Dilip Dey had only a physically challenged cousin to call family. So when he died in his hometown Mariani on Thursday, there weren’t enough people to carry his body to the crematorium.
Mariani, in Assam’s Jorhat district, is about 320 km east of Guwahati.
Local Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi, 40, stepped in to be one of the pallbearers as well as cremate Mr. Dey’s body.
“He was too poor and lonely to have a decent funeral. As a human being and responsible for the people I represent, it was the least I could do for him,” Mr. Kurmi told The Hindu .
Mr. Dey, who was in his mid-50s, lived in the Deberapar Chariali locality of Mariani. Rupom Gogoi, a trader in the neighbourhood, came to know about his death and informed Mr. Kurmi.
“He lost no time in helping prepare the chita (stretcher-like bamboo structure on which a body is taken to the crematorium) and carry the body for cremation,” Mr. Gogoi said.
Locals said Mr. Kurmi, a three-time MLA from Mariani constituency has had a history of humanitarian service – at times in situation considered too dangerous for VIPs, thus earning him the ‘quirky’ tag.
In July 2017, he hoisted a bag of 50 kg rice on his back and delivered it to a flood relief camp near Kaziranga National Park.
On Friday evening, less than 24 hours after ensuring Mr. Dey’s cremation, the MLA became a pallbearer for the janaza (funeral) of a local auto-rickshaw driver’s mother.
Kabir Ahmed, the auto-rickshaw driver, had wanted the MLA to be part of his mother’s final journey.
Mr. Kurmi won his first Assembly election from Mariani in 2006. The seat had earlier been represented by his mother Rupam Kurmi, who was the first woman graduate among Adivasis in Assam.
The Adivasis are often called ‘tea tribes’ though they do not enjoy the Scheduled Tribe status.