Two arrested after monkey funeral breaks India's Covid laws

Many Hindus consider monkeys to be sacred and they are often seen as the reincarnation of Lord Hanuman — the monkey God

A monkey eats a chapati from a garbage bin in New Delhi. AFP
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Indian police arrested two people suspected of violating pandemic prohibitions after they organised a funeral for a stray monkey that was attended by hundreds of mourners.

More than 1,500 people gathered in Dalupura village in Central India’s Madhya Pradesh state last week to attend the funeral after the monkey died on December 29.

They carried the monkey's carcass amid chanting of hymns and traditional band music before cremating the animal at a traditional Hindu ceremony on December 30.

A mass feast was also organised after the cremation event, where hundreds of men, women and children milled together, mostly without masks or social distancing.

Villagers pooled money for the event and even printed and distributed invitation cards for the Hindu funeral ritual feast.

Many Hindus consider monkeys sacred as they are often seen as the reincarnation of Lord Hanuman, the monkey God.

The animals are widely treated with compassion and offered food across cities and towns.

The monkey had strayed into the village last month, the head of the village, Arjun Singh Chouhan, said. It is thought to have died of cold.

“It is a custom in our village that if a monkey dies here, then all residents get together to perform funeral rituals that are done for any human being,” Mr Singh told local media.

Videos of the event were shared widely on social media, prompting the police to take action.

Breaking Covid-19 restrictions

The police have accused five people of organising the events and charged them with violating Covid-19 rules.

Two of the accused have been arrested while the others remain at large.

“We are analysing the videos to identify more people involved in the event,” Pradeep Sharma, the district Superintendent of Police, told The National.

“The villagers had feelings attached to the animal … religious and spiritual feelings. The whole village somehow attached the monkey to religion and organised the funeral events,” Mr Sharma said.

Madhya Pradesh has imposed coronavirus restrictions and banned large gatherings following a spike in the Covid-19 cases fuelled by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

At least 2,300 fresh cases were reported in the state on Tuesday, pushing the state’s Covid-19 tally to more than 800,000. More than 10,537 people have died in the state since the pandemic began.

India is witnessing a huge rise in coronavirus cases in recent days, with authorities reporting more than 168,000 fresh cases and 277 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The surge has brought back severe restrictions on public movement across many parts, including night and weekend curfews, along with bans on public gatherings.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 4:00 PM