The situation was already worse when the doctor’s family wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral and on top of that, the doctors who went ahead with the burial were brutally attacked. “We were hit with wooden logs and stones when we tried to bury him,” said Dr. Pradeep, a friend of Dr Simon, who was the person who buried the neurosurgeon in the dead of the night after hours of frightening retaliation from people who were spurred by fear, instead of empathy.
Dr. Pradeep was admitted at the Apollo Hospital. Doctors who worked with him say he may have contracted the virus from a patient. At 9 pm on Sunday, his body was handed over to the family, and they were initially planning to take an ambulance to a burial ground in TB Chatram in Kilpauk for the last rites. Dr Simon’s wife and son were accompanied by Dr Pradeep, a few other doctors who had worked closely with the deceased, Corporation officials and two ambulance drivers.
Local workers informed the residents that such a burial was about to take place and a rumour was rife that this would rapidly spread the virus. Believing this to be true,
people in the neighbourhood had gathered to protest.
The ambulance carrying Dr Simon’s body was then diverted to the Velangadu cemetery to avoid any altercations. However, at this burial ground, the deceased and his family and friends were met with sticks and stones.
“The JCB had dug about 6 feet into the ground, when 50-60 people came towards us,” Dr Pradeep recalls, “They began hitting us with wooden logs and throwing stones at us. They damaged the ambulance and hit the drivers on the head with logs. They hit the doctors and the sanitary inspectors as well. The deceased’s family was also not spared. The Corporation staff were forced to flee the spot,” says Dr Pradeep.
“It was so bad, that we were forced to leave his body there and flee,” says an emotional Dr Bhagyaraj, in a video he released about the incident.
While most of them went ahead to take protection, Dr.Pradeep with the help of two ambulance drivers managed to take Dr.Simon’s body back into the ambulance and fled.
The two ambulance drivers were bleeding profusely and were losing too much blood. After one point, they said they were feeling faint and had to stop,” says Dr Pradeep. Following this, the drivers were dropped off at Kilpauk Medical College for treatment.
“I then called all the contacts I knew in the Health Ministry, so that the police will protect me while we finished the burial,” says Dr Pradeep. “We went back around 11 pm to complete what we started. We had to bury him at about 8 feet – even though a deep burial is usually at about 12 feet. The police inspector who was present with us helped me dig a little more with a ploughing tool, and then with our hands we covered him with mud,” says the doctor.
“With the help of two hospital staff, I dug a space and buried my close friend by pushing in mud with my own hands. He was a doctor, a philanthropist and the Managing Director of a hospital. He didn’t deserve this end,” says Dr Pradeep in an interview with The News Minute.
With tears in his eyes, Dr. Bhagyaraj had put out a video where he asked, “For doctors who die of coronavirus, is this the fate? Is this the gift that people give us? I feel shameful that I need to put out this video. We were not able to save him first, and then we couldn’t even bury him. How will his soul rest in peace? I’m ashamed that I’m part of this profession now.”