Kottayam: A COVID-19 victim in Kottayam in Kerala, whose last rites were delayed because of protests by a group of people, was cremated late on Sunday with police escort.
Ouseph George, 83, had succumbed to coronavirus at the Kottayam Medical College Hospital on Saturday night.
The health department officials had planned to cremate him at the Kottayam Municipality's electric crematorium at Muttambalam, which lies a stone throw away from the District Collectorate, around 2pm on Sunday.
But the plan was met with a protest by a group of people living near the crematorium. They alleged that the funeral of the COVID-19 victim would affect their health and it would amount to their job loss. The protest was led by BJP Councillor T N Harikumar.
The protesters dispersed after local MLA and Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan held discussions with the protesters and decided not to conduct last rites at the crematorium.
However, the health officials, accompanied by a posse of police personnel, brought the body to the crematorium at 10.55 pm. The rites were completed in 15 minutes.
The protesters blocked the entrance to the crematorium around 2pm on Sunday. The police had removed the makeshift barricade insisting that no one had the right to block public roads.
The protests continued despite assurance from the municipality's health officials that mortal remains would be cremated according to the COVID protocol.
Case against BJP Councillor
A case has been registered against BJP councillor TN Harikumar and 30 others for preventing the health authorities from cremating the body and blocking the road to the crematorium.
No risks from proper cremation: Govt
Meanwhile, the state government issued a clarification that cremation of COVID-19 victim would not spread the disease and it could be done following the standard operating procedures issued by the centre.
It said COVID-19 would not spread from the dead body, but the health workers responsible for the cremation will have to follow all the safety and security aspects outlined by the centre.
When the body is cremated at a temperature of 800 degree Celsius or more the chances of virus spread is almost null. The ashes which remain from the cremation are also not dangerous, the health department informed.
Vice President expresses anguish
The incident was reported on a day Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu expressed anguish over stigmatising COVID-19 patients and denial of a dignified farewell to people who succumb to the virus.
Earlier in the day, the Vice-President said such instances were uncalled for and urged the local communities and society to prevent their recurrence. In a Facebook post, he said,"The need of the hour is to fight prejudice and nip it in the bud. Otherwise, it can become more toxic than fake news and misinformation. Referring to incidents wherein people oppose providing a space for burial of those who died of COVID-19, he said it was unacceptable and goes against the age-old Indian tradition of being in solidarity with the bereaved families.