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60 people booked for stalling cremation of Jalandhar’s first COVID-19 deceased

An FIR has been lodged against 60 unidentified residents of Harnamdsapura in Jalandhar after they stalled the cremation of the city’s first COVID-19 deceased here on Thursday.

The residents were booked for locking up the main gate of the Harnamdaspura cremation ground and stalling the cremation of the city’s first COVID-19 deceased, a 59-year-old chemist, who died earlier this morning. The FIR has been lodged under sections 188, 269, 270, 271, 353, 186, 149 of the IPC and section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and section 51 of the Disaster Management Act 1996.

While the cremation eventually took place at the same cremation ground – it happened after a delay of at least two hours, during which hundreds of area residents came out on to the streets to prevent the administration from cremating the body there. A congested area with many houses situated on the boundary wall of the cremation ground—residents were apprehensive of an infection spreading in the area during the last rites.

Residents began gathering early noon – after police made an announcement in the area – instructing residents to stay inside homes since the cremation of a COVID-19 deceased would be held in the area. However, under false fears that the fumes from the pyre would impact their health – hundreds of residents gathered around the cremation ground – obstructing the entry of vehicles with ropes tied up to cordon off the area. They also locked up the main gate.

If took two hours of efforts to pacify the people by administration members, officials of the police and members of the Shamshaan Ghat committee for people to go back to their homes. The commissioner of police, Jalandhar SDM, Cremation Ground committee member Jimmy Kalia, and local councillors were present on the occasion. It was on their insistence that the residents finally relented.

Harnamdaspura resident Anil Kalyan, who lives in the street adjoining the Shamshaan Ghat, said, “People somehow got the idea that the fumes from the pyre will be infectious. Reports that cremation had been denied at another nearby cremation ground also fuelled people’s ire. It was after much effort that members of the administration convinced residents that the pyre would not impact them. Eventually everyone went home and it was only select members of the health department and family members who carried out the cremation.”

A team of health department officials carried out the cremation in strict COVID-19 protocol wearing PPE kits and proper protective covering. All major leaders had left the spot by then and while four to five people cremated the body – the cremation took place under heavy police deputation. Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said those who opposed the cremation were being identified.

DCP Gurmeet Singh said, “Residents were apprehensive of the fallout of the cremation. Cremations cannot be stalled this way. The FIR has been lodged for causing obstruction for a vital government work. Police also had to threaten them—it was only after the committee members pacified them that they relented.”

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