Ram Navami Mela, Shaheen Bagh protest unaffected by deadly coronavirus
In the coronavirus outbreak scale, India currently stands at stage II, and for it to not snowball into the next stage, people are being discouraged from attending large gatherings. An infected person can pass the virus to hundreds, but some aren't worried about it. Case in point: The upcoming Ram Navami Mela in Uttar Pradesh and the ongoing Shaheen Bagh protest.
Now, COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that spreads through respiratory droplets. After the outbreak in China, some cities were locked down, but that clearly didn't have much effect as the disease has spread across the globe. Italy, the second most-affected nation, has been under lockdown for weeks, and so has Spain. The idea is to limit face-to-face interactions to prevent infection.
In India, where the number of infections is close to 150, sweeping restrictions have been implemented. Schools, colleges have been shut, malls closed, and people have been asked to suspend all non-essential travel. Considering the consequences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi junked the Holi Milan program and asked people to stay indoors. But his requests clearly mean nothing to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's administration.
Adityanath announced that schools will remain shut till April 2, but in Ayodhya, preparations are underway to host a Ram Navami Mela between March 25 and April 2, multiple reports said. The fair is expected to draw lakhs of devotees. This time, things are more celebratory as the Supreme Court ordered to construct a Ram Temple at the disputed site last year.
A report in News18 said on March 24, the idol of Ram Lalla will be taken to a new makeshift abode and the first aarti will be attended by a flurry of BJP leaders, including Adityanath. District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said the administration is prepared for the fair and will take precautions. But Ayodhya Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ghanshyam Singh raised concerns.
"We are worried and have been telling people to take precautions and not to go to places where there are large gatherings. I believe that life is more important than religious gatherings," Dr. Singh said, adding that no one tested positive in the district.
Ignoring valid concerns, chief priest of Ram Lalla Mahant Satyendra Das said the fair should happen. "Ayodhya faced so many issues, but the fair has never been stopped. The authorities should make proper arrangements for sanitization and other facilities instead of suggesting not to hold the fair. People's sentiments will be hurt, along with the business getting affected if it's canceled," he said.
Like Ayodhya, the protesters of Shaheen Bagh, who have been raising voice against the Citizenship Amendment Act, have refused to move, despite CM Arvind Kejriwal banning a gathering of more than 50 people, except weddings. On Tuesday, Delhi Police met the protesters asking them to move, but to no avail. They also spoke to RWA of Shaheen Bagh and Abul Fazal Enclave.
A volunteer said they "tried" limiting the gathering to less than 50, but it didn't work. "We are making arrangements to ensure that two-three women sit together, at least one meter away from the other group. Sanitizers have been made available, and women are wearing masks," the person said. Reportedly, protesters will be scanned and if they show symptoms, they'll be sent back.
Chennai: People including Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath members continue their protest against CAA, NRC and NPR near Madras High Court. pic.twitter.com/VdjRGIuRbx— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2020
Experts have warned that if India doesn't take pre-emptive measures, situation will get worse and burden the already pressurized healthcare system. The idea is to buy time but with these careless meetings happening across India, the country will soon face the worst.