Wednesday, 21 February, 2024

Teenage girl volunteers to cremate unclaimed bodies at Aryaghat


By Binu Shrestha
Kathmandu, Aug. 4: Sapana Roka Magar, an 18-year-old girl, is found visiting mortuaries of the Kathmandu Valley hospitals inquiring about the unidentified bodies and volunteering to perform their last rites at the Pashupati Aryaghat as per the Hindu tradition. A teenage girl, she should be enjoying her days in college, but she is found cremating unidentified bodies accumulated in mortuaries of hospitals.
A permanent resident of Bukeni, Barnja of Myagdi district, she has been cremating abandoned bodies for four months. Magar said that she cremated 43 unidentified bodies since she took up the odd job in February this year. Sharing her first visit to the mortuary of TU Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj, she said, “I rushed out repulsed by the horrifying bodies lying in the room.”
The first abandoned body she cremated was that of an 18/19-year-old woman along with her infant, wrapped in a plastic sheet. It might have been taken out of the womb of the girl during the post-mortem process, she said.
“The movement to cremate the girl of my own age is a very difficult task for me. Tears were rolling down my eyes and my hands and legs were shaking in fear when cremating the body. The infant was also buried in the forest across the Bagmati River as per Hindu tradition,” she said.
Magar is working together with Binaya Jung Basnet, who has been cremating the abandoned bodies for six years. Recalling her past, she said she visited Kathmandu to apply for studies in Japan. Meanwhile, I met Basnet’s daughter. My application was rejected but I got closer with Basnet.
“I was school level district topper of Myagdi and passed SLC from Mahendra Ratna Secondary School. I started 10+2 from Beni staying at a hostel. My aim was to become a doctor, but I was deviated from my aim when I met a person through Facebook.
“I was exceedingly engaged on social media, did not stay a second without using the mobile; it had become an addiction for me. My parents arranged my marriage with the guy whom I met on Facebook at the age of 16. I could not stay at his home for more than two months after marriage because he was a drug addict. I returned to my parent’s home, ending the relation with him,” she recalled.
“The discrimination, hatred, gossiping about my past by the community does not allow me to stay with my parents and continue further study. I decided to go to Pokhara and completed my class 12 study form here,” she added.
Magar has been staying at Mahalaxmi Municiplaity-7 of Lalitpur-based ‘Ba Aama Ghar’ supporting social works of Basnet and cremating unclaimed bodies for five months.
She said, “I will continue my Bachelor level study once colleges open but I will also continue cremation task simultaneously.”
Basnet started cremating unclaimed bodies after his father’s body was labeled as unclaimed –found lying in the mortuary of TU Teaching Hospital after he was killed in a road accident. He said, “We have cremated 75 unclaimed bodies during the lockdown period and the number of bodies he cremated reached 280.”
Although other people don’t want to touch and go near such bodies, she shows her bravery to touch the decomposing bodies and cremate them as per Hindu tradition, he added. “I feel fortunate to find a partner to support and push ahead my cremation work. I am not worried about the future because I found her to continue cremation work even after my death,” he said.
They are working together to cremate unclaimed bodies like other bodies and are going to cremate a headless body of a young girl which was found on Hanumante River near Gatthagar during the lockdown.
It is said that the departed souls of the mortals will rest in peace only if their last rites are performed properly, Basnet added.