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Mumbai Cop Sandhya Shilavant Deserves Praise For Cremating The Dead Even In COVID-19 Times

Posted: May 25, 2020

As the COVID-19 cases rise, each day, a female police officer from Mumbai, Sandhya Shilavant with her dedication, gives us a ray of hope to hold on to!

The spectacle of ghost towns are only a glimpse of the true scale of COVID-19 pandemic. Essential services are still at a halt as the number of cases of coronavirus only continue to increase. While some curves seem to have flattened, the horrors and human cost of the pandemic continue, only to rise.

As the city of Mumbai becomes the red zone and epicentre of the pandemic, Police Naik Sandhya Shilavant gives us a ray of hope to hold on to. She works at the Shahu Nagar Police Station, in Mumbai on the accidental death register (ADR). As a part of her duty, she investigates accidental death cases, tracks their identities and arranges appropriate funerals for them.

The Shahu Nagar area is located in Dharavi which already has about 1452 of the 25317 cases in the city and is currently a containment zone.

Is there peace for the dead?

We hear shocking stories of how New York no longer has enough space to bury the dead who have suffered Coronavirus. And in these times, what Shilavant said seems to bear an even greater haunting and chilling truth of the dark times we are living in. 

According to a report in ScoopWhoop, she says, “There was no space to store the bodies as mortuaries are stretched beyond their limits, and the bodies need to be disposed of at the earliest.”

During such times, we are unable to pay respect and remember the ones who have passed and they often are reduced to mere numerical counts. And the sheer magnitude of the pandemic hasn’t given families, and us, the time to truly grieve and come to terms with the loss.

And in such times, Sandhya Shilavant is certainly helping and contributing to the idea of a ‘death with dignity’ for some of these individuals. 

Serving a duty during the pandemic

“It is my duty to dispose of unclaimed bodies and I am not scared of them. I collect blood samples of the deceased and even transport their viscera to forensic labs to ascertain the cause of deaths,’’ she explained, according to a report in Scroll. She often even has to send them for postmortem and try to contact families or relatives of the individuals in question. 

The police officer most recently went to the Boiwada crematorium where BM staffers brought four bodies from the Sion Hospital. She stayed and finished the final rites. Out of the four individuals, one of them had tested positive for COVID-19. And the other three were considered to be destitute. 

“I returned only after the crematorium authorities gave us receipts about the cremation,” she said.

Shilavant is herself a mother of two- a nine-year-old son and a thirteen-year-old daughter. She has helped arranges funerals for 20 unclaimed bodies over the past two years. 

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh praised her for her commitment to her duty and her steadfast determination during these difficult, uncertain times.

Shilavant’s statement ‘awareness of social commitment shuts the doors of fear’ is inspiring not only for the police force but for everyone,” the home minister tweeted.

Stigma against police and healthcare officials

Recently, however, there have been attacks on police personnel like Sandhya and healthcare workers trying to perform the last rites of COVID-19 patients. This escalation of violence seems unprecedented at a time when essential services workers and healthcare professionals remain our only light at the end of the tunnel. 

For instance, there were around 71 arrests made in Gujarat’s Anand district. This was done after a group of people tried to intrude on the cremation of a COVID-19 victim. Similarly, residents from the Ambala village in Haryana pelted stones at doctors and faced clashes with the police after they refused to allow the cremation of another victim. A mob in Chennai even attacked a group of doctors during the burial of a neurosurgeon who tested positive for Coronavirus. 

At a time when the inevitably of life and death is so strong, it is essential for us to preserve that shred of hope of we have within us. Our humanity must not ignore the storm that is raging outside our doors and the people who are braving it just because we can’t go outside. 

Picture credits: Times Of India and NDTV

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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and

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