Mumbai: Muslim cemeteries face space shortage, pressure mounts on Bada Qabrastan

With higher death rate recorded among the Covid-19 patients in the ongoing second wave, the Muslim cemeteries started to run out of burial space in Mumbai.

Owing to the crisis most of the small cemeteries have either stopped burial of Covid-19 patients or have limited the services for those living within the close range of the cemetery. In this situation, the pressure of burying the bodies is mounting on the Bada Qabarstan in South Mumbai, as this is the only Muslim cemetery in the city which is conducting last rites and burials of those succumbed with covid19 at present.

According to the rules laid out by state and civic authorities, any patient succumbing to Covid-19 is buried by wrapping the body in a PPE. Trustees of the cemeteries have said, usually the graves are reused as a normal body gets decomposed within eighteen months of burial, however since the bodies of Covid patients are wrapped in plastic made PPEs, it takes minimum five years for the body to get decomposed entirely and in the meanwhile, the pit remains unfit for reuse.

"At present all the burial of Covid bodies is happening in our cemetery, bodies are coming not only from all over Mumbai but also from satellite cities like Bhiwandi and Mumbra as well. Most of the smaller graveyards are now afraid that they might run out of pit," said Shoaib Khatib, trustee and chairperson of Jumma Masjid - that manages the Bada Qabarstan.

Khatib said owing to the crisis the entire cemetery has been divided into seven parts, two parts have been dedicated for the burial of covid-19 patients, four different parts have been dedicated for the burial of non-covid bodies and one part have been dedicated for the unidentified corpses. He also said that so far 1,100 bodies have been buried in the cemetery and four to five new covid-19 bodies arrive at the cemetery daily.

"When the second wave was at its peak we buried more than 15 bodies in a day. I guess we have enough space to last the second wave but we really don't know what to do if the pandemic continues," Khatib said.

Javed Baroudgar, trustee of Juhu Garden cemetery at Santacruz said that so far they have buried 34 bodies and only less than ten pits are left in their cemetery now.

"Earlier bodies from Bandra and Khar used to come over here, but due to space constraints we have stopped allowing covid-19 bodies from places other than Santacruz. The bodies don't decompose and there is a decaying smell everywhere," Baroudgar told FPJ.

Requesting anonymity another trustee of a Borivli cemetery said that often kin of the deceased break into fight with them due to space issues.

"Most of the cemeteries are being given less than one acre of space and they are getting filled easily owing to the rise in population," he said.

Advocate Mohiuddin Ahmad Vaid who is set to move the Bombay high court claimed that the BMC hasn't yet handed them over space for setting up new cemeteries that was allotted by the high court decades back.

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