Lockdown deaths: Pain of losing dear ones deepen as ashes not reaching Ganges

Sanjeev K. Sharma

JAMMU, May 28: Performing all the rituals Mahesh (name changed) cremated his father at a popular crematorium here last month and immersed the ashes at river Chenab in Akhnoor, 28 kms from here, as there was no means to reach Haridwar for performing the immersion ritual on the bank of river Ganga because transportation was not available due to the nationwide lockdown triggered by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, Sunny Nanda, a cameraman by profession, also immersed the ashes of his mother Kanchan Rani in river Chenab.
“Now I am waiting for the lockdown to end and transportation to resume so that I may perform some rituals of my mother on the bank of river Ganga in Haridwar,” Sunny told this reporter.
However, Atul Puri-a shopkeeper at Ghou Manhasan cremated his father Madan Lal on April 18 this year and kept the ashes at his home waiting for the transportation to resume after the lockdown so that he may immerse the ashes in holy river Ganga at Haridwar.
There are numerous such cases where the bereaved families have immersed the ashes of their dear ones in river Chenab as there was no facility to reach Haridwar for immersing the same in Ganges because the inter-State road transportation as well as train services between Jammu-Haridwar have been snapped indefinitely owing to the ongoing nationwide lockdown restrictions.
It is pertinent to mention here that river Ganga in Haridwar is considered auspicious by the Hindus for immersing the ashes of deceased people.
In this way the ongoing lockdown is affecting different aspects of human life where marriages are proceeding with grooms and brides appearing in masks with limited number of guests while the funeral processions are also allowed with only a few people.
However, only the main crematorium in Jammu-‘Jogi Gate’ has facility of storing ashes of the deceased persons as there are blocks of cloakroom type, about 50 in number, in place where relatives of the deceased persons can keep ashes for immersion in Ganges after sometime as there is no such means of keeping the ashes at homes especially in urban areas.
Other crematoriums in Jammu lack such facility.
Sources at Jogi Gate informed that apart from these 50 blocks many hooks have been fixed at the walls of the room where ashes are kept so that the bags containing ashes could be hung there.
They said that this has been done to tackle the situation arising out of the Corona pandemic as people can’t move to Haridwar these days due to the nationwide lockdown.
“We fix a slip at the bag containing ashes and issue a copy of the same to the relatives of the deceased which they have to produce while claiming the ashes,” sources maintained adding that the ashes are safe at Jogi Gate and can be claimed anytime on showing the slip.
They also said that presently there are about 60 ashes stored at the Jogi Gate crematorium complex where the blocks are fully occupied while the extra bags containing ashes are hung with hooks fixed on the walls and all the blocks as well as hooks have a number.
“More hooks may also be hung if the need arises,” the sources further informed.
They said that some ashes remain at Jogi Gate for years and the officials of the crematorium immerse these unclaimed ashes at river Chenab in Akhnoor.
“A solar eclipse is occurring on June 21 this year and the Jogi Gate authorities will immerse the unclaimed ashes in river Chenab on that day as solar eclipse day is considered auspicious for doing that.
Many sections of the society and certain organizations have demanded that the authorities concerned should resume train services between Jammu and Haridwar, at least once a week, so that the bereaved families may immerse the ashes of their deceased family members in Ganges.