Barely a week ago, a board outside the main gate of the graveyard in North East Delhi’s Shastri Park area was removed. For four months before it came down, the board had stated there was no space in the graveyard and people had to look elsewhere. Then people were forced to act.
Allama Maqsood Ali, chairman of the maintenance committee of the Buland Masjid in Shastri Park, says he requested the MCD a year ago to refill the graveyard to make it usable again. “I wrote to MCD officials, but they did not budge. After continuous pestering they brought the sand and threw it outside the graveyard. We waited.”
All the while, people came in to bury their dead. “Situation came to such a level that the graves reached near the main gate. We had no other option but to do the refilling on our own,” says Ali.
People collected about Rs 50,000 for machines and manpower to do the work. However, the problems persist, he adds.
Mohammed Yamin, a 65-year-old grave digger, says more soil required to make the graveyard — which has about 2,200 graves at present — usable. “We need at least 3 ft layer of soil, now it is hardly one foot. Now, when we dig a new grave, we accidentally encroach on an old grave. It saddens me as there is no place for even the dead now,” he adds. Yamin says he earns a meagre Rs 500 per grave for his work and the work has become more tedious now. “The soil is so hard that I have to pour water to soften it before digging.”
About 10 km away in Central Delhi’s Paharganj area at the Indian Christian Cemetery, only family members of someone already buried there are allowed to come for burial.
Michael Ezekiel, member of the Indian Christian Cemetery committee, explains that due to lack of space, they dig the old graves to make way for new bodies. “That’s why we allow only family members at Paharganj. We have space in Dwarka and Burari graveyard,” he adds.
Ezekiel says at Paharganj, people have encroached on graveyard land and opened up their sewerage lines to the grave. “We are contemplating serving them notices.”
He says there is encroachment into the graveyard in Shahdara too. “We don’t have any other graveyards in Trans-Yamuna barring the one in Shahdara.”