In light of the Matariya cemetery in Khaswadi area of Vadodara — the designated cemetery for COVID-19 burials of deceased patients belonging to the Muslim community — nearing its maximum capacity, the administration is now identifying burial grounds that could be used in the near future. Members of qabrastan (cemetery) trusts have suggested three sites which are at a distance from residential areas, in view of several residents having protested burials at Matariya.
In Vadodara, burials of the COVID-19 deceased at the designated cemetery has had residents of Matariya go up in arms. So far, 16 of the 31 deceased in the city have been buried at Matariya. The administration has asked community members to identify more available cemetery grounds that could be needed for the burials to come. The Matariya trust has also suggested another vacant land it owns as a possible second site.
Amin Sayyed of the Sayyed Jaffar Shahid Qabrastan, located in Panigate area of the city, said he has identified three locations which are not located in the middle of residential areas to avoid objections. The community members said that there has been a lot of “apprehension” from residents living around qabrastans regarding the burial of deceased, even those who have died of natural causes.
Amin told this newspaper, “Since the lockdown, the community has seen about 230 deaths due to natural reasons apart from the 16 COVID-19 deaths. There have been objections from locals, as they fear that the burials will spread coronavirus, although the administration is only using one cemetery at Matariya.”
He added, “I have suggested three cemeteries in Sayajipura, Jambuva and Gajrawadi. Usually the graves are six feet by four feet. Together, the three grounds make about 1.5 lakh square feet of burial space, which can fit 500 graves of natural deaths. However, as per the dimensions prescribed for COVID-19 deaths, the graves are required to be 15 feet deep and 10 feet by five feet wide…which will fit about 250 graves.”
Amin said that the unwillingness of many Jamaats to share the burial space is also an issue. “There is a rigid demarcation, where one Jamaat of the community does not allow others to be buried in their cemeteries. Otherwise, we have some cemeteries in the city that are huge enough to accommodate many graves… It is possible that the administration issue a notice to all existing cemeteries to open their doors to all. This is not the time to differentiate between people,” he said.
Meanwhile, a trustee of the Mapara Qabrastan says that the cemetery is contemplating seeking ‘non-COVID-19’ certificates from the deceased. “We haven’t yet had a burial here. We are now considering asking the people to bring along certificates stating that the deceased is not a COVID-19 patient. It is the need of time and need to ensure that no mistake is made that could lead to a catastrophic event later, ” the trustee said.
A senior official of the administration said, “We asked the Baroda Muslim Doctor’s Association (BDMA) and the community leaders to help identify the graveyards… We have to be prepared… They have recommended three sites that are out of the residential areas and we will be visiting to inspect them. If the need arises, cemeteries in the city areas will also be used and no one will be allowed to bulldoze the administration’s decisions.”
The Vadodara Municipal Corporation has recorded a total of 3,941 deaths since January this year. Of these, 2,833 have been recorded since February.
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