50 Million People Allowed at Superspreader Festival so Modi Can Secure the Hindu Vote
India is facing a grueling COVID surge, but PM Modi is letting tens of millions gather for festival celebrations to better his party’s election odds.
In an apparent effort to secure votes for his party in India’s upcoming state elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has allowed at least 50 million Hindus to take to the Ganga river for a holy dip in a religious festival that has turned into an unprecedented COVID-19 superspreader event.
The Kumbh Mela, or the pitcher festival, is a mega Hindu gathering that takes place every 12 years along one of four riverbank pilgrimage sites, where millions of people bathe in the Ganga, also known as the Ganges, hoping to wash away their past sins and achieve salvation from the cycle of life and death. The month-long festival has been linked to at least 2,000 coronavirus infections so far.
The celebration involves ascetics draped in marigold flowers and carrying tridents—a principal symbol in Hinduism—leading hordes of ash-covered followers to the riverbanks. Crammed together, the festivalgoers sing, dance, and hug each other after taking dips in the water.