When­ever an uniden­ti­fied body turns up in Delhi...

This is a fin­ger­print of a man who died un­known on the streets of Delhi

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - De­exa Khan­duri

When they found him, no one knew his name. He couldn’t have told them, for he was dead. His body was found on June 25, when the tem­per­a­ture had gone be­yond 40 de­grees c even be­fore noon, ly­ing on a foot­path in a nar­row al­ley­way. it’s a culde-sac, end­ing in a nar­row path lead­ing to the Ya­muna. nearby stands the aban­doned build­ing of the Par­manand Blind re­lief Hos­pi­tal, which the au­thor­i­ties have sealed for en­croach­ment on the flood­plains. a lit­tle away is the Kash­miri gate in­ter-state bus ter­mi­nus. rick­shaw-pullers, rag-pick­ers, poor mi­grant labour­ers wan­der in and out oc­ca­sion­ally, but it’s other­wise des­o­late. some­times, con­sta­bles walk by.

He was found by head con­sta­ble Deven­dra and con­sta­ble naren­dra of Kash­miri gate po­lice sta­tion, one of 19 unin­den­ti­fied bod­ies found across Delhi that day. a dirty green shirt, grey trousers, a cop­per ring on his left hand, a pair of keys – that was all he had on him. af­ter mak­ing sure he was dead, they in­formed their su­pe­rior, sub-in­spec­tor satish Ku­mar. The sub-in­spec­tor made an en­try in the sta­tion’s daily di­ary (DD): 22-B. That would be the name he would go by in of­fi­cial pa­pers. DD No. 22-B. In short, 22-B.

as a cou­ple of layabouts helped the po­lice lift his

body into a van that would take 22-B to the mor­tu­ary, some­one re­marked, “Those keys found on him – they won’t be open­ing any locks any­more.”

For po­lice sta­tions in north­ern Delhi, it’s a com­mon oc­curence. “The max­i­mum num­ber of vagabonds and mi­grant labour­ers with no homes are found in this part of Delhi,” says satish Ku­mar. “since there is no in­jury or other mark on the body, he prob­a­bly died from over­dos­ing on street drugs or from the heat.”

con­sta­ble naren­dra, who has been pa­trolling the Kash­miri gate area for a year now, says it is usual to find one uniden­ti­fied body daily. Dur­ing peak sum­mer, it can go up to five or six in a day.

Po­lice do not even write out a first in­for­ma­tion re­port (Fir) in such cases un­less the body bears in­juries or they sus­pect vi­o­lence. in­ves­ti­ga­tions hap­pen only if there’s the re­motest chance that the per­son might be from an achha ghar, or “good house”. in prac­tice, that trans­lates into some­one from a mid­dle or up­per mid­dle class home. so no Fir for 22-B. He will re­main a DD en­try.

“i will re­main in charge of the body till it is cre­mated,” says satish Ku­mar. “gen­er­ally, that takes about a week.”

so 22-B is sent to the mor­tu­ary, a low, white, sin­gle-storeyed build­ing set in a semi-cir­cu­lar com­pound, it stands be­hind a wide, rusty gate. There is also a clus­ter of small struc­tures, rooms for pa­per­work, two rooms for doc­tors, a wait­ing room. The gate opens only for vans bring­ing in the dead. it’s just a short walk from Metro Pil­lar no. 71 of the red line, be­tween the Pul Ban­gash and Tiz Hazari metro sta­tions. They call it the sabzi Mandi mor­tu­ary, but there is no veg­etable mar­ket in sight. Be­hind the build­ing lies the forested area of Delhi’s north­ern ridge.

This is where 22-B will re­main for now, till it is time to cre­mate him.

in­side, there is a pun­gent smell of chem­i­cals and a stench hang­ing like a mi­asma. The wait­ing room is where fam­i­lies of peo­ple who have died in ac­ci­dents, crimes or by sui­cide mill around. no one re­ally seems to care. They go from the of­fice room to the morgue and talk with the po­lice­men. Quite of­ten, they have to wait for more than eight hours, some­times days.

of bod­ies like that of 22-B, a worker at the mor­tu­ary says, “Most of the time, the au­thor­i­ties hand us de­com­posed bod­ies. some­times, parts are gnawed or eaten away by birds, rats, or other an­i­mals. The very sight is de­press­ing. it’s im­pos­si­ble to even look at th­ese bod­ies. even po­lice­men don’t want to be posted here. given a choice, we would avoid this work, but we have to do our job.”

Mean­while, satish Ku­mar has cir­cu­lated a pho­to­graph of 22-B on a What­sapp group of the po­lice depart­ment. He has also sent it to the Delhi state gov­ern­ment, the po­lice head­quar­ters, the cen­tral Bureau of in­ves­ti­ga­tion (cbi), and the na­tional Hu­man rights com­mis­sion (nhrc).

He has also had 22-B’s fin­ger­prints matched against the records. “They don’t match any of our crim­i­nal records,” he says. The po­lice have also de­cided that 22-B – prob­a­bly be­cause he’s un­cir­cum­cised – is a Hindu.

The next day, the sketchy de­tails of 22-B are up­loaded to the zonal in­te­grated po­lice site. at least from the pa­per­work, it is clear that the po­lice have tried to reach all po­lice sta­tions across the coun­try. There is no an­swer from any­where. no matches with miss­ing per­son re­ports at any po­lice sta­tion. so 22-B will re­main 22-B.

on June 28, the po­lice put out a no­tice for 22-B in a news­pa­per, along with his mugshot. it was a bit vague and got the colour of the clothes wrong. it said:

Ap­peal for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion

Gen­eral pub­lic is hereby in­formed that an un­known dead body was found near DDA Park near Sant Par­manand Blind Hos­pi­tal, Ya­muna Pushta, Delhi Dated 25-06-2018. In this re­gard a DD No - 22B dated 25-06-2018 has been lodged at P.S. Kash­miri Gate, Delhi.

The de­scrip­tion of the dead body is given un­der:

Name: Un­known S/O: Un­known, R/O: Un­known, Sex: Male Age: 40-45 years, Height: 5’5’’ Com­plex­ion: Shal­low (sic) Wear­ing: Sky blue shirt and dark blue pants, bare­footed.

Uniden­ti­fied bod­ies re­cov­ered from the Kash­miri Gate PS area are kept at the Sabzi Mandi mor­tu­ary (pic­tured above) for the manda­tory 72hour pe­riod for claims. Then they are taken for cre­ma­tion or burial.

Sin­cere ef­forts have been made by lo­cal po­lice to trace out the dead per­son but no clue has come to light so far. If any­one hav­ing any in­for­ma­tion about this dead per­son, please in­form un­der­signed. SHO, Kash­miri Gate

Mean­while, 22-B lay on a gur­ney in­side a cold room at the mor­tu­ary, wrapped in a white sheet. since the po­lice de­cided he did not die a vi­o­lent death, there would be no post mortem.

Bod­ies are re­quired to be kept for 72 hours be­fore burial or cre­ma­tion. But of­ten, to save them­selves fre­quent vis­its to the cre­ma­to­rium, the po­lice wait till there are four or five bod­ies. In 22-B’s case, it took 12 days.

on July 6, around 4:30 pm, with no claim be­ing made yet, 22-B’s body and six other bod­ies were taken to a cre­ma­to­rium run by the south Delhi municipal cor­po­ra­tion near sarai Kale Khan. There is no road lead­ing to it. it is out of sight from the traf­fic-heavy Ma­hatma Gandhi Ring Road and the bus­tle of the bus ter­mi­nus, on the Ya­muna side. Hardly any­one knows of it. a mud path near the cng pump on the eastern side of the main road takes you to a wooded area where some con­struc­tion work is on. in an open area with a blue shiva idol, there are two sheds for lo­cal vil­lagers to cre­mate their dead. But the gate­keeper says lo­cals hardly ever come there be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to get wood, flow­ers and puja items here.

There is also a larger, struc­ture of grey stone for those who die alone and un­known on the streets. in a cav­ernous hall with glass panes near the ceil­ing that are browned by soot and dirt stand two in­cin­er­a­tors. The tiled walls too are dirty with soot. There is an air of grey and som­bre dull­ness.

on the evening of July 6, an open white mini­truck with the leg­end ‘guru ki lan­gar seva’ brings in seven bod­ies, in­clud­ing that of 22-B. The bod­ies are all shrouded in white, bound with cord.

al­ready, there are six bod­ies wait­ing there. “The eighth one among the 13 in the hall is of 22-B. it’s writ­ten on the rope bind­ing it.” But all of them look alike, bound in death and anonymity.

an em­ployee at the cre­ma­to­rium says the seven bod­ies that have been brought there that day will have to wait. only one of two in­cin­er­a­tors is work­ing, and it takes two hours for a body to be­come ashes.

so the next day, July 7, a hot and hu­mid satur­day, 22-B’s body is sent into the incin­er­a­tor. no pyre, no flow­ers, no priest. He leaves alone. A worker mur­murs, “May his soul rest in peace.”

For sub-in­spec­tor satish Ku­mar, there is still more pa­per­work to com­plete. “it could take nine months to a year,” he says. “We wait for a few months for miss­ing per­son re­ports etc. af­ter six months, we will send the pa­pers to the sub-di­vi­sional mag­is­trate’s of­fice. Once the SDM signs the pa­pers, the mat­ter is con­sid­ered dis­posed of.”

so one last time, 22-B will be re­mem­bered again. al­beit by po­lice­men and of­fi­cials to whom he was noth­ing more than DD no. 22-B.

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