An elderly M Parkash is disappointed in the poor state of affairs of Hindu burial spaces in Hyderabad.
“Until 1976, there was a big burial space where I had also witnessed a cremation,” said Parkash, who is also a rights campaigner.
Parkash was referring to the burial and cremation space on Massan Road in Tando Wali Mohammad area of Hyderabad. “It used to be a 14-acre plot until the 1970s, but now it is all gone as land grabbers have swallowed it in various shapes and manners,” he regretted. “Now there are houses, oil mills and all sorts of construction here.”
Land-grabbing of burial spaces of religious minorities has become a common phenomenon due to weak administrative oversight across the province. The Muslim majority also faces identical issues in all major urban centres as land grabbers encroach areas at will.
These spaces also suffer from lack of civic facilities. Cash-strapped civic bodies fail to ensure proper amenities even in normal conditions, which is why recent monsoon rains inundated graveyards for people of all faiths.
“The illegal occupation of our graveyards and burial spaces is everywhere,” said Lal Malhi, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Member National Assembly. “We keep getting complaints and also try to get them vacated,” he added.
Umerkot is the birthplace of Mughal Emperor Akbar and is located on the left bank of River Indus, bordering India. There are a number of Hindus in the district, including Malhi. “Recently, a research institute of Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) was allotted land in Umerkot but unfortunately a burial space of the Hindu community was also included in that allocation,” he shared.
However, the community was assured by PARC officials that their burial space would not be disturbed. Malhi informed that scheduled caste Hindus bury their dead instead of the usual religious practice of cremation.
The matter of shrinking burial spaces of minorities is also under consideration of a Supreme Court-appointed commission working to implement the court’s landmark 2014 judgment outlining measures for protection of minorities in the country.
Pakistan Hindu Council founder Dr Ramesh Vankwani, a PTI lawmaker assisting the commission, said they are working to come up with ways to resolve this issue.
In Hyderabad, Parkash said a private builder has donated around 1.5 acres of land near Hala Naka for the community’s burial space and graveyard. He asserted that as the venue was located on the outskirts of the city, it would be well maintained.
“The cremation place in the city in Hali Road area is a space for burying the dead men of scheduled castes but now it is fully occupied and we need more space,” he stated further.
Parkash also deplored the fact that even in recent rains, Hindu burial spaces near Tando Yousuf painted a pathetic picture as all the graves remained inundated with sewage.
“Hopefully the Hala Naka land will address this issue and it stand resolved to some degree,” he prayed.