Today, when the said “third wave” of the coronavirus is waning rapidly across the country, the issue of floating dead bodies in the river Ganga and the alleged mismanagement of the UP government during the second wave of Covid is still a hot topic for the opposition parties; one that is used to hurl barbs at the BJP government in the poll-bound state.
However, this by India TV shows visuals which proves that the number of dead bodies which are being buried in the sands of river Ganga is still the same, and the images and videos that went viral last year during the peak of the pandemic in the months of April and May have nothing to do with Covid deaths.
Opposition recalls “visuals of corpses floating in river Ganga” in election rallies
Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, while addressing the voters of Raebareli on Monday (21 February) in a virtual rally, recalled the difficulties faced by the people of UP in getting oxygen, hospital beds and medicines during the peak of the pandemic as she alleged that the Yogi government made no efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people in such hard times.
“When the government had to provide medicines, hospital beds and oxygen, it did not…we all remember the visuals of thousands of dead bodies floating in Maa Ganga, no help was provided by the government and the BJP left the people as orphans,” said the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav while addressing an election rally in Bijnor on 10 February. Yadav has been constantly referring to the said images to criticise the Yogi government.
On 8 February, West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee, who had come to Lucknow to lend support to Akhilesh Yadav for the UP 2022 Assembly polls, alleged that the Yogi government failed miserably at tackling the Covid pandemic last year. She further claimed that the dead bodies which were floated in the river Ganga in UP reached WB, where her administration cremated the dead.
The background to these accusations
It was during the second wave of Covid, in May 2021, that hundreds of dead bodies were found floating in the river Ganga from Unnao, Kanpur, Prayagraj up to Buxar and Patna in Bihar. The visuals that went viral on the internet were indeed heart-wrenching and dreadful.
The opposition parties- be it the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), or the CPI(M) etc.- left no stone unturned in decrying the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh. The Yogi government was branded as “unresponsive”, “insensitive”, and “cruel”.
Op-eds with pictures of vitiated corpses were published in international newspapers like Washington Post, New York Times, and Guardian. International media claimed that India was failing to even cremate its dead and that the poor were dumping the bodies of their dead in the river Ganga.
The headlines of such news reports read- “India’s holiest river swollen with bodies” (BBC); “Poverty, stigma behind bodies floating in India’s Ganges river” (Al Jazeera); “The Ganges Is Returning The Dead, It Does Not Lie” (New York Times); “The mystery of hundreds of bodies found in India’s Ganges river” (Washington Post); “India Has Undercounted Covid-19 Deaths By Hundreds Of Thousands, Families And Experts Say” (Wall Street Journal), “Indian Cops Put Nets over Ganges River To Prevent Dumping Of COVID Victims” (New York Post), and so on.
Most of these news reports- both national and international- claimed that the sight of corpses flowing in the river Ganga or the dead buried alongside its banks was unprecedented.
With a few exceptions, like this by India TV, almost all news portals levelled serious allegations on the Yogi government based on the viral images.
Ground report from Prayagraj sets the record straight
Journalist and anchor Rajat Sharma, on Monday (21 February), in his popular show ‘Aaj ki Baat’, presented a from the banks of river Ganga in Prayagraj where dead bodies of people who allegedly died due to Covid were found buried and floating during the peak of the second wave in April-May last year.
The ground report sent by an India TV reporter, Manish Bhattacharya, showed “shocking” visuals of hundreds of dead bodies still buried in that area. As per the report, in a two to three kilometer stretch, there are still several hundred spots where the bodies have been buried recently.
When Bhattacharya enquired about the buried corpses on the Ganga ghats, the local residents told him that there was nothing new about this practise and that it was a part of the customs of a few local Hindu sects. Since the government has prohibited releasing the dead bodies in the river Ganga, these sects have been burying their dead in the sands of the river bank.
“Our forefathers and ancestors did it, so we also do the same. It’s an age-old custom,” said a local villager who had come to bury his dead relative at the Ganga ghat.
Devi Lal Prasad, a local resident who helps people in burying their dead, informed Bhattacharya that this has been the custom for the past several decades. He further said that on an average, 10 to 15 bodies are buried in the sands on a daily basis, making it to around 300 dead bodies every month. However, Devi Lal confirmed that the number of burials during the peak of the pandemic was relatively higher, and his son too had to help him cremate and bury the dead bodies.
A local resident who has been living in the area for 40 years now, stated the same and said that around 300 to 400 dead bodies are buried every month. He further explained that as the river acquires its full flow, the water takes away many of these bodies, and hence the corpses are seen floating in this region every now and then.
“I stand by what I have said earlier”, says a reportedly offended Priyanka Gandhi
As per this , when an India TV reporter tried to seek a response from Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, she seemed offended, and reiterated that she stood by what she had said earlier.
“I live in Prayagraj, I know the local customs. Our government did its best in helping people during the pandemic, but internationally, UP and India got a bad image. It is the handiwork of the opposition who works on a single-point agenda of tarnishing our image. Why don’t they compare us with Kerala, where the Covid death toll is higher compared to UP?”, UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya was quoted as saying by India TV.
It must be noted that even when the daily Covid death toll is now below 10 in UP, the number of dead bodies being buried on the banks of river Ganga in Prayagraj is still the same. Interestingly, no news reports or op-eds are being published by any newspaper to rectify what was reported earlier.
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