KOLKATA - An activist with India's ruling party has been arrested after a volunteer fell ill from drinking cow urine at a party to combat the novel coronavirus, police said Wednesday, as interest grows in home remedies amid the pandemic.
Narayan Chatterjee, a Bharatiya Janata Party activist, was arrested by West Bengal state police late Tuesday for "organising the cow urine consumption event and compelling a civic volunteer to drink cow urine", Kolkata police chief Anuj Sharma told AFP.
"The civic volunteer fell sick on Tuesday and lodged a complaint with the police. The BJP activist was arrested on Tuesday night."
The president of BJP's West Bengal branch told AFP Chatterjee's arrest was "unfortunate".
"India is a democratic country. Everyone has the right to express his opinion," Dilip Ghosh said.
"It's unfortunate that Chatterjee was arrested for expressing his opinion organising the event. We don't know if the civic volunteer was forced to drink cow urine."
Many in the Hindu-majority nation of 1.3 billion consider cows sacred and believe drinking cow urine is a panacea for all manner of ailments, from arthritis and asthma to cancer and diabetes.
Last week, dozens of Hindu activists held a cow urine party in the capital New Delhi where they staged fire rituals and drank urine from earthen cups in order to fight the COVID-19.
Critics have rejected the urine claims as quackery.
A milk trader in the same state was arrested Tuesday for selling cow urine and dung and claiming they "would keep the novel coronavirus at bay", senior police officer from Hooghly district Humayan Kabir told AFP.
Kabir said the trader, Sheikh Masud, was selling cow urine at 500 Indian rupees ($6.69) a litre and cow dung at 400 rupees a kilogramme (2.2 pounds).
Masud, who hung a poster at his shop with the words "Drink cow urine to ward off coronavirus" told police he was inspired to sell the excrement after hearing about the Delhi party.
AFP has sought comment from the Ministry of Health on whether cow dung and cow urine are effective in curing COVID-19.
The World Health Organisation in India has also been contacted for comment over the urine and dung claims.
The government said Wednesday there have been 151 positive cases and three deaths from the virus in India, the world's second-most populous country with 1.3 billion people.
Most schools, entertainment facilities including cinemas, and even the iconic Taj Mahal have already been closed in India to try and stop the spread of the outbreak.