‘Under cover of the epidemic, attempts are being made by the Sangh Parivar to bolster socially conservative values, communal prejudices and patriarchal notions.’
The All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and the All India Peoples Science Network (AIPSN) will hold a joint campaign against the various superstitions and alleged cures which have been peddled for COVID-19, beginning July 23.
The campaign will kick off on Thursday, the death anniversary of Dr. Lakshmi Sahgal, a freedom-fighter and one of the founding members of AIDWA. Its last day, August 20, was the date on which “anti-superstition campaigner Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was murdered by right wing obscurantist forces,” the campaign note said.
The campaign is being launched at a time when solutions like banging plates and untested ayurvedic medicines are being touted as inhibitors or a cure for the novel coronavirus, vaccines for which are under development in various countries, including India.
“Many traditionalist practices which have no proven impact on COVID-19 are being advocated as cures or as having preventive properties. Under cover of the epidemic, attempts are being made by the Sangh Parivar to bolster socially conservative values, communal prejudices and patriarchal notions. This must be resisted unitedly by progressive and democratic forces,” the joint-campaign note said.
The note added that governments, except for Kerala, resorted to “knee-jerk” reactions and a “badly implemented” lockdown to contain COVID-19, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the way in exhorting citizens to clap and light diyas to contain the spread of the virus.
The organisations mention that the prescribed remedies included “a number of home remedies like drinking warm water, standing in the sun, growing certain plants at home and so on. Such untested beliefs gained considerable popularity until, under pressure from scientists and people’s organizations and movements, public messaging became more coherent and science-based.”
The note said that such ‘methods of treatment’ have been allowed to foster even by government representatives and spokespersons of the BJP. Such remedies also included Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali coming up with an alleged cure for COVID-19.
The organisations also mention that questionable practices have been adopted by people in states like Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Telangana. Citing attempts made by the right-wing to label the Tablighi Jamaat as a ‘super-spreader’ in the initial days of the COVID-19 fight, the note said that “any rational and unbiased person would understand that the problem is not with the particular religion, but with the practices adopted. Here obscurantist forces are deliberately fanning and spreading communal prejudice, while at the same time devaluing science and rational thought and distracting everyone from governments’ responsibility to provide quality medical care.”
“The campaign would resist attempts by the government and obscurantist forces to take us backwards, and instead uphold the values of secularism, gender justice, critical thinking and scientific temper, all of which are essential for building a forward-looking, democratic society,” the note added.