At a time when the Indian healthcare system has been crippled by the devastating second wave of COVID-19, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is working hard to ‘spread positivity’ in what seems to be an attempt to offset public ire over its handling of the pandemic.
Possibly in the same spirit, the BJP’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organised a four-day lecture series, ‘Positivity Unlimited’.
The speakers at the lecture series, while propagating a sentiment of helping the society – which is in dire need of medical supplies and COVID-19 resources – often ended up making unscientific claims on a variety of issues.
Not surprisingly, the speakers were mostly uncritical of the government and its handling of the crisis.
And then, there’s the usual – how Ayurveda and yoga are ways to boost immunity and help tackle mild symptoms of COVID-19. Both these claims are subjective, debatable and have no scientific backing.
Interestingly, this lecture series is coordinated by the RSS’ COVID Response Team, an outfit formed along to provide aid to the sick and vulnerable.
‘Being Angry With Govt Will Affect Immunity’
One of the speakers, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev went to the extent of saying that being angry all the time (with the government or otherwise) “will only affect immunity.”
“By grandstanding and pointing fingers at each other, you will only become a part of the problem and not a part of the solution,” he said.
He admitted that “the country’s infrastructure wasn’t enough,” but it won’t change overnight. However, he did not elucidate on the government ignoring the red flags.
Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s lecture largely focussed on philosophical aspects – such as telling people to use courage and compassion to induce positivity. It didn’t delve into the reality of the pandemic, such as the rising death toll.
“We have to awaken the faith in God within us. We have to have faith that there is a God,” he said. “We are feeling weak and discouraged, so in times like these we must not forget Nirbal ke Balram. Faith in God keeps us away from the stress,” he added.
‘Death Not The End’
Social worker Nivedita Bhide used the platform to talk about “not fearing death” and citing studies on the concept of reincarnation. She further claimed that reciting “Om” helps gain strength to tackle COVID-19. There’s no scientific backing to this claim.
“I don’t know how much research has been done on this but there’s definitely alternate research that I know of. It says that if we recite Om for 5-10 minutes every morning and evening, it boosts one’s capacity to fight COVID,” she claimed.
While she didn’t clarify if she was suggesting this necessarily for people who have tested positive, Bhide added that reciting Om “induces positivity,” but the benefits of it have only been proved for “other researches and not necessarily for COVID-19.”
And then she moved to the theory of reincarnation.
“Death is like changing clothes, it’s just a change of body. There are also researches being conducted about rebirths by doctors like Ian Stevenson. These people have done a lot of research on punarjanam. For a lot of households, their loved ones have departed from them due to COVID-19. But that is for this life. In their next life, they will all be together,” Bhide said.
Azim Premji Calls for Reaching Out To the ‘Most Vulnerable’
Wipro CEO Azim Premji’s participation stood out – and so did his three-minute address. He stressed on the importance of reaching out to the poorest of the poor amid the second wave.
“We must act with the greatest of speed on all fronts and these actions must be based on good science. We must confront this crisis, its scale and spread truthfully,” he said, adding that “science and truth are the foundation on which we can tackle this crisis and ensure it is not repeated.”
“In this situation, the country must come together as one. We must drop all our differences, understanding that this situation requires unity of action. Together we are stronger, divided we continue to struggle,” he said.
While the event is purportedly an innocuous push for ‘positivity,’ in the midst of a raging pandemic – with severe shortage of medical infrastructure, mounting piles of dead bodies, and the immediate need to hold the government accountable – claims on absence of the fear of death, and the possibility of reincarnation, may have been or little relevance to lakhs of families who have lost their loved ones or those who have been afflicted by COVID-19.
Over the past few weeks, the Modi government has made several such attempts to “spread positivity.”
“The government has done everything to control the narrative, but it is becoming difficult to manage. It is struggling to communicate the reasons behind where we are,” global media executive Parry Ravindranathan wrote recently.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will address the nation as part of this positivity drive on 15 May.
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