Prayer vs Pandemic: From K’taka to UP, Social Distancing Goes for a Toss


Prayer vs Pandemic: From K’taka to UP, Social Distancing Goes for a Toss

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

It’s been two months since India has been battling the coronavirus pandemic but no lessons have been learned. From the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi to Punjab’s Hola Mohalla festival that put almost 40,000 people in quarantine, we’ve had enough examples of the damage religious gatherings can do in the fight against coronavirus.

With cases escalating and more information on Covid-19 now available, you’d think people will think twice before violating lockdown norms. But clearly coronavirus has nothing on blind faith.

In a fresh case, four FIRs have been lodged against thousands of unidentified followers of Baba Shobhan Sarkar, who gathered in large numbers after his death on Wednesday. Shobhan Sarkar had passed away at his ashram in Shivli area of Kanpur Dehat district in Uttar Pradesh.

Several video clips from the event went viral on social media with thousands of people visible in close proximity without any masks or protective gear. Plenty of vehicles are seen moving on the roads in the absence of police. “We tried to stop the crowd from proceeding towards the ashram in Chaubepur, but our efforts proved futile,” said Station House Officer Vinay Tiwari.

The SHO said that the FIRs have been registered against over 4,000 people for attending the last rites of Sarkar despite there being a ban on gatherings for funerals. “No matter how powerful the persons, part of the gathering, are, strict action will be taken against them,” he added.

In a separate incident in Karnataka, thousands of residents of Ramanagara gathered for a fair on Thursday with no regards for social distancing. The officer who granted permission for the religious gathering has since been suspended by the Ramanagara Deputy Commissioner following a report by the tehsildar. Villagers carried thalis in offerings to the deity but did not think about putting on their masks.

A couple of days back, a crowd gathered to welcome Jain monk Pramansagar in Banda, Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh. In spite of various viral clips showing hundreds gathered, ASP Praveen Bhuria issued a bizarre comment stating, “Directions given to investigate and take action against organisers if social distancing norms and Section-144 were violated”. Since then, as many as 155 persons have been booked for violating prohibitory orders.

The only sacred thing to do right now, is to follow social distancing. When will India’s faithfuls understand?