A 65-YEAR-OLD Muslim man, who died a few hours after testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) early on Wednesday, was cremated after a 10-hour wait as three cemeteries in Malad, Kandivali and Borivali denied permission for burial. The senior citizen’s family members have alleged that they were unable to convince the authorities at any of the cemeteries to give the man a proper Muslim burial as their pleas were rejected due to fear of the infection spreading.
An hour after the senior citizen’s cremation, eight of his family members ― his wife, son, daughter-in-law, their two kids, his daughter and her two kids ― were hospitalised and are being tested.
He was suffering from renal failure and regularly visited a hospital in Borivali for dialysis. He was admitted at the civic-run Shatabdi hospital for four days, last month. On March 28, when his health dipped again and he complained of shortness of breath, he was taken to the Trauma Hospital at Jogeshwari, where doctors took swabs to test him for COVID-19.
On March 31, he tested positive and his son was immediately asked to admit him. Following the call, the family members arranged for an ambulance around midnight and took him to Jogeshwari trauma hospital. His son said his father died on the way to the hospital.
“After my father was declared dead at the hospital, the civic authorities granted permission for the burial at 4 am. My father has lived in Malwani for over 40 years and we wanted to bury him at Malad-Malwani kabrastan. But the trustees refused to allow the burial, saying he was a COVID-19 patient,” alleged the 40-year-old son.
According to guidelines on handling COVID-19 deaths, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as World Health Organization (WHO) allow burial or cremation, while setting out procedures to be followed to prevent infection from spreading from the body.
Traditional rituals, dictating rinsing of body at home and prayers at a mosque, are not allowed so as to prevent contact with body fluids. The body is covered in a protective sheet. Instead of a normal six-foot pit, a nine to 12 feet deep pit has been prescribed for burial.
According to directions issued by the BMC for burial of COVID-19 patients, the burial ground should be large enough so as to not create a possibility of the infection spreading in the neighbouring area.
The son further alleged, “The Malwani kabrastan is not small. Why was my father denied last rites?”
He added, “I requested but no one helped me. Tired, I dialled ‘100’. But even the police could not convince the trustees. We then decided to take my father’s body to a kabrastan in Kandivali, but were denied permission there as well. From there, we went to Daulat Nagar in Borivali (East).”
However, social workers present with the family requested a nearby crematorium to cremate the body. “It had been over five hours since I had left the hospital with my father’s body. I was tired and had no options left,” the son said. The senior citizen was finally cremated at 10 am on Wednesday.
Mumbai Guardian Minister and Malad legislator Aslam Shaikh said, “As per government guidelines, Muslim COVID-19 victims should be buried at a cemetery, which is closest to the place where the patient died and it should not be near a residential area. But in this case, the family of the deceased took his body directly to Malad-Malwani kabrastan without informing anyone, including trustees of the cemetery, and then demanded a burial. It is sad what happened, but this was a result of confusion.”
Following the rejections to his father’s burial, Shakeel told The Indian Express, over the phone from the hospital bed, “Pray for my family. They should not be harmed.”
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