In Hyderabad’s Tando Yusuf locality, which houses the city’s largest and oldest graveyard, a small road divides the Muslim and Hindu portions, with the former comprising vast tracts of land and the latter spread over a much smaller area, and that too on land claimed by the Pakistan Railways.
Decades of official neglect, coupled with the low priority for the plight of minorities, paint a dismal picture as far as the Hindu graveyard is concerned.
With the recent monsoon rains submerging vast areas of the city, the situation in the Hindu graveyard is deplorable, with standing water mixed with solid waste blanketing burial spots and eroding access — a problem compounded by the lack of a boundary wall. While the condition is more or less the same in the adjacent Muslim graveyard, a recent visit showed that dewatering machines have been placed there by the municipal authorities, who were stirred into action after a public outcry and complaints by legislators.
Sindh’s second largest city houses around half-a-dozen graveyards of Christians and Hindus. Tragically, even without heavy rains, these graveyards are in a state of disrepair, if they remain at all. From insanitation to encroachment, the issues confronting these places are many and unending. Civic agencies primarily responsible for their upkeep remain least bothered and offer only excuses. Even though a substantial number of people from minorities are associated with sanitation departments, they unfortunately fail to get the attention of relevant officials to fix a pressing community problem such as this.
Referring to the Tando Yusuf Hindu graveyard, Boota Imtiaz, a Christian social activist, said, “We also bury our dead in this graveyard of Valmiki Hindu as there was an understanding between the elders of our communities.” He complained how, despite promises, the authorities have failed to erect a boundary wall there.
Rainwater also recently inundated a Hindu graveyard behind Rajputana Hospital, near Diplai Memon Society. “We can’t visit our beloved deceased,” regretted Mahinder, chairman of Maharishi Naval Seva Samaj, Hyderabad. “We had to collect donations to dispose of rainwater from the graveyard,” he explained.
Detailing other problems, Mahinder complained that the “graveyard is facing encroachment issues as some people have built their katcha houses there.” He feared that if the situation is not rectified, they may lose the right of passage to enter their own graveyards.
Other than the wrath of nature, commercial activity is another threat to the city’s graveyards for minorities.
The site of one of the oldest graveyards in Hyderabad, known as ‘Massan’, has been encroached upon from end to end, and according to patron of District Hindu Panchayat M Parkash, it has now all but disappeared owing to land-grabbers. “Massan stretched over 14 acres but now homes and commercial properties have emerged all over it with the authorities turning a blind eye,” he asserted.
More or less similar stories emanate from the remaining Christian and Hindu graveyards of the city, prompting the already-marginalised minorities to wonder if they’ll find peace even beyond the grave.