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No space for dead in Kashmir

There is no peace in the Valley even for the dead as there is an acute shortage of space for their burial, reports Tejinder S Sodhi.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2007, 19:31 IST
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tejinder Singh Sodhi

The dead in Kashmir don't find place to rest in peace as there is shortage of land for graveyards in Baramulla. Their living relatives have to fight hard to find some space to make their resting place.

Since the upsurge of armed struggle in Kashmir seventeen years ago that killed thousands of Kashmiri's, the valley is facing an acute shortage of space. <b1>

Every graveyard in Kashmir is overbooked to its capacity and there is very little space left to make new ones, thus creating a lot of trouble both for the living and the dead.

Since the beginning of the armed violence in the valley, thousands of Kashmiri's lost their lives and were buried in the graveyards, but now almost every graveyard in the valley is almost full to its capacity and the majority Muslim community is finding it hard to find space to make new graveyards.

"There is an extra pressure on graveyards in Kashmir as more than one lakh Kashmiris have lost their lives in the last 17 years of armed insurgency in the valley, there have been times in the early 90's and 20's when almost 10 to 15 graves were dug each day," said Abdul Jamal, a gravedigger in the old town Baramulla.

He added, "People also die their natural death, but the people who died because of the conflict occupies the major chunk of space in this graveyard."

The militants who got killed in Kashmir were buried in "martyr's graveyard" whereas those who die natural death were buried in normal graveyards. The first "martyr's graveyard" came up in Srinagar in 1931 when protesting Kashmiri's were killed by the king's army. But now "martyr's graveyards" are spread in every part of the valley.

During last 17 years of conflict in Kashmir, the gravediggers never had an off from their work.

"Everyday we have to dig graves as everyday people fall victim to bullets or bombs here and people also die their natural death, so we are always at work," said Mustaq Ahmed, a gravedigger in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.

The extra load on the existing graveyards in Kashmir has become a reason of conflict between residents and people living in a particular locality are not allowed to use the graveyard owned by the people living in another locality.

The lack of space for graveyards have forced many people to burry their dead ones in the scatted graves dug out on roadsides and hilltops.

"We do get some reports where people of one locality are in confrontation with the people of other locality following the dispute over the land for graveyard," said a top police officer requesting anonymity.

According to Islamic rules a graveyard can not be reused until the last grave there is 40 years old.

"Though in Islam, it is allowed to burry more than one dead person in a single grave if such situation arises, but once the grave is sealed, it has to remain as it is for the next 40 years and a graveyard can only be reused if the last grave in it is 40 years old." Said Molvi Bashir Ahmed an Islamic.

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