West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday demanded a public apology from chief minister Mamata Banerjee days after a video emerged showing a decomposed corpse being dragged by the neck with tongs by a morgue employee at a crematorium in Kolkata.
"Horrendous unimaginable horror of dragging human bodies by pair of tongs would haunt us for long. PUBLIC APOLOGY @MamataOfficial by way of atonement is expected. This barbarity is indelible taint on humanity. Disposal of dead body is solemn act- dominated by spirituality," Dhankhar tweeted on Sunday.
He had already attacked the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) government on Twitter for two days over the video.
The video, which was allegedly shot on June 10, surfaced on June 11 and went viral. The morgue employee could be seen putting the body inside a Kolkata civic corporation van. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders alleged that the van carried several decomposed corpses of Covid-19 victims and it was an effort to hide death figures.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the health department, however, produced records which showed that unclaimed bodies lying at NRS hospital morgue were taken for cremation to the Garia crematoriums since the Dhapa dumping ground, where such unclaimed bodies are cremated round the year, has been reserved for Hindus dying of Covid-19.
The state home department on Saturday took to Twitter saying fake news was being spread that the bodies were that of Covid-19 victims.
In his tweets on Sunday, Dhankhar made it apparent that he was not ready to accept the state's explanation. "Calling videos as fake is inexcusable blunder -adding injury to shameless insult. Those orchestrating Remote controlled response @MamataOfficial have no idea of anger of people at enormity of this crime. Before reacting Reflect-if one of the 14 was part of your family!" wrote Dhankhar.
On Saturday, Kolkata Police tweeted, "West Bengal Health Department has informed that dead bodies were not of COVID patients, but were unclaimed/ unidentified bodies from Hospital Morgue. Legal action is being taken against persons spreading #FakeNews."
"GOWB respects the credo of dignity at death and, while handling the COVID pandemic, it has espoused the principle by laying down transparent procedures regarding disclosure of facts, opportunities given to bereaved relatives for showing last respect to the deceased, disposal of dead bodies etc. The recent misinformation drive to project an isolated incident of a particular agency's handling of some unidentified and decomposed dead bodies lying (post accidents etc) in a morgue has no relationship whatsoever with the current pandemic. This has been communicated in writing and in person by most senior state officials even to Hon'ble Governor," the home department said in a series of tweets on Saturday after state officials met Dhankhar.
"Since the governor has demanded apology from the chief minister I cannot comment on her behalf. All I can say is the governor is deeply involved in politics," said a senior cabinet minister who requested anonymity.
Dhankhar came under fire from TMC leaders for his comments over the past two days.
Addressing the governor as "Uncle ji" TMC member of Parliament Mahua Moitra tweeted, "GovernorWB back to firing BJP arrows at state govt which is handling covid, amphan & migrant return smoothly all at once. A (rotten) apple never falls far from the tree."
TMC's former Barrackpore Lok Sabha MP Dinesh Trivedi tweeted, "@jdhankhar1 the only thing that has been compromised is the integrity of the office of the Governor. You have stayed consistently silent on the achievements of the state while looking for every little opportunity to malign it's image."