The World today (March 2020) is gripped with the pandemic of Corona Virus. While it began from China, currently it has gripped various countries; India is also facing the problem of mammoth proportions. Many steps are being taken, and many more are need of the hour. Apart from other things, what will make the battle against this threat to global-Indian health more difficult is the parallel promotion of faith based practices by the ruling dispensation and its myriad associates for whom, ancient Indian practices had all ingredients to deal with the human calamities. Two disturbing examples need to be deliberated to understand the intensity of the blind practices, which have become running undercurrent of our social life in recent times. It is not too long ago that the actions of faith based political ideology led to the murders of the likes of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Goving Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi. They were fighting against the practitioners and promoters of blind faith. These sections have got encouragement with the rise of sectarian nationalism.
On 22nd March Sunday 2020, the Prime minster had given a call for day long Janata curfew and to come to balconies to clap, to beat the thalis, utensils to appreciate the work being done by the health professionals. While the gesture to thank the work of health professional was well called for, it took another turn at places. Many processions were organized with people coming together, violating the physical distancing norms. They were blowing conch, beating utensils and doing clapping etc. The reason for this was not far to seek. The Maharashtra BJP leader Shaina N.C. in her tweet, while appreciating the PM for this call of making noise said that this making sounds will kill the bacteria/viruses. As per her, this highly re-tweeted statement drew from Puranas, state that beating of shells, blowing of conch kills bacteria and viruses. Whatsapp messages were also flooding the social media with similar messages.
The second disturbing thing was the actions of Swami Chakrapani Maharaj, who had organized Gomutra (Cow Urine) Party, where cow urine was distributed and many consumed it with the understanding that this will help prevent/cure the Corona virus. Another BJP leader also organized similar program, in which one of the person drinking cow urine fell sick. Not to be left behind another BJP worthy, the MLA from Assam, Suman Haripriya elaborated the virtues of Cow dung.
It is not surprising that most of the Gomutra, Cow dung promotions came from those associated with the BJP ideology. Cow Urine has been in news more during last couple of decades since the BJP led NDA came to power in 1998. One of the close associates of Mr. Modi Shankar Bhai Vegad from Gujarat claims that that cow urine is the secret of his being healthy despite being 76 years old. The peak of such claims comes with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, current BJP MP from Bhopal and an accused in Malegaon terror blast, who claimed that her breast cancer got cured due to this cow urine. Mercifully her treating surgeon told us the truth that he had performed three surgeries on her for her ailment.
How do we believe or reject the claims of cow urine being the magic potion treating every conceivable disorder? While this question has been looming in the air, the ruling Government is allotting huge funds for so called research on Cow Urine, Panchgavya (a mixture of cow dung, Cow urine, milk, curd and ghee) etc. The central research agencies are calling for research on cow products, including the specificities’ of Indian cow!
In medical science the introduction of a medicine are backed up by biochemical studies, pre clinical trials, (Double blind trials with placebos) and post introduction evaluations. In case of these cow products what is guiding these actions is pure faith, manufactured through various processes. As far as cow urine is concerned we know that like the urine of other animals, it’s a combination of discarded substances from the body. It has over 90% water; it has Urea, creatinine, sulphates, phosphates etc. There are no clinical studies to back up the claims. It is purely from ideological perspective that some elements are imposing-propagating the worth of cow urine.
It is part of the whole project of Hindu nationalism, which wants to impose the ancient values of birth based hierarchy of caste and gender on the society. On parallels track it wants to state that ancient India had already achieved the acme of achievements in all areas of science and technology, be it Pushpak Viman, plastic surgery, bio technology, television and internet. This is part of the overall political agenda where in the name of Golden past faith based understandings are being presented with reverence. It is the attempt to adorn the superiority of Hindu traditional values. In matters of cow, on one hand the cow-beef campaign led to the phenomenon of lynchings and on the other the cow products are being promoted. This promotion has also led to the commercial exploitation of cow urine in different products of Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali products and others.
The very concept of fighting the pandemic of the proportion of Corona does require massive efforts on the part of the Government and the society. In India the rising impact of Hindu Nationalism, being spearhead by RSS has spread the understandings which are totally against science and reason. RSS to pursue its agenda has set up Vigyan Bharati, which puts forwards the extracts from Puranas etc. as science. Further to this in Nagpur a Go Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra has also been established to propagate these understandings which are neither logical nor can stand the scrutiny of scientific methods.
The propagation of such things will retard the process of progress and is already posing obstacles to dealing with the pandemic as irrational things have been drilled into the understanding of the section of society. The ruling authorities have to come forward and undo these detrimental practices.
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. Response only to email@example.com