''Yamraj'', worshipped by the Hindu community as the "god of death", roamed the streets of Uttar Pradesh's Bahraich, about 120 km from state capital Lucknow, reminding people of the danger of stepping out of their homes amid coronavirus outbreak. He also warned that he would take anyone "violating social distancing norms or the lockdown to the underworld".
"I am 'Yamraj. I am coronavirus. If you do not adhere to the rules, no human will be left on the planet. I will become the cause of death of all. If you are careless, I will take you with me," he spoke into a mic on Sunday, with a sickle in one hand. Some policemen stood around him as he spoke.
"No one should violate the lockdown and step out unnecessarily. A handkerchief can be used as a face mask, wash your hands repeatedly with soap, use sanitisers and maintain a distance of one to two metres from each other. This will ensure everyone''s safety," he said.
Wherever ''Yamraj'' went, people, young and old, gathered at their doorsteps and listened to him carefully. However, there was no fear and many used their mobile phones to click his photos.
The Hindu god of death was deployed by the Bahraich police to spread awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic and tell people how precautions like social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks can protect them against the disease.
Dressed as ''Yamraj'' in a black attire with a touch of gold and red was policeman Lavkush Mishra from Baundi police station. A faux Hungarian moustache and a gold crown completed his look.
Senior police officer Brahmanand Singh said, "We experimented with this idea in our area to spread awareness about COVID-19 and it was successful."
About his colleague Lavkush Mishra, he said he is fond of acting and before joining the police force, he used to act in Ramlila.
Uttar Pradesh has reported 483 coronavirus cases so far, with 31 fresh infections detected on Sunday.
According to Principal Secretary (Medical and Health) Amit Mohan Prasad, at present, there are 576 patients in isolation wards while 8,084 are in quarantine facilities.
Agra, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Lucknow, Saharanpur and Ghaziabad are the state's worst affected districts.