A surgeon had to bury his colleague with a shovel and the help of two ward boys at cemetery in Chennai in the middle of the night on Sunday after a mob attacked their ambulance over coronavirus fears.
Dr Simon Hercules, who died on Sunday after he contracted COVID-19 reportedly from his patients, was being taken to a cemetery when a mob attacked the ambulance, alleging that it would spread the infection.
The ambulance driver and few corporation health officials were injured as the mob threw bricks, stones, bottles and sticks and chased them away despite the presence of police. They stopped the burial at two cemeteries.
The windscreen of the ambulance in which the body of the 55-year-old neurosurgeon was brought to the crematorium was smashed and even the casket was not spared, news agency PTI reported.
Recounting the horror, Dr K Pradeep Kumar, an orthopaedic and arthroscopy surgeon, told PTI, "The two ambulance drivers who were shifting the body from the vehicle to the ground sustained severe injuries."
Two sanitation officials who were in charge of the burial were injured severely and three others were also attacked, he said.
Dr Kumar said he then decided to pick up some protective gear, take two ward boys and drive the ambulance himself to the crematorium again.
"The ward boys and I quickly lowered the body into the pit as we were afraid that the violence may be repeated... Even policemen were afraid of coming near us," he said.
"There was just one shovel which I gave to one of the ward boys and two of us used our hands to fill the about 8-10 feet pit," he added.
"It took over an hour for us to complete the task and by then it was about 1.30 am (Monday)," he said, adding a policeman lent a helping hand towards the end," he said.
The Chennai Police have arrested 21 people and registered a case of rioting among other charges.
Taking up the matter on its own, the Madras High Court sent a notice to the Tamil Nadu government over the incident.
The government doctors association has said the police should have sent adequate security.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) too warned of "appropriate retaliatory measures" if the authorities fail to stop such incidents.
"It is a matter of great concern that these doctors who had died in their line of duty be treated shabbily and in such an uncivilised manner," the doctors' body said in a statement, adding if the state governments do not have power to stop such incidents, "they lose their moral right to govern".
Recently, the body of a doctor from Andhra Pradesh who died from COVID-19 was not allowed at a Chennai crematorium.
Tamil Nadu registered 43 new coronavirus cases on Monday, taking the total to 1,520. With the death of another doctor, the number of dead reached 17.