Asthi Visarjan is a very significant ritual in the Hindu religion which basically means immersion of the left ashes collected from Antim Sanskar (Last Rites) of a dead person.
But in the time of Covid-19 the basic meaning of “Asthi Visarjan” i.e., immersion of ashes have been misunderstood as ‘Bodies’ now. And we saw that ‘Bodies’ are being offered to the River Ganga instead of ‘Ashes.’ Uncountable dead bodies have been unearthed floating over Ganga and are so thronged that there is not even a distance of one meter between the cadavers.
India Today reported that a lot of carcasses are wandering on the river. Corpses are stuck by the rocks or floating around almost every bend. The remains of the bodies are seen being nibbled on by crows and dogs. And the number of bodies on the river is unimaginable.
The situation is so exacerbated that the NHRC has to take cognizance of a complaint about the floating of dead bodies over Ganga in several parts of UP and Bihar taking a step forward for the protection of the fundamental rights of the corpses for a decent burial.
Article 21: – A Life Insurance?
The term ‘Life Insurance’ is truly in consonant with Article 21 here in this context. It can be said that Article 21 is also a form of “Zindagi ke sath bhi, Zindagi ke baad bhi” (in life, and after life). The intention behind correlating Article 21 with life insurance is to signify that it doesn’t bestow the right to life only but makes sure that the right of a person must be protected after life as well ensuring the protection of all the rights uttered under Article 21 such as the Right to privacy, the right of dignity and fair treatment and of course, the right to a decent burial.
Different courts have extended and revised the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution by making the right of cremation with dignity inseparable from the right to life in different decisions and have repetitively recognised the need to give equitable care to a dead body (human corpse) after death and doing so with proper dignity.
It is worth getting know that not only the “Right to a decent burial”, but “as per the religious rules” is also a fundamental right. And the same has been reiterated by the Supreme court in the Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India in which the supreme court reaffirmed that the dignity of the dead ought to be preserved and honoured. It also extended the right to appropriate cremations according to the religious customs of homeless deceased people.
Furthermore, In the case of Pt. Parmanand Katara Vs. Union of India, it was upheld by the Supreme court that “the word and expression ‘person’ in article 21, would include a dead person in a limited sense and that his rights to his life which includes his right to live with human dignity, to have an extended meaning to treat his dead body with respect and the State must respect a dead person by allowing the body of that dead person to be treated with dignity”.
It clearly mentions that the government is also obligated to protect the right to a decent burial with human dignity as per the religious rules.