The anguished Hindu family of a man, who recently passed away, has rubbished the report published by the Times of India alleging that the Muslim men organised the last rites and funeral of the deceased man after the neighbours “banished” the family since they suspected that he died after battling the Wuhan Coronavirus.
The report was published by Times of India on April 20, 2020, in all the major editions of the newspaper as well as on its official website. The report titled-‘5 Muslim men organise last rites of a man shunned by neighbours’ alleged that the family of the deceased Hindu man was ostracised by the neighbours on the suspicion that the man died from Coronavirus. The deceased, Venu Mudiraj, died of tuberculosis on April 16 in the hospital.
The report stated that 5 Muslim men carried out the last rites of Venu Mudiraj, an autorickshaw driver, after his neighbour ostracised the family following a heated argument with his teenage children and younger brother Vinod for bringing the body of the deceased home who they suspected had died of coronavirus.
However, a Hyderbad based journalist Sridharan Siddhu contacted Swarajya Magazine journalist Swati Goel Sharma to inform her that the family of the deceased is traumatised because of the false report and it intends to clarify things regarding the falsehoods published about them in the media.
The Times of India had quoted the deceased’s brother, Vinod, as saying,
Refuting the lies published in the report, Vinod accused the Times of India of concocting statements and attributing false comments to him. “I never said that. It is totally false,” he said.
Vinod then gave his account of the incident. According to him, after bringing his brother’s body home on April 16, some 5 Muslim men visited their house at around 10 PM in the night. One of them was Mohammad Ahmed, who was his brother’s friend, Vinod claimed. However, he did not recognise the rest of the 4 men who accompanied Ahmed. Vinod states that they all expressed their condolences and provided the family with food packets before leaving.
Vinod goes on to say that those men also attended the funeral and some of them asked if they could pick up the bier. Vinod assented to their request, completely oblivious to the fact that photos of them carrying the bier were clicked.
Vinod then said that the men visited him again the next day, April 18, and made him talk to press reporter over the phone.
“One of them asked me to talk over phone with the press reporter. He said the person is a journalist and the report could help us in getting a financial assistance from the government. I talked with the reporter quickly and got busy with the other rituals,” Vinod said.
However, the family was shocked to learn about the fallacious report published in the Times of India two days later.
“We have become a laughing stock in our community. we are subjected to ridicule by people, asking us we don’t have four men to lift the bier and depend on the members of other community. They are asking if my brother was an orphan,” an anguished Vinod said.
Vinod clarified that they are a large family and only because of the restrictions imposed during the lockdown, they had to carry out the funeral of his brother with a gathering of 20 men.
He further added that he spent Rs 35000 from his hard-earned money in his brother’s funeral but it pains him to see that five Muslims took away the credit without doing anything.
In a video-recorded statement to Swati, the deceased’s 18-year-old son Sachin said that initially people in his area opposed their entry in the colony due to the COVID-19 restrictions but when they called up police for the cooperation, the people in his neighbourhood helped the family in every way they could.
“5 Muslim men,claiming to be my father’s friend, came and requested us to carry the bier for sometime. We don’t know them at all. But since they said they were my father’s friends, we allowed them to hold the bier. They then took photos and spread the news in newspapers and on social media that they performed the entire last rites. That’s not true. They didn’t do anything,” Sachin said.
He further added, “We lost our mother two years ago and now we have lost our father. And then this misleading report published by TOI is further traumatising us. My relatives are calling me up to ask ‘Who are these 5 Muslim men who helped you?’ This is very humiliating and they are exploiting my father’s death to gain credit. This is fake news, Muslims did not help us, people in our neighbourhood have helped us.”
Sachin also revealed that contrary to media reports which claimed his father died of the tuberculosis but of “low BP”.
An audio recording between “one of those Muslim men” with his maternal uncle Bharath after the publication of the report was shared by Sachin. In the audio, Bharath angrily asks the man on the other side who he was and what he got published in the newspaper. The man on the other side defensively says “it’s nothing”. Bharath then questions him what help did he or his other friends offered and if getting photos clicked amounts to helping the family.
When Preeti Biswas, the journalist who wrote the contentious report in the Times of India, was approached for a comment after the family refuted the assertions made in her report, she defended herself saying she followed the protocol and had a conversation with the deceased’s brother Vinod which she reported in the article. Biswas said that Vinod informed her about the five Muslim men who visited their house and provided them with help such as arrangement of food for family members, sought police permissions and spoke to the house owner on behalf of the family members. He also told them how the five Muslim men helped the family in moving the body to crematorium and stayed until the funeral ended.
Meanwhile, one of the members of the family, who wished to remain anonymous, informed the Swarajya Magazine correspondent that they are mulling over taking a legal course against the “fake news” as it has besmirched the family’s reputation.