The finding of human skeletons of those killed in the cataclysmic rains that hit Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district last year has once again raised the political temperature of the state with the ruling Congress and the opposition indulging in blame-game on the tragic issue.
The opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has even demanded chief minister Harish Rawat’s resignation on the issue.
“The government had accused me of lying when I had claimed last year that Rudraprayag is strewn with the skeletons of those washed away by the devastating floods. But the unearthing of human skeletons in that district has proved that it’s the government that lied”, said the BJP’s opposition leader Ajay Bhatt. “CM Rawat should, therefore, immediately resign owning the responsibility for the false claim”, he told HT.
The ruling Congress, however, hit back accusing the BJP of “playing politics over the dead bodies” of those who were lost to the killer floods. “The government never denied the possibility of human remains being found in Kedarnath and other areas of Rudraprayag where hundreds of people were washed away by the last year’s floods”, State Congress spokesperson Surendra Kumar claimed. He, in fact, gave credit to the government for unearthing of the human skeletons.
“The human remains were found in the forest areas like Jungle Chatti during the combing by the police, for which the orders had been duly issued by the state government”, Kumar claimed. Such orders were issued because a large number of people had taken shelter in nearby forests when that almost entire district (Rudraprayag) was hit by the deluge.
Fresh combing operation to look for missing people: CM
Chief minister Harish Rawat has stated that fresh combing operation to look for the missing people will be launched by the government soon. Scope of search will cover entire region from Sonprayag to Kedarnath. A formal instruction in this regard has been issued by the CM to the chief secretary Subhash Kumar.
The Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar informed that a high level task force including soldiers from ITBP, local police and SDRF has been constituted for the search operation. IG Sanjay Gunjiyal will head the task force.
Task force has to complete the search operation in twenty days. Team will also look for missing persons in the forests adjoining Kedarnath valley. Team has began its work with immediate effect and also carry out the cremation of the bodies found in the process.
“They died there days later without food, water and shelter because it was next to impossible for the agencies engaged in relief operations to supply them the succour, thanks to the devastating floods”, Kumar admitted.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police G S Martolia who heads the Task Force engaged in retrieving human remains of those killed in the deluge said so far 17 human skeletons had been recovered from Chirvasa, a forest area between Gauri Kund and Jungle Chatti. “Five human skeletons were recovered from that area on June 11 followed by 12 more (human) skeletons that were recovered two days later”, he told HT.
Martolia said the search that was being carried out in tandem with the experts associated with Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi had been restarted in February soon after CM Rawat took over.
“Our team is taking photographs of the belongings of those whose skeletons are being recovered. They (photographs) will be posted on the website of the state police so that the relatives of those who met the tragic end could be sure that the latter were no more”, said the official.
Besides, DNA samples would also be collected from the human skeletons of the dead for their matching with their relatives. The last rites of the human remains being recovered would also be performed as we did earlier in case of the bodies of those lost to the deluge.
Kumar said the process of retrieving the skeletons of those who were buried alive in the rubble of the damaged houses in flood-hit Kedarnath would also begin soon. Last rites of all such human remains too would also be duly performed, he said.
Kumar also accused the BJP of creating falls scare at every step, be it the government’s move of retrieving human skeletons or the reconstruction of the state’s disaster- hit Char Dham religious circuit. “They don’t understand that their foolish political tactics would end up discouraging the devotees elsewhere in the country from visiting the Char Dhams”, said Kumar.
“That would mean that the lakhs of people who depend on the Char Dham pilgrimage for their survival would be left in dire straights”, he added.
Bhatt though stuck to his guns. “This (Congress) government has acted irresponsibly, be it the issue of retrieving the bodies of those who were lost to the deluge, or, its claim about reconstruction”, he alleged.
Govind Singh Rawat, a BJP leader from Kalimath, alleged that around 600 people from the Ukhimath block alone had been missing since the devastating floods hit the state last year. “So far, the government has done nothing to retrieve their dead bodies”, he told HT.