A fortnight after 100 bodies were found floating in a tributary of the Ganga in Unnao district, authorities in Uttar Pradesh were in for another grisly shock when hundreds of bones and decayed body parts – some nearly four decades old – were discovered crammed in gunny bags in an abandoned police building.
Authorities were silent on details but a source privy to an investigation into the matter said the remains were packed in 61 sacks that were left in the building close to the Reserve Police Lines in Unnao. A total of 400 body parts, including 70 bones, rib cages, spinal cords and skulls, have been found since Friday.
The building served as a mortuary till 2008. The body parts, kept for forensic examination to ascertain the causes of death and the sex of people, were not disposed. Records showed the body parts had been accumulating since 1979 and successive district magistrates and superintendents of police failed to follow the standard protocol for their disposal.
Superintendent of Police Mahendra Pratap Singh acknowledged there was sheer negligence on the part of mortuary staff and health officials. “All these evidences should have been shifted when the mortuary moved into the district hospital premises,” he said.
“The new mortuary has a special place for viscera preservation and keeping human remains.”
Singh did not offer any explanation as to why the remains were not destroyed in line with recommendations made by a committee formed in 2010 to specifically deal with such cases.
In mid-January, some 100 bodies were found floating in a shallow tributary of the Ganga near a cremation area in Unnao. Television footage showed dogs and birds feeding on the bloated and decaying bodies.
It is not just Unnao as body parts have also been found in other districts of Uttar Pradesh like Moradabad, Gorakhpur and Bahraich in the past two days. An inquiry committee headed by a DIG was formed after more than 100 skeletons were found in Aligarh in May 2009.
“Human parts cannot be kept for long. After the forensic reports, there is a timeframe for their disposal,” said Dr Piyush Mishra, a Fatehpur-based government doctor who has conducted 14,000 autopsies.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav was surprised at the latest discovery of body parts and ordered officials to fix responsibility. Acting on his directive, a team of four forensic experts was rushed to Unnao. The team examined the remains and collected samples for further examination.
The discovery of the body parts prompted the BJP to criticise the Samajwadi Party government and demand an inquiry. BJP MLA Pankaj Gupta said the development showed how insensitive officials and employees have become in the state. “We will take up the issue with the chief minister and organise a movement on this issue,” he said.