Tale of Two Indias – Where Kumbh Is Allowed, Jamaat Event Maligned

One crore Indians defying COVID protocols, putting themselves and their families in danger of contracting the virus

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4 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam, Puneet Bhatia
Camera: Athar Rather

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… yahan Kumbh Mele ko Coronavirus se special protection mili hui hai kya?!

Take a look at these pictures – do you see a mask! See a mask here? No! And let’s not even talk about social distancing.

  • Devotees bathing at Har ki Pauri ghat on the banks of Ganges for Shahi Snan.

    (Photo: The Quint)

Over 35 Lakh people took part in the Shahi Snan (holy dip) at Haridwar on 12 April and a similar number on 14th April. There will be another Shahi Snan on 27th April. One crore Indians defying COVID protocols willfully – putting themselves, their families and friends in danger of contracting the disease!

Swami Vipulanand of the Bairagi Akhada told The Times of India – “I’m not wearing a mask because in case I get Corona, the Ganga will wash it away!”

We’re talking about a virus that has killed 30 lakh people across the world, that’s affecting MORE people than it did a year ago – over 1.5 lakh cases and over 500-600 deaths daily in India.

Understanding India’s COVID Situation Using Two Buckets

Let’s consider in one big bucket are India’s people and if they get COVID, they enter the chhota container, which is India’s hospitals. If there’s no overflow, it means people are getting cured and exiting easily.

BUT, if the healthcare system can’t handle the sudden surge of patients, the water overflows and this overflowing water stands for hospitals failing to cope with the shortage of:

  • beds
  • oxygen
  • healthcare workers
  • vaccines

and more COVID deaths!

While the second surge first hit a few states badly, it is now country-wide. Cases have risen by 334 percent in Bihar in one week, by 281 percent in UP and in Uttarakhand, where the Kumbh Mela is being held, by 175 percent!

Kumbh Mela – A Defiant CM and a Helpless Top Cop

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat himself assured that there will be no “rok-tok” (restriction) on devotees and he is sure “faith in God will defeat the fear of the virus”.

There are pictures of Rawat taking part in the Mela, without a mask over his face.

  • Uttarakhand CM at the Kumbh Mela

    (Photo: Twitter)

On the day of the shahi snan, Haridwar’s top cop Sanjay Gunjyal gave up – saying there could be a “stampede-like situation” if police tried to ensure social distancing at the Kumbh.

We are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour. A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats, so we are unable to enforce social distancing here
Sanjay Gunjayal, Kumbh Mela Inspector General

Tablighi Jamaat Was a Super-Spreader Event, Not Kumbh?

CCTV cameras were to supposed to use artificial intelligence to capture photos of faces without masks. Did they work? Were devotees bothered about them? No! And of course all criticism have to be in hushed tones, because how can we even hint that the Kumbh could be a super-spreader event?

In fact when media quoted a Central government official saying that the Kumbh Mela could be a super-spreader event, the Union Health Ministry called it FAKE NEWS!

But if that is Fake News,

  • Why did we target 3,500 members of the Tablighi Jamaat a year ago?
  • Why did we jail them for months, even charge some of them with attempt to murder?
  • Why were they abused by government-aligned media?
  • Why were offensive words, like ‘Corona Jihad’, coined?
Had COVID protocols been in place by February last year, the Jamaat gathering would rightly have been called off. But we had just a few hundred active case then, so we didn’t. But today there are 12 lakh active cases. So, what’s our excuse for allowing such mass gatherings now?

Delhi High Court Rejects Government’s ‘Double Standards’

The government that allows 35 lakh people to attend the Kumbh Mela in a day, is in court saying that only 20 Muslims should be allowed to pray at the Nizamuddin Dargah at any given time! Not surprisingly, the government is being called out on social media for double standards. But sensibly, the Delhi High Court rejected the government’s request saying if you don’t limit numbers at other religious gatherings, you can’t do it here either.

Meanwhile, who is the government blaming for the new surge? Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan blames the people, saying they “became very careless” about following COVID-19 norms. He said, “There have been elections, religious gatherings, reopening of offices, no masks at weddings, in public transport or markets. Yes, it is the people who are careless. But Harsh Vardhan ji, religious gatherings, election rallies – YOU are allowing them!

A Tale of Two Indias – One For Kumbh Devotees, One For Migrant Workers

For devotees to reach Haridwar for the three Shahi Snans, the government organised 25 special trains. But last year, lakhs of migrant workers got no trains for 40 days, and walked home. Here, 25 trains to attend a possible super-spreader event.

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… If we have to genuinely tackle this second surge of COVID-19, if we truly want to save lives, if we really don’t want our economy to nosedive yet again, we can’t cite faith and give events like the Kumbh Mela, a free pass.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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