Saturday 24 October 2020

Dhankhar: Can’t imagine such treatment of corpses in a culture like India’s

The governor of West Bengal invoked Article 21 of the constitution to say the Mamata Banerjee regime was violating human rights

Amid images of rotting bodies being dragged with hooks at the Garia crematorium in Kolkata going viral in Bengal’s social media users, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted some of these pictures and remarked in anguish that the scenes were “unconscionable”. Saying that he was sharing people’s concern over the heartbreaking sight of dead bodies being dragged callously, the governor posted a series of three tweets:

Dhankhar wrote, tagging Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he was “shocked at the state of affairs”. He tweeted that he had sought an “urgent briefing” today from KMC chairperson and municipal commissioner.

After the uproar over the video, the entire Bengal government machinery sprung into action. The chief secretary of Bengal responded to the governor’s tweet. The state government argued that the bodies were not of coronavirus victims.

Kolkata Police echoed the chief secretary. Governor Dhankhar could not be silenced by the clarification.

That’s ‘diversion’, Dhankhar points out

The governor wrote that the issue was not whether the dead bodies were of COVID victims, which could be determined by a probe. The issue is, he said, “How human bodies can be so shamelessly dragged! Being treated worse than animals.”

Calling the clarification a “diversion”, Dhankhar urged, “Search your soul and conscience and imagine dead body was related to you!”

The governor said that the incident had come to his knowledge on the 10 June. “I could not think such an act could be committed with dead bodies in a country like India. But when two videos were brought to my notice, my tears dried up.”

The governor said that the vehicles that were pulling the bodies belonged to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. “I attracted attention by tweeting and I told the home secretary of the state to inform me about it,” he said.

Dhankhar said that 14 corpses had been taken from the hospital in the same manner. “Do law and society allow this?” he wondered.

Dhankhar said that on 29 May, the municipal corporation allocated the place seen in the videos for Hindus. The government had reacted immediately, calling the video fake. They had said even then that the deaths had not happened due to the coronavirus.

“But no one claimed in the first place that these were corona deaths,” Dhankhar exclaimed.

The governor said that, following his tweets, the chief minister spoke to him twice. “I told the chief minister this was a face loss for us,” Dhankhar said.

Governor invokes human rights, raises issue of censorship by Banerjee govt

The governor said that from 1 June, the death toll had been increasing as were the cases of fresh infections. “I told the chief secretary that more than 40,000 test reports were yet to come. And that will make you aware of the right situation,” Dhankhar said.

Governor Dhankhar said that the chief secretary had told him the number of tests that had been done was not 40,000 but 25,000. “For 11 days, I have not been able to get the right answer as to how many tests have been carried out, the reports of which are yet to come,” he said.

Tweeting earlier in Bangla, the governor had written that the home secretary had conceded the ill-treatment of dead bodies and assured him that protocols would be followed in the future.

Dhankhar said that he would see the matter through to the end in a tweet in Bangla, adding, “The time to muzzle the voice of the media and threaten people using the police is over.” It may be recalled in this context that, recently, cable operators were forced to pull down the channel Calcutta News, critical of the Banerjee government, from their network. Subsequently, the server that hosted the website of the channel was browbeaten to submission too.

The governor cited Article 21 of the Constitution of India to say, “Human rights cannot be trampled upon and suppressive measures cannot be taken this way.”

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