A mob in Chennai on Sunday attacked a group, including doctors, during the burial of a neurosurgeon who had tested positive for Covid-19, The Hindu reported on Monday. The body of the doctor, who worked at a private hospital on Poonamallee High Road, was taken to the Chennai Corporation’s burial ground near Kilpauk, where the incident took place.

“The Chennai Corporation staff had made all arrangements, and accompanied us from the private hospital to the burial ground,” Dr Pradeep Kumar, consultant and arthroscopy surgeon, said. “However, on reaching the spot, we found that around 200 persons had gathered and started to protest. The corporation officers said we should go to another burial ground in Anna Nagar.”

Kumar said the group – comprised of doctors, family members of the deceased and some civic body officials – reached the Anna Nagar burial ground, and an earth mover began to dig a pit. “Suddenly, some 50 to 60 persons started to attack us,” he alleged. “There were about seven to eight corporation staff at the spot. We had to flee the spot to escape from the attack. Some of us were bleeding.”

The doctor also alleged that the mob damaged the windshield of the hospital ambulance in which the group had arrived. The ambulance driver, who was injured in the attack, said he received four stitches on his head at the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital. One of his colleagues received six stitches.

“Though injured, the ambulance drivers Dhamu and Anand were brave enough to place the casket again in the vehicle. I asked them to leave the place and I followed them in my car,” Kumar said according to PTI. “Both the drivers suffered deep cuts on their scalp, requiring multiple sutures and had contusion too.”

Two sanitation officials who were in charge of the burial were injured severely and three others were also attacked, Kumar said.

The doctor added that he along with two ward boys from the private hospital decided to return to the Anna Nagar burial ground early on Monday. When they arrived at the spot, the police were present, and the earth mover had disappeared. “We buried the doctor and closed the pit on our own,” Kumar said. “The ward boys and the police helped.”

Additional Commissioner of Police (South) Prem Anand Sinha confirmed that some residents of Anna Nagar threw stones at the ambulance. Sinha said that the body was buried at 1.30 am. He said a team of police officers chased the attackers. A case has been registered against dozens of people and arrests are under way, Sinha said.

Tamil Nadu Local Administration Minister SP Velumani said it was “inhuman” to obstruct the burial of a doctor. He asserted that strict action will be taken against those who conducted the assault.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association President Dr K Senthil demanded that the Goondas Act be invoked against the attackers.

Other such incidents

This is not the first time a mob has protested against people trying to perform the last rites of a Covid-19 patient. Health officials and police officers in Chennai were in a fix on April 13 when residents in Ambattur, ignoring prohibitory orders, protested the cremation of a doctor, who died at a private hospital.

On April 8, a family in Amritsar, Punjab, refused to perform the last rites of a Covid-19 patient, fearing that they may contract the disease. In another incident in Ludhiana, the district administration had to step in and perform the last rites of a 69-year-old woman, after her family refused to perform the funeral. In Amritsar earlier this month, residents of Verka village did not allow the cremation of Padma Shri recipient and former Golden Temple Hazuri Raagi Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa.

Last week, a doctor in Meghalaya was buried nearly 36 hours after his death because of resistance by locals.