The Uttarakhand high court has asked petitioner Ajay Gautam to visit the area in Kedarnath affected by June 2013 'Himalayan Tsunami'. In a public interest litigation (PIL) filed last year, Gautam, a resident of Delhi, said bodies of the deceased were not cremated as per Hindu rituals. The next hearing in the matter has been scheduled for March 24.
A bench of justices V K Bist and U C Dhyani advised the petitioner to visit the affected areas in the Kedar valley and get an idea of how things were going.
Ever since the petitioner approached the court last year, the HC pulled up the state government many times for shoddy replies in the matter. In June last year, the court had even instructed the government for DNA profiling of the unidentified bodies.
More than 40 bodies were found buried under debris in the Kedar valley as late as June last year, i.e. a year after the tragedy.
The government, on its part, said there were no bodies left to be cremated any more.
A 78-member special task force (STF) led by then DIG G S Martolia and Uttarakashi-based Nehru Mountaineering Institute director Ajay Kothiyal had recovered over 650 bodies from 23 km pedestrian trek ranging from Gaurikund to Kedarnath between June 2013 and November 2014.
Secretary in Uttarakshi Disaster Management department Bhaskaranand Joshi told TOI that STF members had cremated all bodies as per religious rites hours after they were recovered from different places.
"In an affidavit filed in the court, we had clearly said that all the bodies were cremated as per the religious rites and no fresh bodies were found from the region after November 2014," Joshi said.
Speaking about Tuesday's hearing, Gautam told TOI: "Even terrorists like Kasab got his last rites performed properly but these people who died in that tragedy are being denied this. I will visit the affected areas of the valley, like Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Joshimath and Kedarnath, as per the court's instruction before the next hearing."
In August last year, the petitioner had submitted photographs as proof to support his contention that that the state government had failed to cremate and carry out the last rites of the victims. "There were 10,000 victims, and only 500 have been cremated by the state government. The question is: Where are the other victims, and what happened to their bodies?" the petitioner had told the court.
Blaming the state government's negligent attitude for letting the disaster happen, Gautam said the government ignored a 2006 report of the expert committee on glaciers which allowed the heavy rainfall turn into the 'Himalayan tsunami' in June 2013.