Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday joined a chorus of voices commenting on a video from Gujarat's Ahmedabad - a video that shows men gleefully covering themselves in cow dung and urine in the belief it will protect them against COVID-19.
A bemused Mr Yadav tweeted: "Should we cry or laugh over this...".
Attached to his tweet was a video from a report by news agency Reuters that identified a school called the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, where some people go once a week to slather cow dung and urine over their bodies, hug cows and practice yoga.
अब इस पर हँसे या रोएं... pic.twitter.com/NJIbiXmSoX— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) May 12, 2021
The video showed a group of about a dozen men squatting shirtless in a field with buckets of liquified cow dung in front of them. Each man dug his hand into the buckets and smeared handfuls of the dung all over their body and head, before standing in a circle and praying.
"... even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity...," Gautam Manilal Borisa, a participant of the ritual, told Reuters. Mr Borisa, who is an associate manager at a pharma firm, claimed the practice helped him recover from COVID-19 last year.
Doctors and scientists have repeatedly warned against alternative treatments for COVID-19, saying that they can lead to a false sense of security and further complicate health problems.
"There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine boosts immunity against COVID-19," Dr JA Jayalal, the head of the Indian Medical Association, told Reuters.
"People should also understand that using excreta of cows is bound to increase the chance of some zoonotic or infectious disease spreading," he added.
The Reuters report is not the first time that cow dung or urine has been offered by certain sections of the Indian society as a viable treatment for, or protection against, the SARS-CoV2 virus.
As recently as last week a video shared by news agency ANI showed Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Surendra Singh, a controversial figure who last month was accused of making sexist remarks, claim that drinking cow urine had protected him from COVID-19.
#WATCH | BJP MLA Surendra Singh in UP's Ballia claimed drinking cow urine has protected him from coronavirus. He also recommended people to 'drink cow urine with a glass of cold water'. (07.05)— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) May 8, 2021
(Source: Self made video) pic.twitter.com/C9TYR4b5Xq
In March last year the BJP's Bengal chief, Dilip Ghosh, caused a kerfuffle after saying there is no harm in drinking cow urine and that "I have no qualm in accepting I consume cow urine". This was after a programme in north Kolkata to urge people to drink cow urine to guard against COVID-19.
Mr Ghosh's party colleague, Locket Chatterjee, was quick to disagree, and said "such unscientific beliefs should be shunned as it would in no way help us in combating this pandemic".
The insistent belief in cow dung and urine - despite warnings from doctors - has not found favour with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who last year, warned his party colleagues to behave responsibly and follow advice from either his office or that of the Union Health Ministry.
Medical experts stress the best way to guard against COVID-19 is to practice social distancing, wear face masks and frequently wash your hands with soap or disinfectant.
There is no known cure for the disease, although there are now a number of vaccines, of which two - Covishield and Covaxin - are now available in India. A third - Russia's Sputnik V - is due out soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much of India to its knees - from an economy struggling to shake off the effect of lockdown to a healthcare system overwhelmed by the flood of cases and heart-breaking images of dead bodies stacked at crematoriums and graveyards.
This morning over 3.48 new lakh cases were reported in 24 hours. Over 4,200 deaths were also recorded, taking the total number of dead past the 2.5 lakh mark.
With input from ANI, Reuters