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Pune NGO gives respectful last farewell to 50 unidentified people, as per Hindu religious traditions

After years of unceremonious dumping of unidentified people declared dead at Sassoon hospital, the academy took up the mantle to perform their last rites.

pune Updated: Oct 09, 2018 16:33 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,NGO Rashtriya Kala Academy.,unidentified people
On an average, last rites of over 30 unclaimed bodies are performed at Sangham ghat every month by NGO Rashtriya Kala Academy. (Shankar Narayan/ HT Photo )

Performing the last rites of loved ones is as emotionally strenuous as it is mental peace inducing. For scores of bodies left unidentified at various hospitals in the city and elsewhere, a ceremonious last rite is the last thing that the departed can expect.

In 2011, the office-bearers of Rashtriya Kala Academy, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), found white clothes bunched up in a ball hanging from the door handles at Kailash crematorium in Pune. “These bunched clothes were really the ashes of unidentified people who had died in Sassoon general hospital,” said Amar Lande, an office-bearer of the 20-year-old NGO. The NGO has been doing the yeoman service since 2011.

As tunes of “Sai Ram, Sai Shyam” filled the air at the Sangam crematorium in the early morning hours of Monday, the ashes of 50 unidentified people — irrespective of gender, caste, religion — were bid a respectful farewell as per the Hindu religious traditions.

After being cremated in the district hospital’s electric furnace, the powdered ashes and burnt sections of unidentified bodies were collected and kept in white cloth bunches. After years of unceremonious dumping of unidentified people declared dead at Sassoon hospital, the academy took up the mantle to perform their last rites.

“We first made a 36-compartment cupboard available to the crematorium and had them store the ashes in it (instead of hanging them by the door). Every month since then, on the new moon, we bring them to Sangam ghat and perform the last rite,” said Sadashiv Kunden, another office-bearer of the NGO.

“In 2011, there was a case from Nashik where a man’s mother went missing and they could not find her anywhere till date. In the process, we learnt that there are several unidentified bodies coming from Sassoon as well. Every month there are a few. So, we enquired and found where the bodies and ashes are taken and started the process,” said Mandar Ranjekar, president of the NGO.

A written description of the departed is mentioned on the cloth or a card is stuck to the bunched cloth. “If someone comes looking, the description is aimed at helping them identify. We wait for a month. But in the past eight years, no one has come to claim anyone,” Lande said.

There have been months when the NGO has performed last rites for over 75 unidentified people. On an average, last rites of over 30 unclaimed bodies are performed every month.

As per the Hindu belief, a dead person should be given a decent farewell irrespective of the caste or religion the person belongs to. When the atma (soul)) leaves the body, it should be given a proper farewell, the NGO representative said.

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 16:32 IST