Local authorities order DNA tests to ascertain the identity of two bodies - one being claimed by two families.
Disputed bodies add to misery of bombings
Kolkata // After losing his brother in one of Thursday's serial bombs, Naran Nath is now facing another trauma. Standing outside the morgue of the Gauhati Medical College Hospital, in a crowd of mourning relatives of the victims, Mr Nath said he had found the body of his brother Bipul Nath, but the hospital refused to hand it over because another family had claimed it as their son. Showing the corpse, partly covered by a white cloth and lying on the floor of the morgue, Mr Nath said: "He is my brother. I can clearly identify him by his height and the shape of his head. For two days he has been lying here. I want to take him home for last rites as soon as possible. But hospital authority is not listening to my cries." But Pranjit Bhuyan, a college teacher in Guwahati, said the body is of none other than his 37-year-old brother, Anupam Bhuyan. "From the tooth-line and structure of his body I am dead sure it is my brother. How can I fail to identify my own brother with whom I have grown up from my childhood and I meet regularly, living in the same city?" As some bereaved families are caught in a painful tug-of-war over the custody of the badly charred bodies of their dead relatives, local authorities have ordered DNA tests to ascertain the identity of two bodies - one being claimed by two families and the other by at least three families. The relatives say they want the disputes over the identity of the bodies settled sooner because they are decomposing rapidly. Dr Rituraj Chaliha, head of the forensic science department of Guwahati hospital, said: "The bodies are so badly burnt that it is impossible to identify them by their looks. There are more than one claimant for a body and so DNA test was the only way to settle all disputes." DNA samples of the two disputed bodies have been collected, and as soon as the reports come the bodies will be handed over to their actual relatives, Dr Chaliha said. "We were told that it could take up to two weeks to get the DNA tests conducted, which would be done outside our state. By the time the reports reach us nothing will remain of my brother's body. I think I have to carry only his bones in a bag for cremation," Mr Nath said. The death toll from Thursday's blasts reached 81 yesterday, but it could rise. A junior doctor in the Guwahati hospital, where most victims have been admitted, said some victims had critical burn injuries. "At least 15 of the survivors, who are still in our hospital, have suffered serious burn injuries. There must be some more victims lying in other hospitals [in Bongaigaon, Barpeta Road and Kokrajharwhere other bomb attacks took place] in the same critical shape. As it happens in most burn cases, we cannot assure even in the next one, two or three weeks that they are out of danger," said the doctor, who did not want to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Considering the magnitude of the explosions, some analysts believe that had the blasts taken place a couple of hours before or late in the afternoon, when the roads are usually more crowded, the casualty could have been three or four times higher. "We have seen explosions in Assam for nearly 30 years now, but these blasts were different. Never has Assam seen such devastation and death in a single day," said Padam Pani, a forensic analyst who has investigated many explosions in the region for more than two decades. "Those involved in the blasts were clearly trying to send a message across that they would stop at nothing to spread terror." An Assamese journalist, Samudragupta Kashyap, said that for the first time the people of Assam saw sights resembling those from Iraq and Afghanistan. "The scale and magnitude of these blasts were different from all those we have seen in the past." Police detained three local Muslims for interrogation and a local TV station received a text message claiming responsibility for the bomb attacks from a group called ISF-IM, which investigators believe is the abbreviation for Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen. But many of Assam's top police and security officials still consider United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) as the main suspect. "We are certain that local separatists, the United Liberation Front of Assam, were behind the explosions," said GM Srivastava, a senior police official in Assam. "They have been triggering explosions for a while - maybe not on this scale - but no other group has the organisation and manpower to co-ordinate this kind of an offensive here in Assam." Mr Srivastava said that as the ULFA has lost a good number of its armed fighters in clashes with security forces or because of large-scale desertions in recent years, it has resorted more and more to the use of explosives. "In the past six years ULFA has engineered at least 11 serial explosions in Assam? But this time, they seemed determined to kill people, not just spread panic, and kill people at random, regardless of whether they were Assamese or not. This is new," Mr Srivastava said. Many security officials said that in its presently weakened position ULFA, to carry out the latest attack, might have enlisted the help of an Islamic group from Bangladesh where in recent months the Indian rebels have been spotted with Bangladeshi Islamic Holy War Movement (HUJI) cadres in special meetings. "Top ULFA leaders like [military chief] Paresh Barua and Arabinda Rajkhowa could have not been able to live in Bangladesh and organised training camps for its cadres for so long if they did not have good support from HUJI or even other militant Islamic groups. Bangladeshi immigrant Muslims have recently been violently attacked in Assam. We have a strong reason to believe that HUJI and even other Islamic groups might have helped ULFA carry out Thursday's bombings in Assam," said one New Delhi-based federal intelligence officer, who did not want to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media. "In the past, ULFA had launched bomb attacks and they denied them, we know. So, even though the group has denied their hands in these latest blasts, we should not believe them. * The National