CHENNAI: They put their lives at risk to save their patients. They put their families at risk to protect the public. And yet, when they die doing their job, we struggle to give them a decent farewell. In the third-such incident, the mortal remains of a 55-year-old doctor who died of COVID-19 had to be carried from one cemetery to another, as mobs gathered protesting against the burial.
The deceased, Dr Simon Hercules, was a neurologist, and chairman of New Hope Hospital. He was admitted to a leading private hospital on April 8, with COVID-19, and died on Sunday. Officials suspect he could have caught the infection from a patient. His 27-year-old daughter, also a doctor, has tested positive and is undergoing treatment. Soon after his death, corporation officials prepared the TP Chatram burial ground in Kilpauk. However, close to 40 residents assembled there and staged a protest. As they refused to relent, officials had to look for a new burial ground. Subsequently, they zeroed in on the Velangadu burial ground on New Avadi Road.
As per protocol, a JCB was engaged in digging a 12-foot-deep pit to bury the body. Hearing the sound, a mob of 70 gathered armed with sticks and stones. “They attacked us viciously, leaving the corporation staff and ambulance drivers bleeding,” says Dr K Pradeep Kumar, a friend and colleague of Simon. A few stones also hit the dead body, claims Pradeep. Fearing for their lives, the group fled the scene. “As the drivers felt giddy, I stopped my car on the road and drove the ambulance, with glass shattered all over, back to New Hope,” says Pradeep. They went back later with police protection, and buried the body in haste.
“There was no JCB driver this time. We had to fill the pit with our hands. Watching us struggle, a few policemen came to our aid. I shudder thinking of it now. I wish even my enemies don’t face such a situation,” says Pradeep. Early on Monday morning, the police arrested 20 people for attacking the funeral ceremony.
Sad end for a saviour
- Simon Hercules was admitted to a private hospital in Chennai on April 8 with COVID-19 and died on Sunday
- Officials suspect he could have caught the infection from a patient. His daughter also tested positive
- A mob protested burial of the body and attacked officials and civic body staff, leaving them bleeding
- The doctor’s friend said with moist eyes that the body was quickly buried with police protection