Madhya Pradesh minister Usha Thakur replied to a query on not wearing a mask amid a rise in COVID-19 cases by claiming her immunity was strong as she had been practicing ‘agnihotra’, or ‘healing fire’, a ritual done to purify the air and surroundings, for the past 30 years.
Speaking to reporters in Khandwa on Monday, Ms. Thakur, the state’s culture minister, also said a gamchha (cotton towel) doubled up as a mask for her.
“My daily routine for the last 30 years includes performing agnihotra every day at sunrise and sunset, which increases my immunity so that viral attacks don’t create problems for me,” she said.
When the reporters asked her why she seemed unwell when she visited Khandwa last, Ms. Thakur said she was down with a cold at the time and was not suffering from any viral attack. The media made her statements viral and people widely shared them on social media on Tuesday.
In May last year, she had grabbed headlines amid the pandemic. She did so by asking people to perform ‘havan’ to purify the environment. Havan is a fire-based ritual. She claimed that such an act to eliminate outbreaks was a tradition since ancient times.
During the month of April, a video showed her performing ‘puja’, She did it in front of the statue of Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar. This was at Indore Airport to ward off COVID-19.
In March last year, she had said that adoption of a “Vedic lifestyle” would protect against coronavirus, and conducting a ‘havan’ with cow dung cakes would keep a house sanitized for 12 hours.
On September 24th, in the year 2020, the same thing happened with Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra. He was heavily criticized for not wearing a mask to a public event. Mishra was caught on camera responding to a reporter’s question about why he was not wearing a mask. The minister had said, “I don’t wear it“.
Narottam Mishra apologized for his comment and said that he will wear a mask henceforth. He issued an apology saying his comments were not in line with the sentiments of the Prime Minister.
Taking to microblogging site Twitter, the BJP minister wrote in Hindi which roughly translates to: “My statement over wearing a mask appears to be a violation of the law.
It wasn`t in line with the sentiments of the Prime Minister. I accept my mistake and express regret and will wear a mask. I also appeal to everyone to wear masks and observe social distancing.”