Politics took over mourning in Chhattisgarh a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh placed wreaths on the coffins of 14 CRPF personnel killed in a Maoist ambush in Sukma.
Uniforms and boots of the dead CRPF personnel were found in a garbage dump of the Ambedkar Hospital in Raipur where autopsies were performed on Tuesday. These lay there for more than 24 hours and were spotted by relatives of hospital patients on Wednesday. They took photographs and sent them to journalists.
The Opposition Congress was quick to move in. A group led by Raipur party president Vikas Upadhyaya reached the hospital, raised slogans, collected the bloodstained belongings and took them to the state Congress headquarters for a “dignified cremation”. It didn’t matter to them that seizure of the property of a dead person without the consent of his or her family is treated as an offence, a theft under IPC.
As word spread, the police reached the Congress office but party leaders refused to part with the belongings. Later, a CRPF commandant showed up and the Congress leaders handed him the belongings.
State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel said: “The Raman Singh government threw the uniforms of the deceased personnel in a garbage dump. We brought the belongings to ensure a proper cremation.”
But BJP’s Shivratan Sharma called the Congress act of whisking away the belongings “laashon ki rajniti (politics over bodies)”.
No one was ready to take the blame for the uniforms in the garbage dump.
Ambedkar Hospital superintendent Dr Vivek Chaudhary told The Indian Express: “It is the duty of the attendants of the deceased to collect their belongings but no officer from the CRPF was present during the post-mortem yesterday. In fact, no one came to collect the belongings until this morning.”
“We kept the uniforms and other material in the mortuary. The sweepers who came in this morning to clean the mortuary threw them outside. It was the responsibility of the CRPF,” Chaudhary said.
The CRPF, in turn, said the police and hospital staff should have taken care of the belongings.
“When a postmortem is done, doctors are required to keep a packet of all belongings. These are later handed over to police which include these in properties related to the case. When we learnt that some civilians had taken away the belongings, we sent an officer to coordinate with police to ensure the release of the material. It is unfortunate that the procedure was not followed properly,” H S Siddhu, IG, CRPF, said.
Former Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwaranjan called the act a “great dishonour”: “The uniform is the most prized possession of a policeman. Throwing it away is a great dishonour. Either these belongings should be kept in a museum of the security force as a mark of their commitment to the cause, or given to the family with respect.”
But Siddhu said belongings like uniforms and boots of dead personnel are never given to their families. “Their personal effects are sent home. But what they were wearing at the time of the incident becomes case property,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, a relative of a patient also shot a video of a dog entering the mortuary and nibbling away at what seemed to be body parts on the floor. Confirming that a dog did enter the mortuary, hospital superintendent Chaudhary said: “A dog entered the mortuary through its channel gate but the visceras were not of the personnel. Those have been kept safely. These were some other remnants.”
Doctors said no post-mortem examination was conducted in the hospital after the autopsies of the CRPF personnel.