Hindu saint dies of COVID-19 at Kumbh mela, 68 other ‘top seers’ test positive

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A top Hindu seer has died of COVID-19 after attending this year’s Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in Uttarakhand. The death of 65-year-old Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das came amidst a report by Times of India claiming that that 68 other ‘top seers’ too had tested positive at the Kumbh Mela, which has earned widespread condemnation for acting as super-spreaders amidst an alarming rise in the COVID-19 cases across India.

Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das of Hindu akhadas was admitted to a hospital in Haridwar after he tested positive for COVID-19. He died on Thursday, according to local officials.

Amidst mounting criticism for defying the COVID-19 protocol and scores of seers testing positive for COVID-19, Niranjani Akhada on Friday announced that it was exiting the Kumbh Mela prematurely. Niranjani Akhada is the second most powerful akhada after Juna Akhada.

News agency AFP quoted Harbeer Singh, a top festival officer, as saying, that as many as 2,000 positive cases had been reported since Monday during random testing of people taking part in this year’s Kumbh Mela.

Despite India reporting thousands of deaths in the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 25,000 Hindus are still taking part in the Kumbh Mela every day. Experts fear that these Hindus would act as super-spreaders when they return to their villages and towns and the COVID-19 situation would further spiral out of control.

Crematoriums in Lucknow, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have struggled to cope with the number of deaths forcing the UP government to install a barricade around one of its crematoriums to avoid a bad press on its handling of the pandemic.

There are allegations that the state governments are not reporting the COVID-19 deaths accurately. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is currently in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Karnataka’s BJP Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa too has tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, the BJP government at the Centre is facing widespread condemnation for its inept handling of the pandemic. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are facing flak for their decision to go ahead with election rallies in Bengal.