he spectacle of hundreds of thousands of people congregating at Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar, Uttarakhand on the occasion of the ongoing Mahakumbh Mela at a time when the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic is ravaging the country is the most unedifying, to say the least. All protocols, including social distancing, to break the chain of the virus have been thrown to the winds. An official estimate puts the figure of people thronging the ghats for a holy dip at 3.2 million and the deluge will continue till the last day of bathing on April 27.
The BJP government’s intentional failure to make any efforts to enforce law and prevent the mammoth gathering from taking the form of a ‘super-spreader’ is truly not shocking. On one hand, it betrays the party’s communal bias and hypocrisy but on the other, it seems to be helping the party get more popular with a certain kind of people who form the majority opinion. In contrast, the vindictive response to the Nizamuddin Markaz of the Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi last year stands like a sore thumb. This is not to support wrongdoings of Moslems. There is no doubt that the Tablighi gathering was a threat to general well being of people of this country. Similarly, the Haridwar gathering is no less dangerous. People went gung-ho against the Tablighi gathering of about 3500 people in Delhi last year. In contrast, the Mahakumbh figures are in millions. This, when the second current wave is observed as being more deadly.
Now the country, like the rest of the world, is in the grip of a fresh wave of the pandemic that is wreaking even greater havoc as the caseload and casualty figures show. Both the Centre and the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand state government have done nothing to dissuade devotees from thronging the banks of the Ganga in thousands or to ensure that they follow the Covid guidelines. This, while governments across the world have taken steps to stop even small congregations at religious places.
The Central government is apparently shying away from hurting religious sentiments of the Hindoo population for vote-bank politics – a term it never tires of slapping on Opposition parties for their purported patronage of minority groups. To protect its image of being a champion of Hindootva, albeit a skewed and spurious version of Hindooism, it is not lifting its finger even when the whole country runs the risk of getting infected with the deadlier and mutated virus by millions of devotees gathering at the mela. It seems the BJP is primarily playing to a gallery packed with ‘newborn’ Hindoos. It is these people who supposedly feel they have been wronged by their parents and grandparents who made certain political choices that the older generations thought were appropriate for their times. These people find the education system to have been wrongly created, the assets built painstakingly by their forefathers were all wrong, history of India has been wrongly written, tolerance of other religions or secularism is wrong, they find acceptance of historical facts such as Moslems and Europeans ruling over this subcontinent as wrong and so in this ocean of wrongs, they silently consider the Constitution of India to be wrong also. In this desire to disown and vilify the past of this land, these newborn actors forget that we Hindoos have always been the majority population on this subcontinent. They also forget that Hindooism or Sanatana dharma are not ideas that fit into one single frame of thought.
A Hindoo from Uttar Pradesh does not necessarily have similarities with a Hindoo of Orissa or Kerala. It is not only different languages, food and culture that diversely keep us together, but it is also the different kinds of Hindooism that help in unifying us. Any student of world history would be aware that whole of mainland Europe is Catholic yet all countries in it are divided and have gone to brutal wars against each other in the past. The newborn Hindoos of India do not realise that straight-jacketing of a large population with their narrow concept of unification will only help create more wrongs which will make future generations realise how wrong we are now.