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With 2.6L New COVID Cases, Abhinav Bindra Shoots Down Wrestler’s Kumbh Defence

With 2.6L New COVID Cases, Abhinav Bindra Shoots Down Wrestler’s Kumbh Defence

L-R: Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra; sadhus at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar this week; grappler Yogeshwar Dutt. Photos: PTI

New Delhi: On a day that India added 260,533 new COVID-19 cases and 1,492 deaths to its mounting tally, the country’s only individual Olympic gold-medallist, shooter Abhinav Bindra, questioned the decision to continue with the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, saying ‘a virus does not discriminate between religions’.

The Kumbh Mela is being seen as a potential super-spreader with lakhs of devotees converging at Haridwar for a dip in the Ganga river. Official figures for the period between April 10 to 14 placed the number of infected persons at 1,701.

Bindra asked on Twitter whether the Kumbh should “even be held while an infectious pandemic lays waste to India”, adding, “A virus does not discriminate between religions.”

He was responding to a tweet by the wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who is now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Dutt, who had won the bronze in the 60kg freestyle category at the 2012 London Olympics, had recently tweeted a defence of the event in the face of mounting criticism that the government had grievously erred by allowing the Kumbh to take place despite the dramatic surge in coronavirus infections across India.

Dutt claimed that the “peaceful devotess” were being defamed and that they “are following all protocols”.

He also said, “no one is spitting at the security and medical staff, no one is running away after hiding from the administration,’ he had tweeted.

In keeping with the BJP’s attempt to reject any comparison between the Kumbh Mela and the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi last March – which was labelled a coronavirus hotspot after a number of cases were detected there – Dutt’s tweet recycled some of the myths peddled on social media by right wing handles and pro-government media at the height of the hysteria against the Jamaat.

As for  his claim that protocols are being followed, journalists in Haridwar have documented the virtual absence of masks and the collapse of official measures supposedly put in place to ensure only those with a negative Covid test came to the Kumbh.

In his response to Dutt’s tweet , Bindra went on to criticise the wrestler for lending his support to the conduct of the massive gathering.

‘Athletes r known to keep their eye on the ball,their focus unwavering & to not get distracted by wht is most important at this time — saving lives,finding cures THAT can work & showing compassion & empathy 4 those who r loosing loved ones. U r failing the entire sports community with this,’ the celebrated shooter posted.

Dutt’s defence of the Kumbh came even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose government has exhorted pilgrims to attend the event through advertisements – finally did a U-turn of sorts, saying that attendance at the Hindu festival should be ‘symbolic‘. Following his appeal, Swami Avdheshanand of the Juna Akhara in Haridwar appealed to devotees that keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation, they should refrain from refrain from taking the holy dip in large numbers and abide by all protocols:

Modi and Avdheshanand’s appeal comes in the wake of the mahamandaleshwar of the Maha Nirvani Akhara from Madhya Pradesh, Swami Kapil Dev, succumbing to  COVID-19 on April 13. The president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri has been admitted to AIIMS, Rishikesh after testing positive for the disease last week.

Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat, who had said faith and ‘Maa Ganga’ would protect the pilgrims at Haridwar from the coronavirus, has himself now tested positive for COVID.

With inputs from PTI

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