Local residents and MLAs in two cremation grounds in Mangaluru and Bantwal refused to let the 75-year-old victim’s last rites be conducted.

Two cremation grounds in Ktaka turn away COVID-19 victim minister appeals to public
news Coronavirus Friday, April 24, 2020 - 20:47

The death of the 75-year-old woman from Dakshina Kannada, who had earlier tested positive for COVID-19, came as a shock to her family on Thursday.  This was the second death in the same family this week after her relative, a 50-year-old woman, earlier passed away on April 19.

But this time, officials responsible for the cremation of the 75-year-old woman had to go from pillar to post, looking for a space to perform the last rites. The funeral rites were eventually performed at 2 am on Friday morning at the Hindu Rudrabhoomi cremation ground in Kaikunje in Bantwal after officials struggled for hours to find a place. 

The death of the 75-year-old woman was confirmed at 9:30 pm on Thursday night by officials at the Wenlock District Hospital in Mangaluru. The arrangements for the funeral rites were prepared to be held at Pachanady in the city. 

However, the residents close to the cremation ground in Pachanady gathered on Thursday night opposing the funeral due to misconceptions that holding the funeral would put the local residents at risk of contracting coronavirus. 

Mangaluru North MLA Dr Bharath Shetty, who arrived on the spot, pacified the residents saying, "I don't want to get into the argument over whether anything will happen if the funeral is held here. The funeral will not be allowed to be held here. I have informed the (Mangaluru) Police Commissioner of the same," Dr Bharat Shetty, who is a medical doctor, said to applause from the residents. 

However, he later claimed on social media that the funeral was not allowed to be held in Pachanady since many people gathered there and it could lead to a law and order issue.

The funeral rites were similarly not allowed to be held at Nandigudde after opposition from Vedavyas Kamath, MLA of Mangaluru South.

Officials then decided to hold the funeral rites at the Hindu Rudrabhoomi in Baddakatte in Bantwal town. "But since the cremation ground was locked and because it was in a crowded locality, we decided to shift it again to Kaikunje," Dakshina Kannada SP Laxmi Prasad told TNM. 

This presented a new problem for officials involved in conducting the funeral rites. There was no firewood at the cremation ground in Kaikunje forcing officials to scramble for firewood, which was arranged from a place near to the cremation ground at midnight. Officials were also forced to bring a man from Uppinangady who knew how to set up the pyre and light it as per traditions.

Eventually, the funeral rites were begun at 1:30 am on Friday morning at the Hindu Rudrabhoomi in Kaikunje despite opposition from local residents there. The funeral rites were held as per the protocol for COVID-19 deaths, police said. "We could pacify and send them back. We had around 40 police personnel on the job to ensure it was held without any issue," Laxmi Prasad added.

Bantwal MLA Rajesh Naik did not oppose the cremation of the deceased patient and even offered to conduct in his farm, officials in Dakshina Kannada said. 

Referring to the incident, Karnataka Education Minister Suresh Kumar, who conducts daily briefings on the developments related to the coronavirus outbreak, appealed to residents to allow families to conduct funeral rites. "I want to share with you, when someone gets COVID-19, they or their family don't become untouchable. We request people to not come in the way of burial. 

"The close family members are all in quarantine and we did not know what all transpired outside. We don't feel like talking about it," a family member told TNM.

On April 19, when the death of the 50-year-old woman from Bantwal was confirmed, officials managed to complete the funeral rites in Bolar in Mangaluru. "A smaller crowd had gathered on Sunday as well but officials managed to finish the funeral rites quickly. Yesterday, local residents were alert and gathered at the Pachanady cremation grounds even before officials could reach there and conduct the final rites," a journalist in Mangaluru told TNM.

Similar protests due to misconception about spread of coronavirus had been witnessed in some other parts of the country, including in Chennai, and the officials in multiple states have warned of action against those opposing cremation or burial of COVID-19 patients. In Chennai, residents had opposed the funeral rites of Dr. Simon, a neurosurgeon from Chennai, who succumbed to death after testing positive for COVID-19. 


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