MUMBAI (RNS) — As COVID-19 infections rise in India, the local and national government’s decision to allow a shortened edition of a festival known as Kumbh Mela is being scrutinized as a cause for some of the spread of the virus but also a sign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government favoring Hindu beliefs over safety.

Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival that takes place on the banks of the Ganges River in Haridwar, in the hill state of Uttarakhand, was held through April, with two of its most sacred bathing days attracting millions. Typically lasting from January to April, it is held approximately once every 12 years, with the last edition held in 2010.

But the auspicious dates arrived earlier than usual this time,

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