Covid in India: Covering Up Crematorium, Banning Pictures of Pyres, Long Queues of Bodies

TEAM CLARION: In an apparent response to media coverage of spiraling Covid deaths and worldwide circulation of pictures of burning pyres in crematoriums, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has come up with a new idea to hide the real picture. Gorakhpur, the home town of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has taken measures to block the view of Rajghat, the lone cremation ground in the city.

Families burning dead bodies of Covid patients near a canal on the Gorakhpur-Kushinagar road. Villagers are cremating the dead where ever they find space. — Photo courtesy: The Print

According to a report in The Telegraph of Kolkata, high plastic and cloth banners have been put up all along the pavement railings on the only open side of the Rajghat. Rest of the three sides are already covered by brick walls.

Now no one can have a view of the pyres and the long queues of bodies from outside. And there is an announcement on the banners which says it’s a crime to shoot photos or videos of the crematory. “The last rites of the dead are going on according to Hindu customs. Please don’t do photography / videography. It’s a punishable offense,” read the banners.

“In Gorakhpur…the city where clicking pyres is barred, crematorium records show scores died on days state claims zero deaths”


The Telegraph has quoted a Lucknow-based lawyer, Sunil Sharma, as saying: “No law says that taking pictures of a cremation ground is a crime.”

“Many feature films are shot on cremation grounds amid real cremations. Perhaps the government will now book whoever takes pictures of cremations on the charge of disturbing law and order.”

Photos of cremation grounds where burning pyres have taken up almost every inch of space have generated bad global publicity for Indian authorities’ handling of the second wave of the Covid outbreak.

Gorakhpur’s is not the first crematorium to be covered. In mid-April, the UP state’s government covered up both of Lucknow’s crematories, Baikunth Dham and Gullala Ghat, by fencing them with iron sheets.

An official from the Gorakhpur Nagar Nigam, the municipal authority that has put up the banners, said: “We received an order to cover up the area and did so. We now receive up to 45 bodies a day, up from 6 or 7 during the normal times earlier. There isn’t enough firewood; so queues form.”