During his life, Mohammad Yusuf was described as a “free, secular” man known as much for his Urdu poetry as his skill in creating colourful mauli, the sacred thread worn by Hindus.
At 1 am on Tuesday, Yusuf, 88, died in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district. And at 11 in the morning, he was buried at a local graveyard.
But since he had refused to identify with any sect — such as Barelvi, Deobandi or Wahabi — during his life, locals from the Barelvi community allegedly removed his body from the grave and returned it to his home in Khanjipeer in an ambulance.
Yusuf and his family identify themselves only as Sunni Muslims.
“We buried him at Khai kabristan at 11 am and by 11.45 am, the family had left the graveyard,” said Yusuf’s son Hamid Husain, 53.
“Soon afterwards, I started getting calls from some people asking me to take my father out (of the grave). They said we should take him out as he was a Wahabi, and Wahabis are not buried in that graveyard,” said Hamid, an advocate. He added that the “goons” who called them may have been backed by “radical Barelvi clerics”.
He also claimed that some of the men reached their home and reiterated their demand.
Hamid said he was told on phone that “around 100-150 people” had gathered at the burial ground.
“I did not go and kept repeating that he has already been buried. When they kept calling, I sent some people to the graveyard at 12.45 pm,” Hamid said.
Hamid’s cousin Mohammad Husain, 71, who returned to the graveyard, said, “Dozens of our relatives are buried in that graveyard but the goons insisted we give it in writing that Yusuf was our relative, or they would throw the body on the road. Even though we agreed, they exhumed the body.”
The body was then put into an ambulance and returned to their home by 1 pm.
“Allah will judge them,” Hamid said. “We spoke to the driver of the ambulance and he agreed to take us to our native village in Mandsaur (in Madhya Pradesh, about 180 km from Udaipur).”
Around 9 pm, Mohammad Yusuf was buried for a second time in the presence of hundreds of relatives. It was from Mandsaur that Yusuf had migrated in 1954 and established a family business of selling mauli in Udaipur. It was a skill he spent six nearly decades to master.
Yusuf’s wife Khatoon Bai said Yusuf was a “free soul” who did not want any sect attached to his identity. But this attitude got him into trouble with some locals in 1998, she recalled. “They alleged he was a Wahabi Muslim and Yusuf, who couldn’t care less, said that he was okay with whichever sect they attribute to him. Since then, the Wahabi tag had stuck,” she said.
“What happened was wrong. Muslims in India are already fragmented and they need to broaden their perspective and be as one. They should not divide themselves on the basis of so-called sects,” said Chief Quazi of Rajasthan, Khalid Usmani.
Udaipur Superintendent of Police Rajender Prasad said, “We have not received any police complaint and the situation is calm.”
Hamid, meanwhile, recalled his father’s poetry:
Rehne de nawazish, teri vehshat ka karam hai Khuddar ko kab chahiye imdad kisi ki (Don’t need your favours, it is your savagery One who is self-sufficient doesn’t need help)