Mob tries to prevent doctor's burial in Chennai, 20 arrested

Published : April 20, 2020 00:00 IST

Police deployed at a burial ground in Anna Nagar, Chennai, where locals refused to allow the last rites of a COVID-19 victim. Photo: By Special Arrangement

The Chennai Police on Monday arrested 20 persons in connection with the attack on an ambulance that had arrived at a city burial ground with the body of Dr Simon Hercules, a neurosurgeon who died of a COVID-19 infection. The mob demanded that the body be taken elsewhere.

The persons were booked under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Indian Penal Code Sections 144, 332 (obstructing public servant from doing his duty), 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act.

Among the injured were the ambulance driver and the sanitary inspector and his staff who were tasked with carrying out the burial. Following this, a doctor who accompanied the dead man buried the body using rudimentary tools available at the burial site.

The body was moved to the burial ground only after midnight so that residents of the area did not get alarmed.

Any dead body being brought to a burial ground in the city and elsewhere in the State is creating a scare in nearby neighbourhoods.

A similar incident was reported from Ambattur in Chennai last week when a mob refused to allow the burial of a doctor from Andhra Pradesh who died of a COVID-19 infection.

In Erode district, a 14-year-old boy from Nambiyur who was admitted to the Erode General Hospital for fever died on Sunday. A few local residents protested against his burial and the district administration buried the body elsewhere.

“Burning or burying, both are absolutely safe. No virus climbs up the 8 ft pit or survive in 4,000 degree centigrade fire,” said Dr Amalorpavanathan, a vascular surgeon who comments on important public health issues, on Twitter. “Fumes don’t carry virus. These simple messages need to be spread in Tamil,” he added.

“This is exact same problem that Kerala faced during the time of the Nipah virus. People were agitated because they did not know enough,” said a former bureaucrat. “It is very clear that the people need to be reassured. This specific issue needs multiple approaches. One, the Chief Minister has to speak on the issue. Two, a separate space has to be earmarked for burying COVID-19 patients in the burial grounds. Three, there is a concept called deep burial—that is burying deep enough so that there is no chance of contamination. This should be done. Finally, adequate police protection should be given,” he added.

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