By Rajiv Shah
Well-known policy analyst Mohan Guruswamy has posted on his Facebook timeline a very interesting writeup by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, pointing towards how the Government of India “advanced” the Kumbh Mela by a year because of strange “astrological calculations”, setting aside dangers caused by the pandemic.
Sengupta wonders whether we are living in 2021 or in the 19th century when a similar decision was taken. The writeup, one of whose versions has been published The Wire, seemed newsy to me. Read on:
***Kumbh Melas are held every 12 years. The actual due date for the ‘current’ Kumbh Mela at Haridwar was 2022, not 2021. Because the last Haridwar Kumbh Mela had been held in 2010.
So how did it get advanced by one whole lethal year? Let me tell you the reason.
It was ‘advanced’ by a year, to 2021, because the ‘astrological configurations’ of the ‘Sun entering Aries’ and ‘Jupiter entering Aquarius’ were available for 2021 this time. This happens once every 83 years, and it happens because of the need to reconcile astrological configuration charts to calendrical years. The calculative arcana of this ‘adjustment’ is beyond my capacity. I suggest none of you try it if you don’t want to give yourselves a headache.
So, not only did the Government of India, and the Government of Uttarakhand NOT cancel the Kumbh Mela, which they could easily have done, so as not to endanger the lives of millions of people by causing a super-spreader event for Covid 19; they also need not have let it take place this year at all in the first place, simply because this is the 11th, not the 12th year, since the last Kumbh Mela at Haridwar. They could have used this time to create the conditions where holding an event like the Kumbh Mela could have made some kind of sense, maybe, in 2022.
Instead, they did much worse. They, in consultation with that circus of clowns of the Hindu religion called the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad, ‘advanced’ the date from 2022 to 2021, knowing fully the dangers of pandemic, because some ‘astrological mumbo-jumbo’ told them that this was desirable. Because, you know, ‘Aastha/Faith’, that beloved article that makes the Supreme Court reward criminal trespass with a building plan, is also what makes the Governments of India and Uttarakhand do what they must to put peoples lives in danger on a grand scale.
Epidemiological studies always indicate that a possible second wave of infection is worse than the first. The Kumbh Mela is a historically documented site of the spread of contagion. You don’t need to have a PhD in Public Health to guess that an occasion like a Kumbh Mela Shahi Snan is a possible epicentre of a second contagious wave, which given the conditions of the Kumbh Mela, would most likely turn into a Tsunami of disease. That is exactly what has happened. Everybody in India, and frankly, in the world, is now at risk because of the result of some key stupid decisions by some key idiotic men. The Chinese government may have been responsible for a degree of understatement of actual figures at the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic, but they took steps to contain it, and they certainly did nothing to amplify it. The regime that rules India has taken steps that have led to a huge rise in infections. This could have been avoided. Unlike the Chinese regime, this time, the Indian state cannot even pretend to say that it was caught unawares by the outbreak of a disease. Not only was it in command over all the knowledge necessary to know that there could be a second wave, but also, by letting the Kumbh Mela happen, by actually making it happen during a time when it did not even ‘need’ to happen, it actively took steps to create the conditions for a second wave. History will judge the men who rule this country today, and the holy men at their side, as a bunch of cynical mass murderers, or as dangerously deluded fools.
And all this, when the vaccination programme has barely gotten underway. There is no way by which anybody can justify the holding of mass gatherings of the scale that the Kumbh Mela entails at this time. The same goes for elections, which an Election Commission possessed of a spine and a brain could have easily insisted on postponing. But that was not to be.
So, have Kumbh Melas been advanced by a year before? Yes they have, in 1938, and in 1855, when similar ‘astrological configurations’ were in place.
Are we living in 1938, or in 1855? Was there an airborne viral epidemic around in 1938? There was actually a cholera epidemic around in 1855, and the Kumbh Mela that year did amplify the disease hugely. This people knew even then, though their understanding of epidemics was much less than it is today. The International Sanitary Convention of 1866 in Istanbul – specifically looked at reports of disease spread from the Kumbh Mela locus.
Was this, now, in 2021, when we know so much more about disease than we did in 1938 or 1855, not an occasion for a rational, sane, government to use all its persuasive power to convince a bunch of self-appointed ‘holy men’ that maybe, just for this time, they could put ‘astrology’ in abeyance, and rely simply on the calendrical calculation of a twelve year interval between two consecutive Kumbh Melas?
Was this not one key instance where there could have been a rational, sensible dialogue between ordinary reason and faith – that could have helped save lives? Perhaps, given that all the astrologers of India put together are unable to come up with an explanation, based on their ‘discipline’, for how and why a pandemic of this nature broke out when it did, this would be a little bit of a reason to let ‘astrology’ take a bit of a back seat, just for a while, especially when it comes to the taking of major policy decisions like whether or not to commit government support to a super-spreader event.
No. How could it have been so. There are elections to win, and the support of Holy Circus Clowns is crucial, as ever, as are the opportunities to make money off contracts and advertising revenue for an event that can hold millions captive to disease and to mammon.
These, dear Indians, dear Hindus, are your leaders and your holy men. They are your mirrors and your death-wish.
Best of Luck. The stars, indifferent in heaven, feel no need to laugh at you. Frankly, no matter what you think about them, they don’t even fucking care about you.
COVID-19 vaccines go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are then monitored closely.