Thousands of doctors across India are wearing black bracelets and calling for the arrest of a very popular guru who has claimed that yoga can prevent COVID-19 and that conventional medicine has killed thousands of patients with coronavirus.
Baba Ramdev, the creator of a successful empire of traditional medicine, he said last month the pandemic showed that modern pharmaceuticals were a “stupid and failed science” and claimed that hundreds of thousands “have died because they had (conventional) medicines for allopathy.”
On Tuesday’s “Black Day” protests, photos on social media showed doctors with banners demanding the arrest of “Quack Ramdev,” while others wore PPE suits with #ArrestRamdev written on the back.
The medical association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), one of the largest government hospitals in Delhi, called Ramdev’s comments “shameful”.
Doctors also changed their social media profile pictures to black squares, said Elizabeth Puranam of Al Jazeera in New Delhi, the capital.
“In a country like India where people tend to follow spiritual gurus, yoga gurus and who are too blind, when people thus spread mistrust and misinformation, we find it very difficult as science-based doctors, as doctors, eliminate this misinformation, “Dr. Mehak Bhushan of the Federation of Resident Physicians Association told Al Jazeera.
Ramdev, a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, withdrew his comments after an appeal by Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, and the guru said he had only read other people’s WhatsApp messages .
But then he sparked another outcry by saying he didn’t need a coronavirus vaccine because he was protected by yoga and traditional medicine, or Ayurveda.
Ramdev’s company, Patanjali Ayurved, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, selling everything from toothpaste to jeans in its ubiquitous stores.
Earlier this year he launched an herbal remedy called Coronil which Ramdev, which also has a TV channel, said would cure the coronavirus.
The launch ceremony was attended by Vardhan, an allopathic physician and chairman of the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Doctors say Ramdev “is taking advantage of the pandemic and its numerous public supporters to convince people to buy its unapproved products,” Puranam reported.
Ramdev had claimed that Coronil was approved by the WHO, but the world health agency denies that claim.
A senior journalist who had his tires cut while investigating Ramdev’s business interests said the yoga guru is protected by Modi’s right-wing government.
“His personal interest in business, which is really what is behind the farce of being a yogi … has been documented to some extent … So in a sense, he has a political sanction and, therefore, he has a high degree of impunity when it comes to fleeing with what he does, ”Nitin Sethi told Al Jazeera.
Patanjali, who ranks 13th in India’s trusted brand ranking published last year, has previously claimed that he had remedies for cancer, while Ramdev also said it can “cure” homosexuality and AIDS. .
Ramdev’s spokesman did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for an interview.
But the yoga guru has millions of Indians as followers, including Anil Sabharwal, who sells his range of products.
“I do not sell Patanjali products only for companies. This is a matter of faith. Guru Ramdev shows us the way, ”shop owner Anil Sabharwal told Al Jazeera.
“I had some illnesses, but by the time I started listening to his sermons, the healing process had already begun.”
Many people in India have deep trust in gurus and alternative medicine. But doctors say Ramdev’s claims cannot be justified and that he must be held accountable for his statements, especially during a pandemic.
The coronavirus has left at least 330,000 people dead in India, including more than 1,200 doctors, according to the Indian Medical Association.