This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saumya Rastogi. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why PM Modi’s Curtailment Of Kumbh Mela Comes A Little Too Late

More from Saumya Rastogi

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Kumbh Mela is a major pilgrimage and celebration in Hinduism. It is celebrated in a cycle of around 12 years to commemorate every revolution Jupiter completes at four river-bank pilgrimage sites: the Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.

A ritual dip in the waters marks the festival. Still, it is also a celebration of community business with numerous fairs, education, religious discussions by saints, mass feedings of monks or the poor, and entertainment display. The devotees believe that bathing in these rivers is a medium to atonement or penance for past mistakes and that it absolves them of their sins.

Representational image.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 17, 2021, urged that the mega Kumbh Mela “should now only be symbolic amid the coronavirus crisis”. He emphasized that it would boost the fight against the pandemic. Huge gatherings of tens of thousands of pilgrims along the banks of the Ganga in the last few days have sparked national concern as India, hit by the second Covid wave, sees an alarming wave of infections.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said he spoke to one of the top seers, Swami Avdheshanand Giri of Juna Akhara, over the phone and appealed about the religious festival that attracts millions of devotees.

“I appealed that two “shahi snan” (royal baths) have taken place, and Kumbh (participation) should now be kept symbolic. This will give a boost to the fight against this crisis,” PM Modi tweeted in Hindi.

Responding to PM Modi’s tweet, Swami Avdheshanand replied in Hindi, “We respect PM Modi’s appeal. Saving lives is sacred. I request people to not gather for the ritual bath in large numbers and follow all Covid protocols.”

Is This Response By PM Modi A Little Too Late?

Over 5,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area from April 10 to 17, reinforcing fears that one of the world’s largest religious gatherings added further to the speedy rise in coronavirus cases.

A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who were a part of the last two ‘royal baths’ (shahi snan) were seen openly violating COVID norms like wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.

One influential Hindu congregation decided to exit the festival. “The Kumbh Mela is over for us,” Ravindra Puri, secretary of the Niranjani Akhada, was quoted by local media.

The decision came a day after Swami Kapil Dev, the head of another leading congregation, died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Can Kumbh Mela Be Called A “Super-spreader” Event Like The Tablighi Jamaat?

It certainly was. But the mainstream media choose not to show this side of the Kumbh Mela.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday said that the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar should not be compared to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last year, ANI reported. Rawat commented even as Haridwar reported 1,002 Covid-19 cases in the previous two days.

“The Markaz attendees were all inside a building, and here it is out in the open,” Rawat said. He added that this festival was near the Ganges. “The flow and blessings of Ma Ganga will ensure that coronavirus does not spread. The question does not arise of a comparison.”

This, however, was not the first time that Rawat has tried to downplay the risk of transmission of the virus at the Kumbh Mela. At an interview earlier this week, he had said that the Kumbh was being held at a time when there was more awareness about coronavirus guidelines compared to when the Nizamuddin Markaz took place.

A majority of the 48.51 lakh people in Kumbh who were a part of the last two ‘royal baths’ (shahi snan) were seen openly violating COVID norms like wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.

Why The Selective Policing?

On 2 April 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs blacklisted 950 foreign nationals for their alleged involvement in the “Tablighi event”. In March 2020, members of the sect from about 70 countries attended a Jamaat congregation at its Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin. The event took place weeks before the propagation of COVID-19 guidelines restricting social and religious gatherings.

The central government also issued a directive to Delhi’s Director General (Police) to register criminal cases against foreign nationals under the Indian Penal Code, the Foreigners Act and the Disaster Management Act. While the Tablighis were criminalised, Kumbh Mela devotees are being celebrated.

This exposes the politics of selective COVID policing, which allows differential treatment of different classes and communities under which are religion-neutral on paper,” writes Karan Tripathi for The Quint.

“The entitlement of the devotees at Kumbh Mela stems from the ‘free-reign given to them by the BJP government in Uttarakhand. When the government and its machinery on the ground decide who be caught and booked under COVID regulations, and who should not, it becomes a tool for state-sponsored discrimination,” he adds.

On 12 April, the Delhi HC told the Centre to allow the entry of devotees to Nizamuddin Markaz during Ramazan. The court observed that there would be no entry cap since there are no sections on other religious places as well. However, the Centre informed the court that no religious congregation could occur at Nizamuddin Markaz. The same has been restricted by the Delhi Disaster Management Association (DDMA) since 10 April.

The DDMA is headed by the Lieutenant Governor instead of the state’s CM giving the central government direct control over implementing the Disaster Management Act in Delhi.

You must be to comment.

More from Saumya Rastogi

Similar Posts

By Anushka Khatua

By Mir Tajamul Islam

By India Development Review (IDR)

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below