Muslim cremated by Hindu family in Covid mix-up
Muslim cremated by Hindu family in Covid mix-up

Navi Mumbai: In a bizarre turn of events, it has now emerged that the body of a migrant worker that had gone 'missing' from the morgue of the civic Vashi Hospital in Navi Mumbai, after it was taken there for a COVID-19 test on May 9, was inadvertently released to the family of a woman whose body was brought there for the same test.

The family of the young woman cremated the man’s body last week, as they did not open the body bag fearing the spread of COVID-19.

The distraught relatives of the deceased man, Umar Farooq Shaikh, 29, a native of West Bengal, are now running from pillar to post for justice, as they were unable to carry out his last rites and bury him.

Officers of the Vashi police investigating the matter said they were currently exploring what sections could be applied against the guilty, as they are faced with a unique situation.

Meanwhile, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation chief has already ordered an official inquiry, a report on which is expected to be submitted soon. Sanjeev Dhumal, senior police inspector from Vashi police station said, We are seeking legal opinion on the matter before taking further action.

As per the legal suggestions, action will be taken against the guilty, even medical staff. Shaikh had passed away on May 9 at his home in Ulwe. He had high fever when he died, and his cousin brother informed the NRI police, who took him to Vashi Hospital for a COVID-19 test.

The hospital administration asked his cousin Nausuddin to visit the hospital after four days to collect the body. However, on May 14, when Shaikh’s cousin went to the hospital for the body, the hospital administration neither handed over the body, nor did they give him a concrete reply.

Nausuddin ran from one office to another, but to no avail. On May 17 evening, he was eventually informed that Shaikh’s body was missing. His report had revealed that he was COVID-19 negative. The hospital administration lodged a complaint with the Vashi police regarding the missing body.

During the investigation, it was revealed that Shaikh’s body was given to a family that resides in Digha in Airoli, Navi Mumbai. The family had already carried out the last rites as per Hindu customs, said Dhumal. According to police, the Digha family had an 18-year-old daughter who died at home due to jaundice on May 4.

She was also taken to Vashi Hospital for a COVID-19 test, a necessary measure to check the spread of Coronavirus. The family was told that they would be informed once the test report arrived. The young woman’s family was called on May 14 to collect her body after a report found that she was COVID-19 negative.

Dashrath Maruti Suryavanshi, her father, said that the body was wrapped in cloth and the face was not visible. As we are already frightened about COVID cases, we did not open the wrapped cloth and we carried out the last rites the same day, Suryavanshi told The Free Press Journal.

On the night of May 17, he was flabbergasted when the Vashi police informed him about the mistake and asked him to visit Vashi police station. “I was absolutely shocked and could not imagine what had transpired.

I am clueless as to what to do now,” Suryavanshi said. Suryavanshi’s daughter’s body is now being released to him. “Since the family is not at fault, the body of their daughter will be given to them for last rites,” said Dhumal.

Abbasaheb Misal, municipal commissioner of NMMC told The Free Press Journal that on Sunday, he had had asked the medical superintendent of the hospital to lodge a complaint with the police, and that the police are already carrying out an investigation.

"The medical officer, Dr Balasaheb Sonawane, has carried out a primary inquiry today and he will submit the report tonight or tomorrow morning. Based on the report, action will be taken," said Misal.

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