Yogi Adityanath

By Piyush Srivastava  

After denying any oxygen shortage, the Yogi Adityanath government is focusing on hiding the spiralling Covid deaths by covering up crematories and banning pictures of the burning pyres that are now circulating worldwide.

High plastic and cloth banners have been put up all along the pavement railings on the only open side of Rajghat, the lone cremation ground in the chief minister’s hometown of Gorakhpur, blocking view of the pyres and the long queues of bodies.

Citing religious sanctity, the banners criminalise the shooting of photos or videos of the crematory.

“The last rites of the dead are going on according to Hindu customs. Please don’t do photography/ videography. It’s a punishable offence,” the banners say.

“No law says that taking pictures of a cremation ground is a crime,” Sunil Sharma, a Lucknow-based lawyer, said.

“Many feature films are shot on cremation grounds amid real cremations. Perhaps the government will now book whoever takes pictures of cremations on the charge of disturbing law and order.”

Pictures of cremation grounds where burning pyres have taken up almost every inch of space have generated bad global publicity for Indian authorities’ handling of the second wave of the Covid outbreak.

In mid-April, the Adityanath government had covered up both of Lucknow’s crematories, Baikunth Dham and Gullala Ghat, by fencing them with iron sheets.

Rajghat, which has an electric incinerator and about two dozen temporary platforms for pyres, already has brick walls on three sides.

An official from the Gorakhpur Nagar Nigam, the municipal authority that has put up the banners, said: “We received an order to cover up the area and did so. We now receive up to 45 bodies a day, up from 6 or 7 during the normal times earlier. There isn’t enough firewood; so queues form.”