Cases of Indians preventing the cremation or burial of people who died of Covid-19 have been reported from across the country. Many fear that cremating bodies of people who died of Covid-19 could lead to community transmission of the disease in the locality.
Similar incident took place in Assam's Karimganj, when a man named Mrinal Kanti Dey aged 58, passed away due to COVID-19 on Monday, May 3. Mrinal's body was brought to his hometown at Shyama Prasad Road at around 6 pm and was taken to the Rice Mill Shashaan (crematorium) at around 7 pm, in Assam's Karimganj. The group called Robinhood Army which includes Sujan Deb, Biswajit, Pranoy and Amit Baidya came forward to help cremate Mrinal's body with the help of the Health Department, which provided the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits for the last rites.
In a talk with Sujan Deb, one of the members and the founder of the Karimganj unit of NGO Robinhood Army, stated that the residents in the locality stopped Mrinal's family from performing his last rites at the Rice Mill Crematorium as he had died of Covid-19. The family’s pleas failed to be heard and were ignored by the residents. The locals argued that the area is densely populated and the cremation could lead to infections in the area.
According to Sujan Deb, there were many other crematoriums at Karimganj, such as, in Subhash Nagar, Bajendra Road, Chor Bazar and Longai Road. However, the Robinhood Army was already being objected to perform the cremations of people who have died of COVID-19 in the above mentioned crematoriums. Without any options left, the District Administration ordered the cremation of Mrinal's body to be done at Rice Mill Crematorium by force. But unfortunately the District Administration failed to convince the residents and said cremation of Mrinal's body to be done in some other place.
Around 2 am, on Tuesday, May 4, the SP officer ordered that cremation can take place in Longai Juni zilla at Karimganj police reserve ground. Four Muslim young men also came forward to help cremate Mrinal's body. They also suggested an open area where the cremation could take place. The Administration then accepted the proposal and the process of cremation started. The four Muslim men were Nizamuddin, Kabir Ahmed, Salim, and Ali, who came forward to help cremate the body at around 3am on Tuesday. They helped the Robinhood Army by digging the ground, giving woods and kerosene for cremation.
Sujan Deb also mentioned that the Muslim brothers came directly after having their pre-dawn meal or 'sehri'. He was disappointed by the behavior shown by the residents but was proud of the Muslim brothers who came to support them.
Many people have so far died of Covid-19 at the Silchar Medical College and NGOs were involved in the cremations last year. But this year, the Disaster Management Authority in some cases, allowed the families to conduct the last rites.