A frightening video from Bihar, India, shows bodies floating in the Ganges River, some having drifted ashore on the ghats, some in a half-decomposed state. They are suspected to be COVID-19 fatalities dumped into the Ganges, which is considered holy.
On Monday, this horrifying scene was first noticed by a local gatekeeper in Chausa village in the Buxar district of Bihar, in eastern India, and the country’s third-most populated state.
“We were alerted by the local chowkidar [gatekeeper] that many bodies have been spotted floating from upstream. We have so far recovered 15 of these. None of the deceased happens to be a resident of the district,” Ashok Kumar, the Chausa block development officer, told Economic Times (ET).
Multiple local news outlets reported the number of bodies found was more than 100.
However, Kumar “dismissed this number as highly exaggerated,” according to ET. He further blamed the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh for this inhuman disposal.
“Many Uttar Pradesh districts are situated right across the river, and the bodies may have been dumped in the Ganges for reasons not known to us. We cannot confirm whether the deceased was indeed COVID-19 positive. The bodies have started decomposing. But we are taking all precautions while ensuring that these are disposed of in a decent manner,” Kumar told ET.
Last week, India reported a shortage in wood to make funeral pyres, and in the capital city of New Delhi, dog cremation sites have been used for humans, irrespective of the reason. For Indians, it has been horrifying to see the dead being thrown into the water without their last rites.
“The situation is highly deplorable. There are more than 150 infected bodies floating in the river. Consequently, people of areas including Katgharwa, Kamharia and Chausa, among others, are in shock and fear. People are frightened to even come for cremation at this ghat,” a local resident told The Times of India (TOI).
TOI reported that Buxar District Magistrate Aman Samir said, in a press statement, “The villagers told the investigation team comprising Buxar subdivisional police officer and subdivisional officer that bodies are not local and have floated down from elsewhere in a day or two. It is clear that the bodies have come floating in the river from the bordering state.”
“Tragically we have come full circle on this. Started with Kumbha Mela in the holy Ganges and now with dead bodies in the same river! Persevering face,” another wrote on Twitter.
This doesn’t seem to be the first instance of bodies being dumped in the Ganges, though. Buxar Subdivisional Magistrate K.K. Upadhyay told TOI that he saw several bodies floating in the neighboring district of Ghazipur, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, as well.
Newsweek contacted the Buxar district state office and district magistrate but did not hear back in time for publication.