GORAKHPUR: A year-old child lit his father's pyre here last week, a poignant moment made heart-wrenching by the fact that the body wasn't there. It lay in a morgue, hundreds of kilometres away in Delhi.
Crippled by poverty and the coronavirus lockdown, Sunil's family in Dumrikhurd village in Chauri Chaura police station area was forced to conduct a dummy funeral for him, setting an effigy on fire.
The family did not have the money to get the body of the 38-year-old transported from Delhi and the lockdown against coronavirus made it almost impossible for them to travel to conduct the last rites there.
The body will be cremated in Delhi on Wednesday after a post-mortem, Chauri Chaura sub divisional magistrate Arpit Gupta said.
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Sunil's contractor called the family in Gorakhpur on April 11, telling them that Sunil was sick with "chechak", a possible reference to measles.
"We tried calling Sunil but he never answered the phone, as he was in hospital," his father Radheyshyam told PTI.
A policeman called from Sunil's phone on April 14, telling them that he had died, his parents said.
"We were not able to bring back the body as the charges were Rs 25,000 and we can't pay such a big amount."
His wife Poonam sent a letter through SDM Arpit Gupta to Delhi Police, asking them to conduct a post-mortem and the cremation.
And last Thursday, the family conducted the "cremation" back home, with Sunil's son lighting the pyre, the parents said.
"The entire village is in a state of shock after the family performed the dummy cremation," Gupta said.
The local administration has raised Rs 75,000 and deposited the amount in his wife's bank account and provided the family with groceries, he said.
"We will also provide free education to the children of the deceased," Gupta said.
He had five children four daughters and a son. The SDM said the government would offer more help once the cause of death is ascertained.