The Covid-19 cases are rising in India and many experts fear we have entered the dreaded stage III. The honourable Prime Minister had asked Indians to observe ‘Janta Curfew’ and stay at home from 7 am to 9 pm last Sunday. He had also asked to thank the selfless service of health workers who were risking their lives in the line of their duty, by clapping of hands, banging of utensils and ringing of bells. From 7 am to 4.59 pm, things worked perfectly as planned. The social distancing that the health experts were pleading frantically for the last four weeks was achieved as if India was touched with a magical wand. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India stood still. Roads were empty, shops closed, and people were holed up in their homes. Come at 5 pm, the country woke up to cacophony. There were many who got the spirit behind the PM’s message and thanked the medical community wholeheartedly.
However, there were an equal number of people on the streets, clapping and singing and making merry as if this was the great festival of Coronavirus Visarjan. From my window, I was watching hundreds of people on the streets dancing to the din of clashing steel plates and utensils, and chanting the new mantra for virus elimination—Go corona, go. The very purpose of ‘Janta Curfew’ broke down at that moment. Soon, videos of such impromptu celebrations in various Indian cities flooded social media. Some were led by local legislators, some by police officials in uniform and one even had a group of executives doing a frenzied dance to the corona chants and giggling like idiots in the Bangalore airport terminal.
There could be reason for such madness. For the past few days, the social media was flooded with bizarre messages with pseudo-scientific explanations for a noble gesture that the country’s PM had demanded from its citizens. The clanging of metals created quantum waves, and these made Covid to die a miserable death, claimed some messages. Some ascribed these magical qualities to the ringing of bells and with the typical false nationalistic pride in an imaginary past, ascribed this coronavirus slayer bells as a Vedic invention. Chanting of the Gayatri mantra, one of the oldest hymns of humanity which was meant for inner peace and finding oneness with the universe and praising the glory of the sun, was turned by these pseudo-scientists to a virus-killing Brahmastra.
Soon, the so-called educated people were sharing such laughable theories in social media and if anyone tried to gently point out the mistake, the oh-you-are-hurting-my-religious-sentiments brigade would pounce on him or her with choicest abuse. It wasn’t due to the dearth of people who could chant the Gayatri mantra or the shortage of bells that could annihilate the coronavirus that all the temples across the country have closed now. We need to thank the management of these temples for heading to the government advice of keeping them close to slow down the epidemic spread. A few superstars of the film industry, much respected for their on-screen charisma and thespian skills, lend their voice for spreading such misinformation. They are free to have their own share of superstitions and beliefs, but in a country teeming with illiterates and blind followers, such irresponsible statements were sure to result in irresponsible behaviour by the public.
A call for a noble gesture by the PM of the country was turned into a recipe for disaster by such anti-nationals who had put so many people’s lives at risk. Not even the greatest enemies of India, Hinduism and humanity could have created more damage to us than such pseudo nationalists who neither respect the country’s rich tradition nor its health officials, scientists or common sense. The Covid deaths have crossed 17,000 across the world and counting. Such fake stories that mislead people need to be curbed at their source and treated as a war waged against the state and humanity. What such people have done is nothing less than what a terrorist, drunk in his religious fanaticism, does. One blows up a belt bomb to annihilate himself and many. The other, with pseudo-science and false pride in one’s religion, annihilates many by helping the spread of the dreaded virus. Those who get the itch to chant Corona mantra and dance in the public when the PM is asking you to stay indoors, should be dealt in the same way as the state deals with the terrorists.
( The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )