circulating in Punjabi social media about Sikhs providing food to the hungry in Queens, New York
 
Fruit vendor distributing bananas to the needy
Fruit vendor distributing bananas to the needy

© 2020 Dr. Ananya Chakravarti

Thanks to Rajeev Kozhikattuthodi for his help in building this website.

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