In a city where residential space is shrinking rapidly,even a small patch of land each Muslim is entitled to for his/her final rest is hard to come by. Such is the space crunch that Muslim residents of Okhla are forced to carry their dead 15 km away to the Old Delhi graveyard in Pragati Maidan.
The case is the same for Muslims across the city. Lack of adequate graveyard space for the Muslim community,mostly due to encroachment,has become an issue of mounting concern.
Delhi Wakf Board CEO Shamim Akhtar said,The Wakf Board is in the process of constituting a committee to survey the problem of shrinking space for burials due to encroachment and plans to undertake a survey of the total number of Muslim graveyards in the national capital.
The boards mosques and graveyards caretaker Mehfooz Mohammad said,According to the government gazette notification,1970,488 Muslim graveyards exist in Delhi. But presently,only 25 graveyards are open. At least 20 more graveyards are needed all over Delhi. Many of the graveyards have been illegally occupied and litigation is on to get the land back.
Areas with dominant Muslim population do not even have a single graveyard.
Muslim dominated areas like Jamia Nagar,Batla House,Shaheen Bagh,colonies in Okhla,Shahzada Bagh in Inderlok and Old Delhi face an acute shortage of space for burials, Mehfooz said.
The space crunch has even prompted some Muslim organisations to buy plots of land to be used as graveyards. These graveyards in Okhla,Welcome,Jafrabad,Mukarba Chowk are regulated by private managing committees.
There is also the problem of some graveyards not being preferred by many to bury their loved ones,sources in the board said. A case in point is the New graveyard,near the Millennium Park on the Ring Road. Even the Wakf Board is uncertain about why.
A senior official said,Though there is more land available in the New graveyard,many people refuse to use it. While distance is a factor,some people prefer to use graveyards where their relatives are buried.
The board even tried going vertical a step taken by many Christian cemeteries to accommodate their dead.
The Idgah in Jhandewalan has a multi-vault system,wherein bodies are placed in compartments,resembling a vault,and can be reused in two or three years after the remains are pushed into a pit below.
Keeping in mind the need to reuse space in the coming years,the board has expressed concern over the construction of permanent tombs.
In a notice to Kabristan Panchpeer,opposite Hotel Oberoi,the board highlighted the problem of shrinking graveyard space in Delhi and asked members of the community to desist from constructing permanent structures over the graves of their loved ones,so that these sites can be reused after some years.