The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fury over scalpel slash and ‘missing’ toll

Meerut, April 12: Doctors threatened a strike and students went on the rampage at the district magistrate’s office today as rumours of “missing” fire victims continued to fuel anger in Meerut.

The strike threat came after angry relatives and alleged BJP activists scuffled with a doctor at the city’s morgue and slashed him with a scalpel used for post-mortems.

Last evening, some people ' allegedly from the BJP ' discovered four skulls near the morgue at Meerut Medical College and Hospital and all hell broke loose.

They vented their fury on doctors, who said the skulls were from the adjacent anatomy department. Usually, they are buried at a nearby spot, but some medical students might have thrown away the skulls after using them, doctors argued.

Around the same time, the relatives of a victim squabbled with some doctors over the “theft” of a ring from a corpse. The finger on which it was worn had been torn off the charred body.

The skull protesters soon joined the relatives and heated exchanges and a scuffle followed. The crowd snatched a scalpel and wounded a doctor with it, after which post-mortems came to a stop.

However, the doctors were back on the job this morning. They said if there is a strike, it would not hamper post-mortem operations.

One man was arrested and the government doctors’ association gave an ultimatum to the administration: if two others allegedly involved in the incident are not arrested in the next 24 hours, its members would stop work, shutting down the outpatients’ departments first.

The official toll of 35, including those who succumbed to burn injuries, also had students crying foul.

An army of students from Meerut College barged into the office of the now-replaced district magistrate Ram Krishna, smashing furniture and ransacking the room.

The DM was not in his office as the students voiced their protest against the administration’s “cover-up” of the number of people “actually” killed in the blaze that swept through a consumer fair at Victoria park on Monday evening.

The charge was triggered by rumours that “truckloads” of corpses were dumped by police and administration officials.

Five student leaders were picked up from the gates of Meerut College, prompting students to block traffic for a few hours at two places this afternoon.

“Two thousand people have died,” a student leader screamed to the media. “We don’t want the compensation, just give us the bodies,” another said.

Anger was palpable among many Meerut residents as well, who said the official toll is too “low”.

The list of “missing”, too, has raised questions. The administration said it had received reports of 40 missing people ' the number is far less than what residents are claiming. Of the 40, 29 have been traced, officials said.

Till this afternoon, only seven corpses remained unidentified.

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