Politics and religion together make for a potent potion. Add to it the festival season, impending elections and a pandemic, and you have a cauldron that’s brewing an unpredictable mix.
Concerned about people letting their guard down ahead of the festive season, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation on October 20, struck a note of caution. “The lockdown may be gone but not the virus,” he said, exhorting people not to be complacent till a vaccine is available.
It’s the time for month-long festivities in the country that include Navratri, Durga Puja, Ramlila, Dussehra, Diwali and Eid—most involving community celebrations. Then there is Chhath puja, Gurpurab and Christmas to end the Covid-scarred year.
With the number of COVID-19 cases crossing 76 lakh, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan also urged people to celebrate festivals at home and to avoid public places. He cited the cautionary example of Kerala, saying the state—now witnessing a second wave of coronavirus cases—is paying the “price for gross negligence” after allowing unfettered Onam festivities in end-August. He said that Kerala’s adept, praiseworthy handling of COVID-19 in the initial months ought to serve as a good lesson for all state governments that are being negligent in planning for the pandemic in the festival season.
The citizenry, however, isn’t prepared for a dampener of spirits—thus the shrill demand for opening temples for religious gatherings from some parts of the country. ‘If bars and restaurants can be opened, why not temples’, goes the usual argument. As per guidelines issued by the Union home ministry, temples and other places of worship were allowed to function from June 8, with sanitisation and social distancing norms. Some states chose to open;...