#9Baje9Minute: Indians Are Actually Trying to Link Modi’s Diya Campaign to Science


#9Baje9Minute: Indians Are Actually Trying to Link Modi’s Diya Campaign to Science

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

As India continues its long march through a 21-day national lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a video message for all citizens. Much like the announcement of Janata Curfew was accompanied by Modi’s request that people clang utensils, clap their hands, and generally make some noise in appreciation of the frontline workers, this morning’s video message also had an accompanying task: On April 5, the PM has requested all Indians to switch their lights at 9 pm and light just one small candle for nine minutes, as a show of solidarity.

Whatever PM Modi’s intentions were for this countrywide candlelit vigil, the justification for the request was soon contorted into pseudo-science in much the same way that the “thaali bajao, taali bajao” campaign was. Where as in the latter case we had #covidiots claiming that sound would kill the coronavirus, this Sunday’s candlelight vigil has also spawned some bizarre theories.

The first one, which came quick on the heels of Modi’s address and was originally posted to the MyGovIndia verified handle, saw Dr KK Agarwal, an ex-president of the Indian Medical Association, invoke the yoga-based principle of the power of collective consciousness, in that if all 130 crore Indians will our bodies to reject the virus, it will have no power over us. This was such a leap of logic that it was deleted by the governmental Twitter handle minutes later, but the internet never forgets.

The next justification for the candle-lighting activity came from the field of astrology, which honestly should have warned us about this whole coronavirus business earlier through our horoscopes.

Of course, not to be left behind, numerology had to get in on the fun astrology was having. A Twitter user whose bio announces his passion for numerology had this to share.

Of course, this was then echoed by like-minded believers, who believed that with the power of number 9, “Modi ji was activating energy of the planet”.

Of course, there were those who were quick to call out this spread of fake news. Shashi Tharoor wrote in a tweet that PM “is invoking all the auspicious elements Hinduism associates with number 9. Back to Ram Bharose?!”

Twitter had a field day, first with the “diya jalao” initiative and then with all these pseudo-science theories floating around.

The memes kept pouring in.

It would be unfair to attribute this pseudo-science to PM Modi himself, but that does not excuse those followers who try and turn every step he takes into a “masterstroke”. In all reality, the candlelight vigil is probably a step taken to uplift morale, and it’s not likely that the PM thinks it will rid us of the coronavirus. It’s more likely an attempt to create a sense of solidarity from the top-down, even though such displays are more impactful when they are organised from the bottom-upward, as seen in Italy.

Whatever the case may be, it’s now clear that April 5 is a spiritual successor to the March 22 event. We can only hope that people participating don’t make the same mistake of taking to the roads and treating it like Diwali is here.