The police in Gujarat on Wednesday arrested 23 people, including a village head, for organising a huge religious procession in the state’s Ahmedabad city to “eradicate the coronavirus”, PTI reported.
The incident took place on May 3 in Navapura village of the city, and came at a time when the country is in the midst of an unprecedented coronavirus crisis, witnessing scenes of people dying outside overburdened hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.
Purported videos of the gathering on social media showed, what seemed like hundreds of women, carrying steel pots filled with water on their heads, as they walked together in a procession, with zero regard to physical distancing practices. Hardly anyone could be seen wearing a mask.
The police said the devotees were walking to a nearby temple to “get rid” of the coronavirus. A police officer told PTI it was the belief of the villagers that the virus “will just go away” if they poured water on an idol of their community deity, Baliyadev.
Ahmedabad Rural Superintendent of Police Virendra Yadav told The Indian Express that after the police found out about the procession, a team was sent to the village to teach the women Covid-related protocol, and to send them back to their homes. “We have also rounded up 23 persons, and booked and arrested the village sarpanch,” he added.
Sanand Division Deputy Superintendent of Police KT Kamariya told PTI that all the accused were booked for violating a police notification regarding public gatherings under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act.
In guidelines laid down by the state government last week, all religious places had been ordered to remain shut. Besides this, night curfew is in place in several areas.
Covid-19 infections and deaths in India have been on a rise like never before. The country has recorded more than 3 lakh cases a day for nearly 15 days in a row, since April 22. Exerts say the astronomical rise in cases was a result of government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals such as the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand and political rallies held before state elections.