The assembling of 9.1 million people in Haridwar isn’t a superspreader according to the Indian media and experts during the deathly second wave in India.
When the former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat proposed the idea of a pratikatmak or symbolic celebration in the middle of the pandemic, the President of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), Narendra Giri said, “Certain vidharmi”—heretical—“people who do not believe in Dharma, give excuses of COVID-19 and have the communist mentality … they wanted to hinder the Kumbh fair.” reported The Caravan’s Shristi Jaswal.
Although the decision about the preponement was discussed back in 2019 under the expert guidance of Hindu Jyotish Shastra and based on the Panchang, the holy hindu calendar pointed out the return of the adhik mass or extra month after 83 years. Ravinder Puri, a mahant from the Nirvani Akhara, explained that “While Kumbh at other sites usually happens after 12 years, it is Haridwar Kumbh where we have seen this discrepancy every 83 years. This last happened in 1938.”
On 10 February 2020 the announcement of Shahi Snans or Holy Baths in the Ganges was declared by Trivendra’s Government. Over 300 meetings were held between March 2020-21 to discuss the proceeding and preparations of the event between the ABAP’s Mahants, Uttarakhand Government and top officials of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This led to “Trivendra’s ouster played out in the form of high political drama over a period of three days” Jaswal reported.
On 6 March 2021, the BJP national vice-president Raman Singh and the BJP general secretary in-charge of Uttarakhand, Dushyant Singh Gautam, came unannounced to Dehradun to meet Trivendra which led to meetings with J.P Nadda, the president of the BJP and the subsequent resignation on 9 March just a few days before his four year term completion. When asked the reason, he said, “You will have to go to Delhi to find out why.”
Chauhan, the BJP spokesperson, told Jaswal that it was “partially correct” to suppose that Trivendra had been asked to go on account of the Kumbh and that “the holy saints were divided when it came to Kumbh.He suggested to look beyond what is immediately apparent. “The politics is not what is written on the wall. It is between the lines,” he added.
Around 9.1 million devotees visited Haridwar between 14th January and 27th April 2021 with 6 million just visiting in the month of April when the second wave hit the country. The largest assembling of people was on 12 April of 3.5 million. The death toll on the first Shahi Snan date of 11th March was 69 cases which escalated to 5703 on 27 April which concluded the last Snan in the midst of nationwide panic due to the sering number of cases, unavailability of beds, oxygen and medicines in the nation capital. Although there is no empirical or quantitative data about whether Kumbh led to the migration of the virus to rural pockets, many experts and ground reportage shed some light on the possibility.
Around 700 crores were roughly allotted by the centre for the Kumbh Mela as it was important to cater to the Uttar Pradesh kingmakers and allies , the Akharas and Mahants for the upcoming 2022 assembly elections. It was both a “political and economic decision” for BJP,A senior leader with over two decades of political experience told Jawsal.