Footballer dies, 1st wife shocked after body sent to 'official' spouse

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The family of an Indian footballer was in for a shock when a dispute erupted between his two wives - both unaware of the presence of the other - about who had the rightful claim on the man’s dead body. The first family was, however, allowed to see his funeral over a video call.

Naresh Aula, a well-known midfielder from Ganjam district of Odisha, passed away at a hospital in Silchar area of Assam on the morning of June 10. He was 34 and spent the majority of his career playing for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

Aula, who worked as security supervisor in ONGC since 2009, was posted to Silchar a couple of years ago after serving in Mumbai for a decade. A formidable midfielder, Naresh represented Odisha three times in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in the Santosh Trophy before he started playing for the ONGC at the reputed I-league.

The night before he died, he had reportedly spoken to his family staying in the Bhanjanagar area of Ganjam district and expressed his desire to come back home. His elder brother Bishnu Aula, who spoke to him, said he had advised the footballer to put off the visit as he was likely to be put in quarantine for 14 days upon arrival due to raging coronavirus pandemic. The next morning, his family - which included his wife Arathi, his parents and other siblings - in Bhanjanagar were told that he had passed away in a hospital at Silchar.

“When we spoke to the ONGC officials asking them to send my brother’s body to our home, we were told that a woman from Mizoram, named Lal Muan Kui, is a claimant for the body as her name was listed as my brother’s wife in the official records. We were shocked as my brother was already married (since 2012) and has a four-year-old daughter,” said Bishnu.

As the wait for the body went on till evening that day, the family contacted the office of the union ministry of petroleum and natural gas, the parent ministry of the ONGC. “We were told that a decision will be taken. We sent the video clip of my brother’s marriage as well as the photo of her daughter on WhatsApp seeking the ministry’s intervention. However, on June 11 night we were told that the body has been sent to Mizoram as in the ONGC records his legally wedded wife’s name was not there,” he said.

The family was however allowed a small concession as they could see Naresh’s burial ceremony over video calling. “We were too shocked to react,” said his father Alabandru Aula.

The footballer’s family said they would meet petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan seeking his intervention in the case.

The footballer’s elder brother said the family came to know about the presence of another woman in his life four years ago after some of the fellow footballers informed them about it. “However, he kept dodging our queries. Our suspicion increased when he stopped coming to Odisha one and half years ago citing work pressure,” said his brother.

Naresh also played for the Maharashtra state football team.

An ONGC spokesman said he would look into the case.

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