In Indore’s Khatkhatpura graveyard, the dead are denied their peaceful rest. The foul stench emanating from a nearby nullah (open drain) pervades the air, making it tough for grieving Muslim families bringing their dear ones for burial.
If this is not enough, the custodians of the graveyard narrate disturbing stories. “The proximity of the nullah has loose soil. The situation gets worse in the rainy season. Many times, we have seen the rain wash up the corpses, and we had to bury them again,” Javed, a grave digger, says.
“Proposals were given, assurances followed but nothing happened,” Farooq Raeen, district president Haj Committee, says. “The graveyards are most neglected…Nobody demands any proposal for those areas and the people hardly take note of them unless and until something happens.
“We had gone to meet former mayor KM Moghe. He had informed us that the administration will look into the matter and will try to come up with a solution. But then elections happened and now the status of our demands are unknown,” Raeen adds.
From restricting the building of concrete graves to managing the graveyards effectively, their custodians in Indore are struggling to cope with various issues. The more than five lakh strong Muslim population feels the administration, politicians and religious leaders have failed them in this regard.
Such is the situation that those taking care of the Mhow-Naka graveyard say they have put up a board stating the problems in the hope of eliciting a response. “There is no proper facility for water. The nullah is not cleaned in time and during rainy season, the area becomes filthy. We have complained so many times to the administration but nothing happened. It is for this reason that we have put up a board,” says Jameel Khan, custodian of Mhow-Naka graveyard.
Some point out that if the administration cannot allot more land for graveyards, it should revive the ones which have been shut down because of encroachment. “We do not have enough land. The sanctioned land is encroached to such an extent that it is hard to make out whether the colony is in the graveyard or vice-versa,” social worker Muneer Khan says.
“From the graveyards situated at Mhow Naka to the one at Chhawani, not a single graveyard is spared of encroachment,” Khan adds. At the Chahwani graveyard, encroachers took advantage of the absence of a boundary wall and occupied the entire plot before the activists could intervene, he recollects.
A similar story is narrated by Haji Illyas Thekedar, the treasurer of a graveyard in Mhow Naka. “The place is too small. We cover around 40-45 mohallahs. On an average, the graveyard gets to see the burial of 40-45 people a month. How can one manage this number?”
While the administration is largely blamed by many, some feel that a drawback exists on the part of the community as well. “The last survey of the Waqf Board was done in 1989 in Indore. The survey should be done as it is important to understand and make an estimate of the total property...one has to see whether it is sufficient or not,” Khan asserts.
The absence of an in-charge of the Waqf Board makes things even more difficult. “The graveyards, mosque and other religious places come under the property of the Waqf Board, they need to play a pro-active role...The work cannot be monitored by somebody sitting in Bhopal, which is happening right now. The Waqf needs to forward the demands (to the right people) through the right channels,” Khan says.
Caught somewhere between the negligence of the administration and the Waqf Board’s laidback attitude is the Muslim community, which struggles to find a proper resting place for their departed ones. For now, they can only wait and hope that their demands fall on sympathetic ears.