Desperate times require desperate measures and yesterday Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation second time in little less under a week and announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown. In essence, bringing 1.3 billion nation at a standstill to avert a major pandemic from spreading any further. Often the hardest choice requires the strongest will and who better than Narendra Modi to take this tough yet inevitable decision. The timing seems almost perfect as pulling the trigger too early would have left people fatigued too soon. And waiting too long would have left it too late and in the hands of fate, something Italy is paying for dearly.
In the 21-day lockdown guidelines, the Modi government strictly wrote, ““All places of worship shall be closed for public. No religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception.” In doing so, India has sacrificed it’s one of the biggest Hindu festivals of the year- the nine-day long Navratri celebrations for the greater good.
Ram Navmi, which falls on the 2nd of April this year. Large processions and celebrations grip the country in this time of year, but this time, there will be none. The Hindu community has accepted the order of home-quarantine and social distancing.
It is not something to thump your chest about, albeit a lesson for countries and other religions to learn that humanity is the biggest religion and that celebrations and religious activities take a back seat in these unprecedented times. Serving humanity is fundamentally the teaching of Sanatan Dharma.
What we know so far is that social distancing is the only deterrent in preventing the spread of the Wuhan virus like wildfire. One needs to break the chain, and it requires the participation of all. The complacency of even one individual or a religious community taking the pandemic lightly can derail our fight against the virus which has claimed over 19,000 lives so far.
But the examples are aplenty where countries have squandered their chances to survive unscathed this viral epidemic—from Iran to Malaysia and South Korea, religion has more often than not brought misery for the people in these times.
When the Tablighi Jamaat organized the fateful four-day Muslim gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it was attended by 16,000 people including 1,500 foreigners. At the time of writing this story, there were 1,796 confirmed Coronavirus cases in Malaysia and nearly two-thirds of those cases have been attributed to this religious gathering that was held from February 27 to March 1, making it the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia.
Another news report from the South China Morning Post cites “Nearly 50 people have been infected with Covid-19 at a church in South Korea after an official sprayed saltwater into members mouths” because they thought it would kill the virus. The disease spread rapidly after this gathering.
An official at the River of Grace Community Church in Gyeonggi Province, near Seoul, used the same spray bottle on multiple church-goers without disinfecting the nozzle, causing a large number of the 100 or so attendees to be infected, including the church’s pastor and his wife. The church was consequently closed and all its believers who attended the prayer sessions were tested.
Iran became an epicenter of the pandemic when the country could not put life and common sense above religion. A shocking video is doing the rounds on social media which shows worshippers in Iran licking and kissing shrines at holy sites in the Iranian cities of Qom and Mashhad amid COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The shared video shows people licking the doors and a burial mound at the Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom, the epicentre of COVID-19 outbreak in Iran. As the video went viral, social media was abuzz with reactions.
The Shia shrines in Iran have not been completely closed despite coronavirus concerns and are touched and kissed by thousands of pilgrims every day. It is from here that coronavirus cases blew up and a Muslim cleric who encouraged such behaviour also died of the disease.
In the USA, Florida, an Evangelical pastor going by the name Rodney Howard-Browne River of Tampa Bay Church has mocked the “pansies” who are scared of the coronavirus — as he insisted his packed church will only shut its doors “when the Rapture is taking place.”
“If you cannot be saved in the church, you are in serious trouble,” the pastor was heard saying as he encouraged congregants to hug in defiance of health warnings.
Many in the Muslim community, not just in India, but globally, are showing signs of absolute complacency and disregard for public health by going about their daily business like it’s the finest time of the century. In India, Tik Tok videos are being made which show young Muslim men placing sunnat and ‘Islam’ above public health. And they are doing so with a sense of heroism, for sadistic reasons best known to them. In one of the Tik Tok videos doing the rounds on social media, a group of friends is seen suggesting a person to refrain from shaking hands, while the ignorant man replies saying, “Coronavirus ke liye sunnat chhorr doge?” (You are willing to compromise on sunnat for Coronavirus?). Another video shows a group of men agreeing that Coronavirus is a petty virus and that Muslims don’t fear death.
— Keya Ghosh (@keyakahe) March 21, 2020
Muslim clerics and leaders have been shoving down all sorts of bunkum when it comes to Coronavirus. Sometimes, though, the community is itself falling for hoaxes, or rather causing them. Alcohol consumption is banned in Islam, by which I mean it is haram. As a result, Muslims, particularly in Malaysia, have been demanding halal hand sanitizers, without an alcoholic base. Without alcohol, a sanitizer is ineffective. Simple. A minimum of 60% alcohol is required to neutralize the protein envelope of the virus, hence rendering it defunct. However, when Muslims demand a non-alcoholic sanitizer, they do so at the cost of putting their own, and the lives of others at grave risk. One cannot make special demands in times of a pandemic staring us in the face. How difficult is it to understand this simple fact?
The takeaway point is, India under PM Modi is leaving no stone unturned to avert this catastrophe. The “whatever it takes” approach is the only way to go about things and that means religious activities which can be a major cause of transfer of the virus amongst the community have to be stopped. If the majority Hindu population of the country can accept the decision of the government, the other religions need to understand this too and act on scientific temper.
These 21 days will either make us or break us. We are in the endgame now. And by virtue of its ancient wisdom, the Hindu civilization sees this better than most other nations.