Bengaluru’s Mercy Angels ensure dignified funerals to 1800 COVID-19 Victims

While thousands of people are witnessing the loss of their loved ones due to Covid-19, the need to follow unknown last rites adds to the burden. Social service initiatives in Bengaluru, such as Mercy Angels, voluntarily help people in arranging funerals for the Covid-19 patients and perform their last rites.

Hazrat Bismillah Shah Hospital (HBS Hospital), popularly known in Shivajinagar, become the centre of Covid-19 activity during the pandemic. Mercy Angels was started by a team from HBS hospital led by Dr. Taha Mateen. The team comprised of Veeresh , Ayub, Imran, Dr Shariq Shabeer and Sha Imdad. When people faced challenges of performing the last rites of Covid-19 patients and were frightened to do the last rites of their close ones due to the scare of catching the virus, this organization stepped in to perform a dignified funeral.

When they started their mission in March, their team had six which grew beyond 40 people from several different organizations. Tanveer Ahmed has been a volunteer since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Speaking to THG, he said, “Each community has its own last rituals and practices. While some prefer burying and cremating, the linagayats bury their dead in a sitting position and Mercy Angels have been able to perform even those. To date, we have performed almost 1800 last rites of people of all faiths and traditions.”

Burials of Muslims, Hindu, and Christian burials, including cremations of Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jains have been performed.

Ahmed said during the spike of the second wave, they performed last rites of over 20 plus cases in a day and it would even take 12-15 hours to cremate each body. “There are many volunteers in the burial grounds from several different organisations and we collaborate with them too,” he added.

Ahmed stated, “we have done end-to-end services, which means picking up the bodies from the hospital, getting documentation till cremating them and even helping the family in picking up the ashes.”

“Also, in many instances, we have guided many people over call and got them connected . We were lucky that other NGOs also collaborated with us,” Tanveer Ahmed noted.

He added that Mercy Angels have performed the last rites of people from many other states and countries who had nobody. The deceased were from Gurajat, Assam, Kashmir, UP, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, including an Indonesian and a Bangladeshi national. Also many unclaimed bodies were lying for almost days or even weeks and this charitable organisation performed their last rites by sending them off with dignity.

He said that they have been able to sustain and deliver even when there was a decline in fatalities in the month of December, January February, when they hardly got about 10 cases a month. “In any case, Mercy Angels were there and would never say no. We were there even when we were getting 20-25 cases collectively a day. To perform the last rites of any dead body, it takes a lot of people. It is all teamwork. We have been able to touch so many people. It is a blessing for us to help people in such crucial times of their need.” he concluded.

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