It is 80 days now, but constable Dalbir Singh cannot afford to lower his guard even for a minute. His job, along with 11 of his colleagues, is to protect a morgue in the only government hospital in Pathankot.
Also referred to as the “Dead House” by local policemen, the morgue can be tracked from a distance because of the unbearable stench emanating from it. It has been provided security since the bodies of the four terrorists killed at the Pathankot airbase on January 2 were brought here.
With only two freezers available, two bodies are sharing space in each compartment. On Monday, a day before Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team is to visit the airbase, officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) collected the post-mortem reports and briefed the doctors, in case the JIT examines them. All the four have been identified by the NIA.
When the bodies were brought here they were perforated with bullets. The encounter took place on January 2 but we were handed over the bodies only on January 7. By this time, it had started to decompose. It was a challenge keeping it intact as grenade explosion had also caused much damage to the bodies. There was dry blood and holes all over the bodies,” said Chaman Lal, the attendant at the morgue at Pathankot Civil Hopsital. Lal has been assisting the doctors in conducting autopsies at the hospital since 1991. This is the first time he is seeing anything like this.
“There are maggots all over the body. I have to clean them at regular intervals. There is a special chemical which comes for the purpose and we have to ensure no damage is done to the bodies as it is also a piece of evidence. Itne din ho gaye hain, badi mushkil hoti hai keedon ko saaf karne mein (its been so many days, difficult to clean the maggots),” said Lal.
A policeman posted at the morgue said that the stench becomes unbearable when the power goes off. “It is difficult to even stand here then. When there is no electricity, the freezer stops working. The ice in the freezer melts and stinking water comes out, forget the stink it is also harmful for health as it contains hazardous fluid of the dead bodies,” the policeman said.
NIA asked hospital to preserve bodies
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has written to the Pathankot Civil Hospital not to dispose of the bodies of the four terrorists killed at the Pathankot airbase on January 2 till it issues an order.
“We have given clear instructions to the hospital authorities not to dispose of the bodies as they are evidence for us,” said an NIA official.
Head constable Vinod Kumar is on alert whenever anybody approaches the morgue.
“We have clear instructions not to allow anyone near the room. If terrorists could come till the airbase, then this place cannot be beyond their reach. Our senior officers conduct daily rounds to check on the bodies and a van from the police control room is also stationed near the boundary wall every night,” Mr. Kumar said.
Senior medical officer at the hospital, Dr. Bhupinder Singh said, “since we got the bodies four-five days after the encounter, there were some changes in it. They are being preserved in deep freezers and the temperature is between minus three to four degrees Celsius. There is no embalming done as no shifting had to take place.”
2015 Kashmir Despatch