Violence mars COVID-19 doctor-victim’s burial, surgeon, ward boys turn undertakers

CHENNAI: In a poignant incident, an orthopaedic surgeon had to bury his associate, a neurosurgeon who died of COVID-19 here, in the middle of the night using his bare hands and a shovel at a crematorium with the help of just two hospital ward boys after the undertakers fled when a mob, protesting the internment, attacked them.
Their opposition was due to a misconception that the contagion may spread in their neighbourhood if the virus victim's burial took place.
The windscreens of the ambulance in which the body of the 55-year-old neurosurgeon was brought to the crematorium on Sunday night were smashed and even the casket was not spared.
They attacked the undertakers and corporation sanitation officials, among others, using bricks, stones, bottles and sticks and chased them away.
Seven people, including two ambulance drivers, were assaulted resulting in severe injuries, police said.
The sources said 20 men have been arrested and were remanded to judicial custody.
Recounting with grief the attack that unfolded, Dr K Pradeep Kumar, an orthopaedic and arthroscopy surgeon, told PTI, "this must not happen to anyone be it a doctor or a layman.
I have seen people dying but I have not buried anyone and doing it was scary amid fear for our lives."
Though the private hospital authorities handed over the body to the sanitation officials last night, the ambulance carrying the remains did not start from there.
"When we enquired why we were told that people were opposing and holding a protest near Kilpauk," Pradeep said.
He drove to that locality in his car to assess the situation and found people had gathered in large numbers and were agitated.
Later, civic body officials made arrangements for burial at another crematorium at nearby Velangadu, and the ambulance headed there.
"It may have been about 15 minutes since the excavator started work to dig a pit when about 60-70 people armed with stones, bricks and sticks gathered inside the crematorium and began attacking us.
The two ambulance drivers who were shifting the body from the vehicle to the ground sustained severe injuries," Pradeep said.
Also, two sanitation officials who were in charge of the burial were injured severely and three others were also attacked, he said.
To a question, the doctor said there were no police officials around and the wife of the deceased and his teenage son were also forced to leave the crematorium.
"Though injured, the ambulance drivers Dhamu and Anand were brave enough to place the casket again in the vehicle and I asked them to leave the place and I followed them in my car," he said, adding he escaped from attack due to God's grace.
The ambulance drivers somehow managed to reach the hospital of the deceased and left the vehicle there.
Dr Pradeep said he picked up personal protective equipment, took two ward boys with him for help and drove the ambulance himself to the crematorium again after seeking police help.
"Both the drivers suffered deep cuts on their scalp, requiring multiple sutures and had contusion too and I got them admitted to Kilpauk government hospital," he added.
When he reached the crematorium again, the orthopaedic surgeon saw police deployment in the periphery though there were still people out milling around.
"Only an eerie silence and there were none inside the burial ground. The ward boys and I hurriedly lowered the body into the pit as we were afraid that the violence may be repeated."
Though they placed the body on the ground, they had no one to help them to fill the grave with sand.
"There was just one shovel which I gave to one of the ward boys and two of us used our hands to fill them about 8-10 feet pit.
It took over an hour for us to complete the task and by then it was about 1.30 am (Monday)," he said, adding aRead More – Source

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