Acting as lord of death: how Indian police enforced world’s largest lockdown

By Ujwala P

Bengaluru, India, May 28 (efe-epa).- From dressing up like the lord of death to singing and dancing to share awareness about coronavirus, police in India are going beyond the rule-book to keep 1.3 billion people indoors and enforce the world’s largest lockdown.

While they have been praised for their ingenious way, the force has also come under fire for allegedly committing excesses against violators and punishing them by charging batons and making them do jumping jacks or frog jumps.

Some of the police antics have gone viral on social media, even as the country witnesses a prolonged lockdown that began on Mar. 25 and has been extended thrice since then. The fourth phase ends on May 31.

However, the number of coronavirus cases and deaths have been rising, with nearly 160,000 patients and over 4,500 deaths reported so far.

In one of the most unusual acts, the police in the southern state of Tamil Nadu forced those violating lockdown measures into an ambulance with a man pretending to be a Covid-19 patient inside.

In a video that went viral, three young men riding a motorbike could be seen begging, stomping, and even trying to jump out of the windows of the ambulance, even as the fake patient lay on a stretcher.

In the neighboring state of Karnataka, yamaraja, the lord of death in Hindu mythology, himself appeared to patrol the streets and warn citizens against venturing out during the epidemic.

A police constable dressed as yamaraja with his handlebar mustache and carrying a mace and a crown could be seen sitting on the bonnet of a police vehicle as it roamed the streets of Bengaluru to enforce quarantine measures.

“If they get corona and if they are not treated they would die. So to show the seriousness, we tried telling yamaraja would come and take them along with him,” police inspector Ragavendra, the brain behind the idea, told EFE.

After it proved popular both locally and online, the experiment of dressing up as yamaraja to spread awareness about Covid-19 was repeated in many other parts of the country.

In Hyderabad, another major city in the south and capital of the state of Telangana, police decided to wear helmets in the popularly imagined shape of coronavirus: red and green spheres with massive bristles.

Officers wearing these helmets went around in the city with placards carrying messages such as “don’t shake hands,” or “please, avoid gathering”.

“We had to be creative to help people understand about the pandemic,” Anil Kumar, additional commissioner of Hyderabad traffic police, told EFE.

Telangana police inspector general Swati Lakra recently tweeted a video in which women officers can be seen dancing to the upbeat music of songs that emphasize the precautions to be taken to avoid contracting the virus.

In an activity carried out across multiple local police teams in the country, officers have doubled up as singers and choreographers for performances in local languages to explain the official instructions during the lockdown.

“When I sing, people do not feel forced to follow the lockdown,” said Charanjit Singh, an assistant sub-inspector of police in the northwestern state of Punjab.

Singh composed a lockdown song at the request of senior officers after they found it impossible to go individually to each house to spread awareness and sought to use the internet or social media for the purpose.

“It reaches better through electronic media. The response has been great, we have made the people aware,” he told EFE proudly.

Authorities in other north Indian cities have also resorted to performing songs adapted to the tunes of old Bollywood hits to keep people on their toes.

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