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“Heartless”: Ghastly Video Of Bodies Being Disposed Sparks Row In Bengal

'Heartless': Ghastly Video Of Bodies Being Disposed Sparks Row In Bengal

The distrurbing video was widely shared on social media on Thursday.

Kolkata:

A disturbing video of decomposed bodies being loaded into a van at a crematorium in southern Kolkata was widely shared on social media on Thursday, prompting Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to tweet his anguish at the “disposal of dead bodies with heartless, indescribable insensitivity” and forcing the authorities to issue clarifications. The authorities were also forced to deny claims by the locals protesting at the crematorium and the BJP that the bodies were of those who died due to coronavirus.

“The West Bengal Health Department has informed that dead bodies were not of COVID patients, but were unclaimed/unidentified bodies from Hospital Morgue. Legal action is being taken against persons spreading #FakeNews (sic),” the Kolkata Police tweeted.

The basis of the tweet was a letter from the principal of NRS Medical College, one of Kolkata’s premier state-run hospitals, to the city’s police commissioner that said: “14 unclaimed bodies” were handed over to Kolkata Municipal Corporation from the hospital morgue for disposal.

The bodies were not of coronavirus patients, he wrote, adding, the “subject of the video was fake and police should take necessary action”.

The video appears to have been shot on Wednesday at the Garia Adi Mahashamshan in south Kolkata where locals began protesting when a municipal van arrived with reportedly 13 bodies.

The entire area was reportedly hit by a stench when the bodies were moved from the van to the crematorium. Protesting locals had put a lock on the crematorium gate, according to reports.

In the clip shared on social media, a man is heard shouting on the phone: “Have you sent us here to get thrashed?” Behind him, a man – in a pair of red shorts and a vest – is seen dragging one body after another from the crematorium building into the municipal van.

In deeply disturbing visuals, the man was seen holding the bodies with a long pair of tongs.

It appears that when the video was being shot, reports about protest had reached the officials concerned and they had ordered that the bodies be put back in the van and taken away from the crematorium.

Firhad Hakim, head of the board of directors currently running the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, has clarified that the unclaimed bodies were earlier cremated at the Dhapa crematorium. From May 29, however, Dhapa was earmarked only for coronavirus victims and unclaimed bodies were taken to the Garia crematorium.

Among the first to react to the video was Governor Jagdeep Dhankar who, in multiple tweets, demanded an “urgent update” from the state’s home secretary. Tagging Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the tweets, he said that details about the bodies – when were they admitted to hospital and treatment — must be shared.

“How can human dead bodies be so uncouthly dragged! It shames humanity,” he said in one of the tweets. 

Opposition BJP leader Dilip Ghosh said, “The bodies were hidden, the bodies of Covid victims. To suppress the Covid death toll, many suspicious things have been done.”

Recalling a 2010 incident when some Maoists were killed in an encounter in Lalgarh and police seen carrying the bodies trussed from bamboo poles, Mr Ghosh said: “Ms Banerjee had brought Bengal to a halt in outrage over the treatment of the bodies of the Maoists. But now bodies of innocent people who died of Covid are being mistreated. If you can’t give the bodies to family, at least dispose of them properly.”

CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty has written to Firhad Hakim demanding asking if these were coronavirus-linked deaths. “People have a right to know the truth,” Mr Chakraborty said.

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