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Tribal asked to pay four times the rate for last rites

Tribal asked to pay four times the rate for last ritesAMBIKA PANDIT IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Holding the decomposing body of his 10-year-old daughter, Naveen Horo waited all Friday afternoon at the St Thomas Christian Cemetery in Tughlaqabad, hoping against hope that his daughter’s body would finally be given a decent burial. But here too he met with disappointment as finding a priest who could agree to perform the funeral according to the tradition of his religious denomination turned into an ordeal.

His daughter, as reported earlier, had died after being lured away from home in Jharkhand, along with a friend, to Delhi.

Finally, a priest agreed to perform the last rites but only on Saturday morning. “Since it was already 6pm, the cemetery in-charge asked the child’s father to take away the body and return next morning,” said Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini. “The father was asked to bring Rs 6000 with him as against the regular charge of Rs 1500 for the funeral. The staff on duty said this was the charge for cases in which priests who are not officially attached to the cemetery are called for performing the funeral.”

Miserable and despairing, the father — who spent sleepless nights since the disappearance of his daughter on April 11 only to be told she was dead — was forced to retrace his steps to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The hospital, much to his relief, agreed to keep the body that’s wrapped in a white sheet in the mortuary for the night.

A Jharkhand police team and social welfare officials from the state could only watch in shock as the body which had been in the mortuary for over eight days was taken back.

Horo sat in silence, a broken man. The poor daily wager doesn’t have enough money to even go back home. On Thursday, after a tiring 26-hour long journey to Delhi, he had told TOI that he was determined to take his daughter’s body back to his village. But after the post-mortem on Friday morning, the condition of the body left him with no choice but to decide on a funeral here in Delhi.

Meanwhile, on learning about the plight of Horo, the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese has stepped in. They will be organizing the funeral at a Paharganj cemetery for the girl. “Father Mathew Koyickal from the Archdiocese will guide the funeral ceremony. We will ensure that the child gets a dignified burial,” Father Arockia Dhas, deputy secretary, Regional Bishops Council of North, told TOI.

Two weeks ago, Horo’s 10-year-old daughter was an eager student at their village in Jharkhand’s Khunti district. When she disappeared on April 11, along with a friend, Horo, a single parent, moved heaven and earth to find her but never imagined he would not see her alive again.

On Thursday, Horo struggled with his emotions as he spoke about his daughter’s shocking death.

Horo’s daughter and her friend were trafficked to Delhi for domestic work earlier this month and ended up paying with their lives. Investigations by Delhi and Jharkhand police now hinge on the post-mortem reports to establish the cause of death.

Jharkhand Police have registered a case of kidnapping, trafficking and murder, and two people, Sukhram Gudiya and Eden Gudiya, have been arrested in the home state of the deceased girls. The main accused, Chandmuni, who allegedly trafficked the girls to Delhi, is likely to be arrested soon. Delhi Police is expected to make more arrests as sources say the trafficking trail is growing longer and indicates a major trafficking racket.

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