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COVID-19 | Meghalaya doctor laid to rest after row over last rites

The body of a 69-year-old doctor, who died of COVID-19 complications on Wednesday morning, was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon after localities elsewhere in Meghalaya capital Shillong and beyond disallowed his last rites for fear of contagion.

The doctor’s body was interred at the Riatsamthiah Presbyterian Church cemetery in Shillong’s Lawmali area about 3 km from the hospital where he died less than 48 hours after testing positive for COVID-19.

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The doctor owned the hospital in the city’s Nongrim Hills area. The dorbar (traditional local council) of the area had allowed his body to be buried within his residential compound adjoining the hospital, but officials vetoed the idea.

‘Adhering to guidelines’

“A small group of officials and priests conducted the last rites maintaining social distancing and adhering to guidelines on disposal of bodies,” said Matsiewdor War Nongbri, the Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills district.

The local administration had run into angry residents of the city’s Jhalupara locality on Wednesday night where the doctor’s body was scheduled to be cremated in a crematorium. The ashes were to be put in a coffin and buried at his farmhouse in Nongpoh, located midway on the highway connecting Shillong and Assam’s principal city Guwahati.

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While leaders of the Jhalupara locality said the crematorium was not equipped for handling “corpses with novel coronavirus”, the Nogpoh dorbar justified its refusal to let the doctor’s mortal remains be buried by saying he was not a permanent resident of that place.

But an offer for burying the doctor at the local cemetery came from Mawryngkneng, a village near Shillong, out of gratitude for his service to the villagers. The Church of North India, Catholic and Presbyterian denominations also made a similar offer.

The local authorities decided early Thursday morning that the doctor’s body would be interred at the Lawmali cemetery.

Six of the doctor’s relatives and associates had tested positive hours after he died at 2.45 a.m. on Wednesday. They have been quarantined in the hospital he owned, ironically after the local legislator had to intervene for the hospital attendants to let them in.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 9:04:39 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-meghalaya-doctor-laid-to-rest-after-row-over-last-rites/article31356656.ece