DEHRADUN: Jai Prakash, fondly known as Kalu Bhagat (60), an elderly man from Dehradun does not strike as extraordinary for the work he has been doing since last four decades. "What started as extending a hand to the departed for another world became his life mission. It is painful to see that someone is not getting his last rites after leaving this world. Leaving the body unattended feels like the desecration of individual's soul," said Bhagat.
Bhagat has performed last rites for over 2000 unclaimed bodies since the last 40 years. He does this going beyond religion, caste or any other socio-economic rigidities carved by the society until the religious identity of the unclaimed body is established somehow.
Recalling the trigger which changed his life forever, Bhagat remembers the day when he walked into a creation ground in Lakhibagh of Dehradun for attending a funeral of a relative.
"The mood was sombre on a winter afternoon and as many bodies were cremated, one remained unclaimed for hours. I asked the incharge of the cremation ground and he told us that the body is unclaimed and will be disposed soon. This felt cruel and rocked me to the core. I requested my father to arrange for the cremation of the body," says Bhagat who used to run a fruit juice stall a few years earlier.
Refusing to give any count of bodies he has seen for last rites, Bhagat added, "If we cannot help someone in their life, we should try to do something for them in their deaths."
At present, he stays mostly at his home due to health issues but arranges funds and requisite materials for last rites of bodies and their 'Asthi Visarjan' in Haridwar. With COVID-19 epidemic, his work has slowed down but he tries to do the deed as much as possible through his group of volunteers.