The incident occured on April 16, when some BJP leaders of the party’s Vadodara unit, including its president Dr Vijay Shah, had reached the crematorium to participate in the last rites of a party leader. The leaders objected to the presence of a Muslim man, who had been preparing the pyre with the wood and cow dung cakes for the burial. Shah told the Vadodara Municipal Corporation to ensure that Muslims are not allowed to enter the crematorium.
“We learnt that he is a contractor supplying wood and dung cakes but he has sublet a contract or appointed more Muslim youth to work in the crematorium, which is wrong. Volunteering for good work is one thing but getting into religious rituals when you have no knowledge of it is not welcome… We have told the VMC that the person, who is given the contract for the supply of wood and cow dung could deliver it outside the crematorium. He does not need to be inside,” Shah told The Indian Express.
However, several BJP leaders in the VMC disapproved of the objection raised. Mayor Keyur Rokadia said that the issue will be addressed amicably while adding that “communities must work together” during the time of pandemic.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Vadodara, Muslim volunteers have been at the forefront of performing Covid-19 cremations in cases where families of the deceased have refused to come along or been unable to join due to quarantine. Another BJP leader, who is also in the VMC, said, “This stand taken by the party leaders is very embarrassing. It is not right to mix religious ideologies at this time when the entire city is suffering. We cannot deny that the Muslim groups in Vadodara have worked very closely with the VMC during the last year.”
A staff member of Khaswadi said that the day being Friday and in the month of Ramzan, the volunteer was wearing a skullcap. The undertaker at Khaswadi said, “This man has been working here tirelessly with us… There have been at least 1,000 bodies that have been cremated in this crematorium by Muslim brothers in the last year and no one questioned them because no one was here to see them.”
Meanwhile, mayor Rokadia, along with state Minister Yogesh Patel and Officer on Special Duty to Vadodara Vinod Rao on Sunday held a meeting with the members of the Muslim community to thank them for their support during the pandemic and seek further help. They also addressed the controversy and said that the contract of the person would not be changed.