Smuggling of human skeletons goes unchecked

Mahabub Alam

29th November, 2020 10:51:29 printer

Smuggling of human skeletons goes unchecked

Sohrab Ali Dewan was buried at Uttar Shibpur Govt Graveyard under Sundarban union of Sadar upazila in Dinajpur district 15 months back following his demise. Everything went right until his son recently discovered that his remains were missing.

It did not take Feroz Ali Dewan much time for coming to terms with the fact that the skeleton of his father has been stolen from the grave.

This was not the lone case of stealing skeletons from graves. Thieves dug out around 100 human skeletons from three graveyards in Dinajpur, Gazipur and Tangail districts recently. Besides, dead bodies are going missing from hospital morgues for extracting their skeletons.

Human skeletons, especially skulls and bones, are in a great demand among medical students at both home and abroad. Besides, there is a demand for fresh dead bodies among some medical students who cut those for gathering practical knowledge.

Cashing in on the huge demand, various smuggling gangs trade in human skeletons in the country.

Although law enforcers arrested many smugglers over the last few years, they returned to the old job once they were released from jail on bail.

They have found many graveyards and hospital morgues as a safe haven for stealing human skeletons and bodies to sell those at higher prices at home and abroad.

A complete skeleton is sold for Tk 2-3 lakh, said medical students and doctors.

They said they have no option but to buy skeletons for practical studies through illegal channels due to the absence of a policy in this regard. Police seized 12 human skulls and two sacks of bones from a house in Sadar upazila of Mymensingh district and arrested Saiful Islam, 40, an alleged member of an international skeleton smuggling gang, on November 15 last.

Officer-in-charge of Kotwali Model Police Station Firoz Talukdar said the skeletons were stolen from Kalibari Cemetery in the district and those were supposed to be smuggled to India through Haluaghat border.

Police said the gangs manage to get unclaimed bodies from hospital morgues in connivance with some unscrupulous morgue employees apart from stealing skeletons from different graveyards.

They said there is a gang active in Jurain Graveyard in the capital where unclaimed bodies are buried.

Gang members steal bodies from the graveyard and turn those into skeletons by rotting flesh with the help of a chemical.

Besides, unclaimed bodies are sometimes taken away from hospitals by people posing as their relatives, said sources at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). Some morgue staffers are involved in the illegal practice.

The morgue employees also reportedly preserve human skulls and bones for selling those among the medical college students.

Seeking anonymity, a student of the Anatomy Department of a medical college in the capital told the Daily Sun that they can easily buy skulls and bones from morgue attendants known as doms.

“If anybody orders any skeleton, doms can arrange it,” he said, adding that he got one in such a way.

Admitting the fact, Dr Salimur Rahman, a professor of Hepatology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the Daily Sun that the medical students are in great need of human skulls and bones for practical studies.

He said the price of a skeleton is huge and it is very hard for a poor student to buy a complete one.

Dr Salimur said there is no policy on the sale and purchase of skeletons in the country, which led to smuggling.

He underscored the need for devising a policy in this regard on an urgent basis.

Dr Sohel Mahmud, chief of the DMCH Forensic Department, said: “The students of Department of Anatomy need human skeletons for which they have to shell out huge money. Currently, a student collects skeleton of his/her own as there’s no policy in this regard.”