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Uttar Pradesh

Why Muslims in this UP village are burying the dead in their homes

June 21, 2019 05:28 AM

COURTESY TIMES OF INDIA JUNE 21

Why Muslims in this UP village are burying the dead in their homes
After Local Administration Allotted Land For A Graveyard In A Pond, Families Were Forced To Turn Their Houses Into Burial Sites
Anuja.Jaiswal@timesgroup.com

“You’re sitting on my grand mother’s grave,” Salim Shah told this correspondent. She has been buried, he said, in his living room.

A clutch of houses in Chah Pokhar in Achnera block of Agra have turned into graveyards as families are forced to bury their departed in their homes due to lack of a burial ground. As a result, the dead here are a constant part of day-to-day life. TOI found women cooking next to where their children were buried while the elderly rested on cots in a backyard full of graves.


In one of the houses, Rinki Begum told TOI that five bodies were buried in her backyard, including that of her 10-month-old son who had died of an untreated fever. Another resident, Guddi, said, “For poor people like us, there is no dignity in death. Due to lack of space in houses, people have to sit and walk over graves. It is so disrespectful.”

Most of the Muslim families here are poor and landless and men scout for work as contract labourers. They said their demand for a graveyard has been ignored for years.

The apathy of the administration can be gauged from the fact that a plot allotted for a graveyard some years ago falls right in the middle of a pond. Repeated complaints have fallen on deaf ears and residents are running out of space. The fresh graves are no more cemented to ensure they occupy less space and stones of different sizes kept over them are the only way to tell them apart.

Protests have erupted in the past over the issue. In 2017, after the death of resident Mangal Khan, his family refused to bury his body until land for a graveyard was provided in the village. After assurances by the authorities, they buried Khan near the pond. But the promises came to nothing.

“All we are asking for is some land for our ancestors. There is a cremation ground for the Hindus in the periphery of the village, but we are living with our dead,” said Munim Khan, a factory worker.

Desperate residents even tried reaching out to nearby Sanan village and Achnera town that have burial grounds. But they were not willing to part with precious space. “These two villages have a larger Muslim population than Chah Pokhar. Their burial grounds are filled to capacity,” said Nizam Khan, a mechanic.

Village pradhan Sundar Kumar said that he had asked officials several times for a burial ground for Muslim families, but no action was taken.

Ravi Kumar NG, the district magistrate, said that he was not aware of the issue. “I will send an official team to the village and get details of the burial land required.”

 

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