The good samaritans who give dignified funeral to unclaimed bodies

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Meet Mohammad Khalid, the unknown friend of the dead, a resident of Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. His life changed forever about 20 years ago, when he saw a dead woman on a road side. People kept passing by but nobody cared.

Khalid, who runs a pathology centre in Hazaribagh, became restless after seeing the decomposed corpse. He managed a cart, bought a shroud, picked up the dead body and took it to a crematorium, all alone, and gave it a dignified funeral.

This incident made him a good samaritan of unclaimed bodies, and since then he has made it a mission of his life — to dispose of unclaimed bodies.

A few months later, his friend Tapas Chakraborty, from St Columbus College in Hazaribagh, also joined his campaign. Since then the duo has cremated over 6,000 corpses, thus becoming a ‘friend of the dead’.

During the pandemic, when people shunned their near and dear ones, the Khalid-Tapas duo performed the last rites of about 500 bodies, risking their own lives. The duo is now known in Jharkhand as the ‘messiah of unclaimed bodies’.

In 2010, the mortuary at RIMS, Jharkhand’s largest hospital, was filled with unclaimed bodies, which had started decomposing and the stench became unbearable. The administration had no solution to the problem. Then, Khalid and Tapas undertook the onerous task of mass funeral of all the dead bodies. They together cremated about 150 dead bodies. Since then, both of them continue to handle the last rites of unclaimed dead bodies at RIMS.

During the first and the second Covid wave, the duo took up the challenge and turned messiah for the dead. Khalid single-handedly performed the last rites of 96 persons who died of Covid, in 15 days.

They not only performed the last rites of the unclaimed dead bodies, they also immersed the ashes in the Ganges and other rivers of those who were Hindus. The administration and local donors have now provided them with vehicles, which facilitate the transportation of dead bodies to the crematorium. More people have joined their organisation — ‘Murda Kalyan Samiti’.

Khalid told IANS, “During Covid, we had to work day and night religiously. My heart sank when I saw that a husband did not touch the dead body of his wife who died due to the coronavirus.”

Khalid and Tapas launched another campaign in 2015 in Hazaribagh — to feed the hungry and the needy. They built a ‘roti bank’, where people themselves deliver ‘rotis’ which were distributed among the beggars, the poor and the needy patients at the hospital. This has been going on for the last six years. Now people provide to the roti bank on various occasions like marriage, birthday, etc., and then it reaches the needy. Tapas Chakraborty has now retired from college and Khalid has handed over the work of his pathology centre to the family members. They spend all their time cremating the dead bodies and providing bread to the needy. People proudly give examples of their friendship and talk about their philanthropic work.

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