India has many ancient traditions that are fascinating and interesting. On the other hand, some western journalists and western-influenced so-called media persons often find these traditions bizarre. So much so, they are often unable to digest the fact that a single religion, Hinduism, can have different traditions to deal with dead bodies. From cremation to burials, the rituals change every few miles that confuse them even more.
The tradition of burying dead bodies in Hinduism
One such lesser-known tradition is to bury the dead alongside Ganga’s banks in some locations of Uttar Pradesh. Before 1988, the tradition of immersing dead bodies in Ganga was popular among the masses as they were deemed unfit for cremation. However, Supreme Court ruled against the practice and deemed it illegal to immerse dead bodies in the river.
There can be several reasons which make a dead body unfit for cremation according to tradition, such as if the person died of a snake bite, if it was an infant, if the person had some skin disease or if the person was a Sadhu. In these cases, it is advised, as per traditions, to bury the dead body.
Similarly, in some families, they do not cremate anyone but bury them alongside Ganga banks in shallow graves. These graves are then covered with bamboo sticks and Ram Naam Clothes that are considered sacred. Shringverpur Ghat and Phaphamau Ghat in Prayagraj are famous for such burials. In recent times, amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the media houses that are filled with reports that are totally disconnected from the Hindu traditions suddenly found these Ghats.
While such burials always took place on riverbanks at some places, the media splashed the images of such burial sites as the victims of Covid-19. Unable to cremate the bodies, they were forced to burry them, the media reports claimed, unaware of the facts.
CM Yogi Adityanath talked about the tradition
Though there is no denial in the fact that the number of deaths due to Covid-19 has increased exponentially during the second wave, it is not proper to connect a traditional practice to own propaganda. On May 26, Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh, shared a report by Jagran and said, “When there was no corona, three years ago the images were same on the Ghats.” The report that Jagran published talked in detail about the tradition in some Hindu families where dead bodies are buried at Ganga Ghat.
कोरोना नहीं था, फिर भी तीन साल पहले ऐसी ही थी गंगा किनारे की तस्वीर pic.twitter.com/ld5ZtHGmEv— Yogi Adityanath Office (@myogioffice) May 26, 2021
The half-baked narrative of liberal media
Though some of them might be aware of the reality, it was taken as a great opportunity to demean state and union government. On May 24, alleged journalist Barkha Dutt who runs a Youtube channel named Mojo Story, published a report in which visuals of one such Ghat were shown with several dead bodies buried in shallow graves. The narration of the report mentioned, “While some came flowing in the river, some were found buried in the sand on the Ghats.” The report further claimed that over 1000 bodies were washed up the shores while showing buried bodies on the Ghat.
The report showed as if these people were denied proper cremation for some reason, let it be a shortage of money or Covid. Another video report published by the Channel had Barkha herself narrating how these bodies were “discovered,” and it was no less than a shock for her. She said, “Yes, we are not saying that [burials] does not happen, but every Ghat I have reported now in UP, locals have testified that there is a surge in the bodies buried in shallow graves.”
Most of the photographs of buried bodies are from 2018
The report suggested that the photographs that are being shared on social media platforms were mostly from 2018, when the work of beautification of Ghats was underway amidst preparations for Kumbh 2019. The photographs were clicked by photojournalist Mukesh Kanaujia of Jagran. They quoted an 85-years-old priest Rammurat Mishra who said that he had seen such burials since childhood. “Those who had skin disease or were bitten by a snake are buried here. Some families, both rich and poor, have a tradition of burying the dead.” According to another local, his family has a tradition of choosing their site of burial.
A video of photojournalist Mukesh Kanaujia also surfaced in which he said there are more dead bodies, but that does not mean it is something that happened recently. He said, “When he was asked to cover the burials on Ganga Ghats, he noticed thousands of such burials. That time there was no corona. It is a tradition in some families that they bury their loved ones after death.”
Beware of AgendaJivis. pic.twitter.com/g5iNgiI080— Prachi Chaturvedi (@PrachiBJP) May 23, 2021
The police is keeping a strict vigil
On May 17, Inspector General of Police (Prayagraj Range) KP Mishra refuted the claim of an increase in such burials in recent times. He told Times of India that all Covid bodies were cremated and not buried at Phaphamau Ghat. He said, “We have deployed policemen, Jal Police, and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) for patrolling of river banks to ensure no bodies are immersed in the Ganga and Yamuna, nor is anybody buried in the sand on the river banks. Our teams have been patrolling Chatnaag, Phaphamau, and Shringverpur ghats round the clock and keeping strict vigil.”
When he was asked about the families who did not have money for cremation, he said, “Our teams have also been assisting those who do not have funds for a proper funeral. People are sensitive, and they heed on being told that the practice pollutes holy rivers.”
Media vultures are polluting the environment
The vultures, the birds that feed on the dead, are known to clean the environment. But, the vultures in media are functioning on the contrary by polluting the minds of the readers by showing them misleading and half-baked reports. What could be “shocking” or “bizarre” for the liberal and western section of the media is one of the many traditions and rituals that Hindus follow while performing the last rites of their loved ones.