CHENNAI: When a 55-year-old neurosurgeon and Managing Director of New Hope Hospital died of COVID-19 at private hospital on Greams Road on Sunday, he was denied a dignified burial by an unruly mob. Finally, with police protection, the doctor's body was hurriedly buried in the middle of the night at Velankadu burial ground on New Avadi Road.
Dr K Pradeep Kumar, colleague and friend of the deceased doctor, shares a first-hand account with The New Indian Express of how events unfolded at the burial ground.
It was around 6.30pm when the doctor passed away at Apollo Hospital on Greams Road. There were 20 people including his relatives and friends waiting at the hospital to receive his body.
But when we were about to take it to the T P Chatram burial ground at Kilpauk at around 7.30pm, sanitary inspectors of the Chennai corporation informed us that a crowd of around 300 people had gathered near the burial ground and was protesting.
We had no idea how they came to know that the body would be taken there. Then corporation officials who organised the burial told us that it would be taken somewhere else.
We took the body to Velankadu burial ground on New Avadi Road around 11pm. There was no one there apart from corporation officials, workers engaged in digging the grave and us.
Since it has been advised that only a few contacts of the deceased should take part in the burial, only around 10 people went there. The earth mover was brought to dig the ground. As per the protocol, the body should be buried 12 feet deep.
But we don't know how the mob came to know about it. Suddenly, some 60 to 70 people came with sticks and stones. Many were teenagers in the age group of around 15 to 20. They started attacking us aggressively.
The windshield and windows of the ambulance were broken. A few stones hit the body kept in the ambulance. Corporation officials and people digging the grave were injured and bleeding from the head.
I went with the ambulance driver to the New Hope Hospital entrance. On the way, the ambulance driver was bleeding. He said he was feeling giddy and couldn't drive. So, I left my car on the road and started driving the damaged ambulance to the hospital.
I reached the New Hope Hospital entrance, called two ward boys and asked them to wear protective equipment. Then I made multiple phone calls to everyone I know, from police officers and senior health department officials to friends. After the police arrived, the ward boys and I sat in the ambulance and again took the body to the burial ground.
With police protection, two ward boys and I buried the body hurriedly before the mob came to attack us. There was no one to operate the earth mover. We took sand in our hands and started covering the body. There was only one spade. Seeing our struggle, a few policemen came and helped us.
The doctor desired a dignified burial but it was denied to him. This should not happen even to an enemy. Please let us make sure it does not happen to anyone in future.