The Gujarat State Wakf Board has warned the trust and Mutawallis administering Islamic cemeteries across the state of action for refusing burials of those who succumb to coronavirus from the community.
In a letter dated April 8 to the trusts and Mutawallis, Chief Executive Officer of GWB, said, “It has come to the notice of the Gujarat State Wakf Board that in many cases, those (from the Muslim community) who died due to COVID-19 are not allowed to be buried in the Qabrastan. This letter is to state that all the Islamic burial grounds and cemeteries in the state, whether registered with the Wakf Board or not, must allow burial of any member of the Muslim community, who has died due to the COVID-19, at the nearest Qabrastan from his home or hospital and also extend full cooperation to the families… If any trust or Mutawallis of any Qabrastan deny burials for Muslims deceased in the pandemic, action will be taken against them under The Wakf (Amendment) Act, 2013.”
While the Wakf Board has not received any official complaint in the matter, its chairman Sajjad Hira told this newspaper that it was a precautionary circular after members of the Board learnt about the apprehensions of Qabrastan trusts in allowing the burials of those dead due to coronavirus infection.
“We have been receiving calls from Mutawallis asking for directions and sharing their concerns… Since the office is closed due to the lockdown, we would not know even if someone sent a complaint. We have learnt from people about the trouble they have been facing for burials due to lack of understanding about the issue. What can the family of a Muslim patient do…? The body cannot be consigned to flames as it is against our religious practices.”
Hira said the letter has been sent to over 10,000 registered Qabrastan trusts across the state, in addition to sending out assurances that the burial should be allowed as per government guidelines.
“We are creating awareness among the Qabrastan trusts that the government facilities where the death happens will follow the safety and hygiene guidelines before releasing the body for burial. At a time when government, administration and healthcare workers are doing so much to help people, we can at least fulfil our duty by standing by the grieving families.”
Last week, a residential colony in Vadodara objected to the burial of a 78-year-old man from Godhra who died due to COVID-19 at a private hospital, 85 kilometres away from his home. Residents of the Khaswadi area, where the Islamic burial ground is located, was against allowing the burial, citing fear of infection.
VMC Health Officer Dr Devesh Patel told The Indian Express that all bodies of COVID-19 deceased are handed over for burial after disinfecting them and wrapping according to standards to be buried in pits that are 15 feet deep..
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