Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third 'Shahi Snan' of the Kumbh Mela 2021, in Haridwar, 14 April 2021 | PTI
Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third 'Shahi Snan' of the Kumbh Mela 2021, in Haridwar on 14 April 2021 | PTI
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If V.S. Naipaul were alive today, he would have written a different book from his (in)famous India: A Million Mutinies Now. After watching our disastrous response to the coronavirus, the Nobel Prize-winning author would have been tempted to call it, India: A Million Hypocrisies Now, or if he felt more charitable, India: A Million Contradictions Now.

Just over a year ago, the outbreak of the virus in the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Delhi spread across TV news channels, especially Hindi ones, like the virus itself. The Tablighis were condemned as “super spreaders” by TV headlines, anchors, reporters, and accused of “corona jihad”.

For several days, we saw footage of the Nizamuddin area cordoned off and the Tablighis emerge, one by one, surrounded by police as if they were criminals – remember? Channels like News Nation chased the Tablighi members across the length and breadth of the country unrelentingly, while ABP News called them a “human bomb”, and everyone was outraged by their irresponsibility.

Cut to April 2021. The Covid-19 tally has crossed 1.60 lakh daily cases in India. Meanwhile, in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, “9 lakh take the holy dip” during the Kumbh Mela (CNN News18). “Curbs are in place… but the visuals are very disturbing,” said the anchor.


Also read: Poll rallies to Kumbh Mela — Modi-Shah’s conscience must take a look at latest Covid surge


Shock – that’s about it

In the last so many days, news channels have shown us stills, video footage of thousands on the banks of the Ganga with “social distancing thrown to the wind,” observed India Today’s Gaurav Sawant.

NDTV 24×7 reported that at least 594 people were found positive Monday/Tuesday and there were over 2,800 active cases at the Kumbh Mela – “Absolute disregard for Covid-19 protocols,” commented the anchor.

After reporting on the holy dip for two days, Times Now was, finally, horrified by what it saw: #StopSuperSpreader events, it demanded. Anchor Rahul Shivshankar gave a piece of his mind to a BJP panelist on his Tuesday primetime show: “I will not allow you to, artfully, put the responsibility on the public…. You cannot take ‘dubki’….”

However, news channels’ coverage of Haridwar continued to dip in and out of Kumbh Mela, half in horror, half in awe at the audacity of it all. But no channel called this a “human bomb” or “corona warfare”, no channel characterised them as criminals or condemned the sants and sadhus in the kind of language they had used for the Tablighis—even though this congregation was a thousand times larger than the Markaz one in Delhi — and at a time when Covid-19 cases are surging each day.

That’s the contradiction of India or its hypocrisy – call it what you will.

Then, one person on India Ahead said what all news channels should have: “We owe an apology to the Tablighi Jamaat.”


Also read: British govt to Modi govt — How Kumbh Mela has been organised through epidemics


Silence on top politicians in rallies

Unfortunately, Haridwar is not a solitary example. As ThePrint has reported, politicians say one thing and do another: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on 8 April and appealed for strict adherence to MSD — mask and social distancing — besides washing of hands.

But on Monday, all news channels broadcast, live, his speeches at three rallies in West Bengal where thousands were present — without masks standing shoulder to shoulder — “PM is holding rallies one after the other,” marvelled News18 India.

Ditto Home Minister Amit Shah, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi — among hundreds of other politicians who are campaigning in West Bengal and flouting all norms.

What impression does this create on the public that is watching the leaders at rallies where no coronavirus-appropriate behaviour is practised? What are the viewers to think when doctors, every evening on primetime TV discussions, tell them that the vaccine is not the cure, please practise MSD — and then, TV channels switch to crowded political rallies? They think ‘anything you can do, I can do too’.

Has any channel dared call out the top political leadership of this country? Zee News did complain that the PM and the Election Commission had urged Covid-19 appropriate behaviour during the election campaign but “political rallies mein laparwahi” — the accompanying footage was of Mamata Banerjee’s rallies only.

Television news holds up a mirror to the contradictions and the hypocrisies that have landed us where we are now: Tika utsavs and the festival of democracy side by side with the Kumbh Mela. Would someone explain what exactly it is that we are celebrating?


Also read: ‘Positive dip’ in Kumbh Mela, and Centre’s ‘tika utsav’ decoration


A lot to cover – news and face

It’s not that news channels have not tracked the alarming rise of the Covid pandemic across India — “Breaking all records!” exclaimed the News18 India anchor as if she was announcing a Guinness World of Records achievement. “118 new cases per minute… India top in the world in cases,” added India TV, sounding equally appalled and impressed.

They have shone the light on healthcare infrastructure collapsing before our very eyes: “50 hospitals no beds, no ventilators” (Aaj Tak), “70% ICU occupancy in Delhi” (News X), “Few beds in Chennai” (Mirror Now). A Zee News reporter phoned up hospitals in Delhi: No beds in Delhi hospitals, Safdarjung ICU “khaali hai”.

Cut to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in an advertisement asking the public to wear masks, to get vaccinated, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath issuing a similar request.

Then cut to Haridwar or the political rallies and the crowded markets.

While news channels, like the BJP and Trinamool Congress, focus on the “Battle for Bengal” (CNN News18) and “Mamata’s dharna politics” (India TV), they have also taken us to cremation grounds in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh (NewsX) and in Surat, Gujarat where so many bodies had to be electrically cremated, the chimney at one crematorium suffered a meltdown (ABP News).

They have been at the railway stations in Mumbai where migrant labourers have told their tales of woe, again — no money, no train tickets available — “Tell me, what do I do?” (Mirror Now.) 

And, they have issued the sternest of all warnings: “If you don’t wear a mask, you will end up in plastic bag…” (ABP News).

Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar).

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VIEW COMMENTS

27 COMMENTS

  1. Last year, jamaatis were shown as serial criminals, anti national, etc.
    This year, people attending kumbh and other religious festivals and political rallies and campaigns are viewed as normal humans at the very least. (Like its free real estate)

    When last year anyone said that media was not fair and was spreading hate against muslims, media would say “all religions are equal”.
    When this year anyone says that media is not fair and all religions are equal, media would say “spreading hate against hindus, anti hindu, anti national, pakistani,…….”

    Have to say, indian media and general indian people have 10000000000 IQ (for comparison, general US people have 10 IQ)

    Also, this article does not mention DNA, by far the biggest 100000000000 IQ media show.
    When did DNA tag kumbh, political rallies and campaigns as “corona bomb” like it did last year with jamaatis?

    • Tabligis already did what they thought of, and it proved catastrophic such that all controls went hayway. Now that things are above nose in the water, Kumbh shouldn’t matter much.

  2. Please share some pictures of the Sadhus spitting on Doctors, Nurses and healthcare workers like the Jamatias…so that we can give more counters…also like hiding inside the villages, and not reporting themselves or accepting testing after arrival… the demand for biryani and not hospital food my the Jamatias…also those escaping covid quarantine centre after being caught from their hidings …..Sadhus should be made equally responsible for such behaviour

    • Please stop believing in those WhatsApp forwards. Please read the real Delhi HC verdict.
      All the spitting and biryani stories were FAKE.
      Our collective brain is being reduced to a mush by these WhatsApp fake news.

    • All those news are fake…… And it is proved by the High court… They were not spitting and misbehaving….and they were not asking for biryani…….. Go and check on internet…….. There’s not a single video of it….

  3. The Writer of this news article at this time of the year and comparing what happened at the beginning of the spread of Covid-19 is sensationalising the whoike issue and trying to set up Muslims against Hindus and thereby trying to get publicity what an impartial and broad minded Hindu named writer she is. This writer should in fact be prosecuted for spreading hatred and dividing the Indians on the basis of religion particularly at a sensitive time like this. Government of India has got enough on its hand at this time. and do not provide a stick to its enemies inside and outside the country to beat it.
    This article should not have seen the light on this media to misuse of the freedom of expression.

  4. All Media should have condemned this sort of congregation during such severe pandemic.

  5. I would have thought if the politicians’ patriotism exceeded their desire to increase their vote bank they would have stopped their rallies and all large religious gatherings.

    • Mr Kamlesh: Politicians and patriotism is an oxymoron. After all, when a politician spends millions to get elected, he does not do it because he is deeply in love with the Vishwaguru; he does it to recover his initial investment many fold and to enrich his kith and kin.

      Thus, the citizen as a voter is more important, the health of the nation be damned. Only when politics is made non-lucrative and more technocratic will this rot stop.

  6. You are right, every religious ,political and cultural mass gathering must be treated with same stick. In this critical time even small mistakes of individual could lead to disastrous consequences for whole county

  7. Absolutely true. I am ashamed at Indian media. They simply have no guts to say anything against Kumbh Mela. This should weigh in our conscience,

  8. You have not mentioned the biggest super spreader the farmers protest. 4 months they are gathered on the roads and you dont even mention that. You owe an apology to the reader for misguiding us and making it an anti.hindu article.

    • 2.8 million at Kumbh. Tens of thousands at the farmers protest at the Delhi border.
      Over 1700 corona positive already in Kumbh. How many at farmers protest near Delhi?
      You owe an apology to society for having low I.Q.

      • In Farmer’s protest there was no less than 2 lakh people at Sandhu border itself and nationwide protest have involved not less than 1-2 million people . Even though these numbers are not small to be ignored. That’s biased mindset

    • They also seem to gloss over political rallies by non BJP parties too. If i were an uninformed reader i would have thought that only BJP is holding rallies and Mamta Banerjee with other leaders of opposition have started doing campaigning sitting from home.

      Selective example clearly shows the bias of the reporter (if they call themselves that)

  9. Kumbh Snan and Corona, a most pertinent lead for this article.
    If after a few weeks it turns out that the Kumbh Snah has not resulted in an upsurge in Corona in UP and Bihar then it would have clearly established that Corona does not spread when people mill around in the open.
    Which is to be expected. Hindus don’t go around eating each other’s food, don’t go around hugging each other, don’t go around even shaking hands. No chance of the Corona spreading among these people.

  10. Leftist Anti National Print

    The pictures shown above our fake and there is much lesser attendance this time. Devotees pray for the health and wellness of country and of Sanatan Dharma. Social Distancing is being observed and most people are wearing masks.
    Please present real news instead of bashing Hindus and India.

  11. Unlike Muslims who did the following
    – spitting on doctors, police forces and the public to spread corona
    – refusing to go for corona isolation
    – calling Corona a punishment from Allah on Kaffirs
    – actively encouraging spitting on others and food items to spread corona,
    the Hindus at Kumbh did not do any of the above things.
    Yes, they should have avoided the mass gathering. But they are NOT evil.
    So don’t compare Markaz with Kumbh.

    • -Spitting on doctor was fake news. AIIMS authority confirmed it.
      -Would the 2.8 million Kumbh attendees go for isolation now that 2000 attendees have been found positive?
      -A Maulavi said this – “All the works are done by Allah be it good or bad. Allah is the saviour and destroyer. Muslims should not stop praying, namaaz, and going to masjid. If you do so, Allah will punish you more. At present, Allah is angry with everyone and to end his anger, we all should go to masjid and prey with precautions.” Some Hindus attending Kumbh says Corona can’t harm them as Ganga washes them. Both wrong.
      – Spitting on food also fake news. Refer indiatoday, thelogicalindian and altnews.

      Hindus in Kumbh attended an event without social distancing, without masks and many would go home to spread corona fully knowing that Corona may not show symptom for up to 15-30 days. If MArkaz was criminal negligence, Kumbh too is criminal negligence.

    • Mr Srinivasan, you are still relying on fake news. All instances you mentioned were WhatsApp forwards which were proved fake later. Still propagandist media broadcasted them without verifying. They were refuted by police themselves.
      Come out of fake news & hatred mentality. Rules should be equal for all. Else APARTHEID is taking place. Where even you will be discriminated by someone else. Then you will cry and nobody will listen.

    • Mr Srinivasan, you are still relying on fake news. All instances you mentioned were WhatsApp forwards which were proved fake later. Still propagandist media broadcasted them without verifying. They were refuted by police themselves.
      Come out of fake news & hatred mentality. Rules should be equal for all. Else APARTHEID is taking place. Where even you will be discriminated by someone else. Then you will cry and nobody will listen.

  12. You are beating a dead horse. The polarization and divide is complete – up down left and right. There is no turning back now.
    I would not be surprised even a little bit if this current spread is blamed on Tablighis or their kind again.
    No pretext no proof is needed. All you need is a mouthpiece and there are far too many and far too loud.

  13. If the Tablighi Jamaat was Corona Jihad, Kumbh mela can be called Corona Mahabharat where thousands may perish. Hope better sense prevails and this mass foolishness is called off.

    • I doubt better sense will prevail Mr Hashim Padiyath. Votes of the bhakths matter to Modi, not their lives.

    • Wait for 10-15 years the muslims were teach you peace, humanity and bhaichara ….people like you are most hypocrite and chamcha of jihadis .thuuu on your face

Comments are closed.