When the body of Mrinal Kanti Dey, 58, was taken to a crematorium in Assam’s Karimganj at 5.30pm on Monday, residents stopped his family from doing his last rites there as he had died of Covid-19. The family’s pleas fell on deaf ears. They tried to convince the resident almost the entire night, and prompted a group of men, including four Muslims, to help cremate the body in an open ground away from Karimganj town. The locals argued the area is densely populated and the cremation could lead to infections in the area. Health department officials also unsuccessfully tried to convince the residents.
The group called Robinhood Army, which included Nizamuddin, Kabir Ahmed, Salim, and Ali, came forward to help around 3.00am on Tuesday and cremated the body with the help of the health department, which provided the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits for the last rites.
Dey’s family was handed over the body after a declaration that the cremation will be done with adherence to Covid-19 protocols.
Residents have stopped cremations of several such bodies in the region. Hundreds, including some carrying weapons, gathered at a crematorium in the neighbouring Silchar last year and warned a family of a person, who had died of Covid-19, against conducting the last rites.
Dilip Kumar Paul, the local lawmaker, and health department officials rushed to the crematorium to convince the locals. Silchar Medical College Principal Babul Bezbaruah even explained how the virus spreads and said it cannot spread through the dead bodies released from hospitals as they are wrapped in three layers of plastic and also sanitised. Over 80 dead bodies were then allowed to be cremated at the Silchar crematorium as per protocols.
Government guidelines mandate separate arrangements for cremations of people who die of Covid-19. Mourners and others attending cremations have to wear PPE kits and bodies have to be covered in three layers of plastic.
Over 100 people have so far died of Covid-19 at the Silchar Medical College and several NGOs were involved in the cremations last year. But this year, the Disaster Management Authority and in some cases, families are allowed to conduct the last rites.