India Isn’t Ready for Public Events: Ram Temple Trust Head, Who Shared Stage with PM, is Covid +ve


India Isn’t Ready for Public Events: Ram Temple Trust Head, Who Shared Stage with PM, is Covid +ve

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

India has recorded the biggest-single day spike of 66,999 coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the total number of infections rising to 23, 93, 637, reminding us that we are nowhere close to flattening the curve. Among those who have tested positive for the virus, is an important man – the head of the Ram Janmabhoomi trust in Ayodhya Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. What raises concern is that he participated in the historic ceremony for the Ram Mandir on August 5 and shared the stage with VIP guests, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Das was among the five people on stage at the ceremony, which was reportedly held following social distancing norms. The others were Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Governor Anandiben Patel.

Das, who is also the president of Krishna Janambhoomi Nyas and is overseeing the construction of the temple, is running a mild fever and has been given medication.

“We were informed that Maharaj-ji has some fever, so we sent a team of doctors and they investigated and gave medicines. The fever is normal. He has mild breathlessness and we checked his oxygen level. It is saturated. There is nothing serious. We checked for coronavirus, did an antigen test and there is positivity,” Sarvagya Ram Mishra, District Magistrate of Mathura, told reporters, according to NDTV.

Das will be shifted to Medanta Hospital soon and is stable. However, after the Ram Temple ceremony, he was in Mathura to attend Janmashtami celebrations when he tested positive, The Print reported.

Das’s situation only confirms that amid the ongoing pandemic, holding the grand Ram Temple ceremony might not have been the wisest decision. In the run up to the function, a priest and 14 other policemen on duty had also tested positive for the coronavirus.

Social activist Saket Gokhale had in fact raised concerns about the bhoomi pujan and filed a plea against the Ram Temple event. Not only did it fall on deaf ears, he also received death threats on the phone for opposing the ceremony on a news channel. He alleged that RSS workers gathered outside his house and chanted “Jai Shri Ram” to intimidate him.

Gokhale wasn’t the only one. A group of citizens – activists, academics – had written to PM Modi to skip the ceremony. The appeal pointed to the ongoing pandemic and the official Unlock 3.0 guidelines which state that “social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations will not be permitted”.

So where does this leave us? Will the recent development force the PM into quarantine? And what lessons does it hold for India?

The Ram temple trust head has tested positive. Tirumala Tirupati Temple is a Covid-19 hotspot. Vrindavan’s ISKCON Temple has been sealed. It’s only reasonable to say that the country is not ready to Unlock yet, not it’s temples and religious places, at least.