By Ram Puniyani
With the outbreak of Covid 19, one of the earliest claims for its treatment came from Baba Ramdev. Baba Ramdev is the leading Baba who is also close to the ruling dispensation. He began becoming popular with his Yoga exercises and later took up the manufacture of medicines etc. including cow products. He has come to stand in the row of leading Corporate of the country. He learned his craft of Yoga from his Guru. His colleague Acharya Balkishan is the one who is his partner in the Patanjali enterprise, which has become a leading drug manufacturer. Not much is known about the formal education of the duo.
Their launch of Coronil, as a cure of Corona, drew a lot of attention. There was the claim initially that it has got WHO approval, later the claim was diluted to say that it has been made as per WHO guidelines. A study was cited as proof of the efficacy of the Coronil. The claim was made that within seven days the disease will be cured. Later the fallacy of the study which was presented as the basis of proving the efficacy of Coronil was demonstrated. Interestingly two central ministers were present at the launch.
Last year has seen so many claims coming up for treatment of the dreaded pandemic. The Ayush ministry advised the application of sesame oil/coconut oil/cow ghee on the nostrils. Some came up with the idea of steam inhalation. Malegaon blast accused, Bhopal BJP MP, Pragya Singh Thakur claimed that consumption of Cow urine is protecting her from Corona. BJP, Madhya Pradesh Culture Minister Usha Thakur claimed that performing of Fire ritual; Havan; will protect us from the disease.
Swami Chakrapani Maharaj organized a Gomutra party for popularising Cow-urine drinking and for applying cow dung on the body. A similar practice is being done by a group of Sadhus in Gujarat. The peak of this was the statement from the Chief Minister of Uttrakhand who invited people for taking bath in Mahakumbh with the plea that divine powers of the river will protect us from the calamity. The results were right there to see several sadhus lost their lives right during the Kumbh and later many sadhus carried the disease to their respective places.
The overarching ideology behind this of course filtered down from the Prime minister himself, who first gave the call of banging pots and pans for five minutes at 5 PM, and in April he asked for burning candles and flashing lights for 9 Minutes at Nine PM.
Uniquely, another BJP worthy one Sankeshwar in a recent press meet stated that administration of lime juice through nostrils increases oxygen levels by 80%. This as per him was based on observation of nearly 200 friends and relatives.
The whole trend has been to make statements and adopt politics, which do not have any scientific base. Science has tried to evolve methods to search for truth through elaborate methods. What we saw all through this period has been the statements and actions which are based on faith or common sense. The cow which is a political symbol for the ruling dispensation has been employed extensively for treatment, its urine; its dung has been the major advices. Veterinary science will tell us that Urine/dung is the waste product of the body and there is no evidence of any benefit of these to the human body.
The faith that 33 Crore Gods reside in her body is a matter of faith, which is being popularized and being forced on the policies of this ruling dispensation. The fire ritual of Yagna and ablation (Ahuti) is again being proffered out of the hat. The volunteers of the BJP’s parent organization are doing extensive propagation of the methods of doing Havan at places.
Along with this Baba Ramdev, who is among the major Godmen of the last two decades, went on to say that the Allopathic system of medicine is stupid and bankrupt science. In response, the Indian Medical Association protested. The health Minister wrote to Ramdev who in turn has withdrawn his statement. This is the same Ramdev who was in ICU after his few days of fasting. This is the same Ramdev, whose partner Balkishan was recently admitted to some allopathic hospital.
The rise of such faith-based irrational statements and policies during the last few decades are running parallel to the rise of sectarian politics, Hindutva. As such the religious nationalism wants to harp on the pre-democratic values of caste and gender hierarchy. The major step in the dawn of democratic society was the struggle for a reason to come up against the prevalent blind beliefs, blind faith. With the democratization of Western societies the faith/blind faith, such irrational, retrograde practices are seen less often there, if at all.
Here the rise of a national movement, the rise of social reform among women and Dalits also saw the firming up of scientific thinking. While the freedom movement ran parallel to the introduction of rational thought in society, those believing in religious nationalism were not only opposed to social reforms, anti-colonial struggle but also were against scientific thinking. They harped on faith as it gives legitimacy to inequality in society.
Our Constitution wants the state to promote scientific temper as a matter of policy. As we have seen with the rise of divisive nationalism we have seen an all-out attack on rational thinking. We saw the murders of Dr. Dabholkar, Com Pansare, M.M.Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. The tragedy of pandemic has seen the revival of blind faith as the ruling dispensation’s whole ideology is founded on faith/blind faith. This is an obstacle to efficiently dealing with the pandemic. While the likes of Ramdev are on the top of the pyramid of faith-based knowledge, there are hoards of others promoting these things all around. We do need to promote scientific temper and the spectacles of banging pans or lighting lamps are not going to solve the tragic situation in which we are writing at present.