A ‘doctor’ with dubious credentials, Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury, appears to be fanning an anti-mask movement in India. In a video he shared recently on the video-sharing platform bitchute, an individual went on a rant against masks and led others as they burnt the masks. The individual in the video claimed that the masks have an adverse impact on health and called for a movement to shun masks.
In the video, the person claims that there is a grave conspiracy underway at an international level through the use of masks. “I am registering my protest by burning this mask. We will not wear any mask, neither will we pay any fines to the Police,” the man said. He continued, “We are burning the masks. We will not wear any masks and neither will be pay any fines. Because wearing masks lead to the spread of diseases. We are being made to wear masks to shut us up.”
“We are seeing patients, they are developing problems because of wearing masks. This is a huge conspiracy underway at the world level. We will organise a movement against this, we will take to the streets. This is our first ‘Mask Jalao Abhiyaan’ that we are starting on the 15th of August,” he said. Then he proceeds to say that the Independence Day that is celebrated on the 15th of August is a false independence day.
The man says, ‘Gore Angrez chale gaye hain par kaale angrez satta pe baith gaye hain jo ki desh ko khokla kar rahe hain, toh hum unke virodh bhi pradarshan karenge.’ (The fair Englishmen have left but the Dark Englishmen have occupied the positions of power, so we will protest against them as well.)
The person was being cheered by others who had gathered and he led chants of Vande Mataram and Jai Hind. Earlier in the video, he claimed that wearing masks ensures that one develops asthma and for those have to wear spectacles, masks ensure that the carbon dioxide enters their body through their eyes. Needless to say, there is no evidence for the claims being made against masks in the video.
While the person here is from a rural area, there are those from urban regions of the country as well who have initiated an anti-mask campaign. The individuals, well versed in English, link wearing masks to slavery and loss of freedom. According to them, the masks “are about taking your freedom away, manipulation and control because this does not work.”
The video was also shared by Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury on his YouTube channel with the hashtag #MaskSeAzaadi and the campaign was linked to the Indian Independence Movement. In the video, one user calls it a “psychological operation” to control the masses because it does not apparently curb the spread of the disease.
The video claims that the mask is about getting people “used to these restrictions” in order to gauge how far people can be controlled. “Today it is a mandatory mask, tomorrow it’s a mandatory vaccine, a digital ID and the list goes on! We have to stop things from becoming mandatory! Do not give up your freedom and rights for the illusion of Health and Safety.”
Thus, quite clearly, the movement borrows its origins from the libertarian strains of American polity that has been campaigning hard against a mandatory mask policy. For this reason, the USA does not have a mandatory mask policy as yet to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. The Democratic Party presumptive nominee Joe Biden had recently called for a nationwide mandatory mask mandate, much to the consternation of widespread sections of the American population.
In the face of a pandemic, it does appear quite ridiculous to link the mandatory wearing of masks to political matters such as personal rights. Furthermore, it appears to be a case of evidence-free conspiracy mongering. By such proclamations, people appear to be only risking their personal health and the health of others.