UCA News


Thousands quarantined in India after Sikh preacher defied norms

Guru visited 22 Punjab villages and attended a religious fair attended by thousands at a Sikh holy place

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: March 31, 2020 04:42 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Thousands quarantined in India after Sikh preacher defied norms

Members of Sikhs' top management team, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, along with devotees offer prayers in front of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) for relief from the spread of coronavirus at their holiest Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, on March 17. (Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP)

Share this article :
Authorities have quarantined an estimated 40,000 people after a Sikh religious preacher who died of Covid-19 is feared to have caused community spread of coronavirus in India’s Punjab state.

Baldev Singh, the 70-year-old Sikh guru, died on March 18 in Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar district, 11 days after he returned from Germany via virus-stricken Italy. A medical examination after his death confirmed he died of Covid-19.

“This is a very crucial week for Punjab as test results of hundreds are awaited,” Father Peter Kavumpuram, public relations officer of Jalandhar Diocese, told UCA News on March 29.

The popular guru visited 22 villages and conducted prayer gatherings until his death, defying government protocol to remain in home quarantine for 14 days after his arrival from abroad.

At least 19 of 38 positive cases have been reported from his district. Authorities have collected 300 samples, suspecting the start of community spread in the area, reports said.

After Covid-19 was confirmed as the cause of his death, authorities are trying to identify his contacts to quarantine them and check further spread of the virus, officials said.

Gautam Jain, the subdivisional magistrate in the preacher’s Banga town, told media that at least 700 people who had come in close contact with Singh had been identified in 20 villages. They freely lived in their villages until the preacher’s death, possibly spreading the virus.

Most of these villages are now sealed, blocking the movement of people to avoid any further spread of the virus, media reports said. An estimated 40,000 people live in these villages.

Special media teams are also on alert in the affected areas to keep a watch on daily developments.

Singh also participated in a religious fair, called Holla Mohalla, at Anandpur Sahib, a holy town of Sikhs in the state from March 10-12. The event attracts some 300,000 people daily but had less than half of the normal crowds after police warned against gatherings.

“As of now, we have not been hit badly by the global pandemic, but now the preacher’s irresponsible behavior has put us all in a very difficult situation,” Father Kavumpuram told UCA News on March 29.

Jalandhar Diocese has “instructed all our parishes to be prepared to help those in need at this hour of crisis,” he said.

“We have already been providing food and other basic requirements for daily wagers, migrant workers and others who faced the brunt of the nationwide lockdown,” the priest added.

India has reported 1,251 Covid-19 cases with 32 deaths, according to data on March 31.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."