Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar has taken an ugly dig at the iconic and ancient Kumbh Mela, stating that pilgrims returning from the festival will distribute Corona as ‘prasad’ (devotional food offering shared among devotees).
“Those returning from Kumbh Mela to their respective states will distribute Corona as ‘prasad’,” the BMC Mayor, a long-time Shiv Sena corporator and formerly a nurse, told news agency ANI.
Shiv Sena is leading the MVA alliance government in Maharashtra and has been struggling to handle the raging Coronavirus pandemic since the outbreak last year. The state has consistently topped the Covid-19 case count, and as of today contributes over 25% of the total cases in the country. The 2nd wave trend was clearly established in Maharashtra well before the Kumbh Mela saw highest number of pilgrims for the Shahi snans (baths) on 12 & 14 April.
Pednekar is not the first Shiv Sena or MVA leader to take aim at Kumbh Mela. Controversial motormouth MP Sanjay Raut and cabinet minister Aslam Sheikh have both defamed the festival for ‘spreading Covid-19’, while shirking responsibility for the grave situation in the state ruled by them.
A look at facts and data shows how hollow these claims are. Note: data has been sourced from covid19india.org
For a start, the festival is taking place with Covid-19 protocols in place. A Covid-19 negative RT-PCR report, not more than 72 hours prior to arrival, has been mandatory for attending the festival, and all entry-points to Uttarakhand have Covid-19 testing points. Thermal screening and medical testing teams, and frequent sanitization of public spaces are in place.
As per Haridwar CMO Dr. SK Jha, a total of 2,36,751 people were tested in the Kumbh Mela perimeter in Haridwar between 10-14 April, out of which 2167 people were found positive. This indicates a test positivity ratio (TPR) of 0.9% and a daily average caseload of 433 cases. In fact, the TPR for Haridwar is lower than that for the entire state of Uttarakhand which is 3.7%.
By contrast, Maharashtra logged a 2,89,620 cases in the same 5-day period (daily case load of ~ 57,000) with a staggering TPR of 15.9%! The city of Pune in Maharashtra has a TPR of 24.6% and a whopping 54,351 active positive cases.
The data doesn’t lie – it is clearly showing that despite the large-scale gathering in Kumbh, the requirement of prior testing for pilgrims and other protocols have ensured lesser prevalence of the virus in Haridwar than other parts of Uttarakhand. Maharashtra, on the other hand, is suffering a pandemic wave of an entirely different order of magnitude.
Incidentally, while MVA is quick to slander Kumbh Mela, its leaders were very particular in covering up for the Tablighi Jamaat event at Delhi last year, which was clearly a super-spreader at the time – in mid April, 30% of the total Covid cases across Bharat were found linked to the event. Moreover, what made things worse was the behavior of the Jamaatis who clashed with authorities, refused to get tested or quarantined, harassed nurses, attacked and spat on medical workers and even defecated in hospital corridors.
Let’s take our mind back to how MVA’s leaders had lectured citizens on not ‘communalizing’ the Jamaat gathering:
- CM Uddhav Thackeray set the tone by warning people who want to spread ‘communal hatred’ by ‘blaming Muslims’.
- NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has asked TV channels not to show references to Tablighi Jamaat or the Nizamuddin event in their coverage of the pandemic. He also tweeted the same after tagging the PM.
- Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope invited a delegation of senior Jamaat leaders and, instead of asking them to ensure cooperation from their members, assured them that the plans of some ‘anti-social elements’ who are trying to create ‘communal disharmony’ by running propaganda against them (Jamaat) will not be allowed to succeed.
Aurangabad police even thought it fit to arrest a doctor, Sambhaji Govind Chitale, for a social media post which shared Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad’s photograph along with the caption ‘“Wanted, please inform your local police if you have any input about location of this terrorist”. Saad has been absconding since 28th April 2020 and has been booked by the Delhi Police for culpable homicide. Here are some extracts of the sermons Saad delivered during the Tablighi Jamaat event in Nizamuddin, Delhi:
“..it can never happen that the wrath of God will inflict the Kafirs [unbelievers] and the Muslims will also be afflicted by it. Some people have got the wrong belief that the contagion was meant for the ‘others’ but Muslims fell prey to it. God directly deals with every momin [believers]”
“This is the time to bring the Ummah to the mosques, not of leaving the mosque… If the Kafirs prevented you from your Amal, Allah will destroy them… Instead of thronging the mosques, they are saying, ‘leave the mosque, for if you gather in the mosques, the disease will spread’.. They are fools.”
“The Satan is using this opportunity as it has always done to lead us astray from our religious duties in the name of precautions, treatment and protection.”
“The ways of the ‘others’ are such that they will make Muslims leave their own ways… They will say, ‘Hand over your system to us and we will cure your malady.’ Never, never. Muslims are the essence of this universe. Kafirs (infidels) are not the essence of this universe. The system of this universe will run thanks to the Muslim.”
“Only those who don’t know the Supreme Being need to think how to defend [against] this calamity, this disease. It’s only the Kafirs who rely on the material remedies and resources. Muslims rely on Aamaal (religious deeds) and prayers.”
Truly, Hindu-bashing and deflecting blame on others is the first & last resort of ‘secular’ netas and assorted wheeler-dealers.
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