Rajesh Rai | Samtse

On Friday, at around 10:35pm, Ramesh Kumar Ghalley received an unexpected call from his brother. He was told to urgently dig up the earth from his courtyard and look for coal.

A paste out of it would ward away coronavirus (Covid-19) if smeared on the forehead, he was told.

Ramesh dug up his courtyard and found some black soil, which he believed was coal. He and his wife made a paste and smeared before going to bed again. The couple also smeared their children’s forehead while they were still sleeping.

This was a rumour that spread as fast as the Covid-19 fake news in remote village of Khenpagaon in Tading gewog, Samtse. Villagers were told that they should dig the courtyard below the roof edges of their houses and unearth coal. The coal paste was to be smeared on the forehead to be immune to the Covid-19. Villagers told Kuensel that a great lama had spelled this for the safety of people as the lama couldn’t reach all the places across the country.

 The dirt villagers used to smear their forehead

The dirt villagers used to smear their forehead

“I asked my brother if it could be done in the morning,” Ramesh, 58, said, adding his brother explained him it was the last day.

For one whole day on March 27, villagers were busy digging for the “coal”.

Ramesh’s brother En Bahadur Ghalley said he got the news from his sister.

“I dug and found the black substances and used it as advised,” he said.

Pema Wangmo knew about it on March 28 morning from a villager. She was dejected because nobody shared it with her.

However, she was able to get the coal dirt and she smeared it on everyone’s forehead in her family.

Tara Maya Ghalley said she doesn’t know much about the virus but heard that it was a disease that has killed many people. She also used the coal.

Meanwhile, villagers realized it was a hoax.  Everything has returned to normal in Khenpagaon. The rumour had spread to other villages. In Ngawang Dramtoe, most Doyaps had also dug up their courtyards in search for the coal.

Tading gup Jagath Bahadur Ghalley said that everything is under control.

“We were also on duty. We told villagers it was a fake news and not to believe or panic,” he said.

The gup also said they have advised people to not gather and not to believe in any rumours or fake news until there are some government notices.