In the ongoing second wave of COVID-19, Muslim cemeteries running out of burial space in Mumbai. Due to the predicament, most of the small cemeteries have either stopped the burial of COVID-19 patients or have limited the services for those living within the close range of the cemetery.
In present circumstances, the pressure of burial of the bodies are mounting on the Bada Qabarstan in South Mumbai, as this is the only Muslim cemetery in the city which is conducting last rites and burials of those who succumbed with COVID-19 at present.
Trustees of the cemeteries have said, usually, the graves are reused as a normal body gets decayed within eighteen months of burial, however since the bodies of COVID patients are draped in plastic made PPEs, it takes a minimum of five years for the body to get disintegrated entirely and in the meanwhile, the pit remains unfit for reuse.
Azad Hind Ittehadul Muslemeen Committee trustee told Afternoon Voice, “We are also working as frontline workers during these COVID times, but our Kabristan workers are not given any kind of help or insurance from the state government or BMC. Other crematorium workers are given some funds to support them, but even after our demands, the government is turning a deaf eye.”
Shoaib Khatib, trustee and chairperson of Jumma Masjid – that manages the Bada Qabarstan told us, “We are allowing the burial of COVID bodies in our graveyard as there is no option remains, bodies are coming from all over nearing places like Bhiwandi and Mumbra as well. The death rates growing in Mumbai is a space challenge. Most of the smaller graveyards are now scared that they might run out of the pit. We are trying to accommodate as many bodies as possible but still, there are a lot of challenges ahead. He also said that so far 1,100 bodies have been buried in the cemetery and four to five new covid-19 bodies arrive at the cemetery daily.”
According to the rules laid out by state and civic authorities, any patient succumbing to COVID-19 is buried by wrapping the body in a PPE.
Khatib further said in such a crisis the entire cemetery has been divided into seven parts, two parts have been dedicated to the burial of COVID-19 patients, four different parts have been dedicated to the burial of non-COVID bodies and one part has been dedicated for the unidentified corpses.
“Many bodies from Bandra and Khar used to come over here, but due to space limitations, we have stopped allowing COVID-19 bodies from places other than Santacruz. The bodies don’t decay and there is a rotting smell everywhere,” Javed Baroudgar, trustee of Juhu Garden cemetery at Santacruz said that so far they have buried 34 bodies and only fewer than ten pits are left in their cemetery now.
High Court advocate Mohiuddin Ahmed Vaid since April has helped 60 families get the bodies of their loved ones, and exemption in bills, from unyielding hospitals. Vaid, who runs Vaid & Associates in Agripada and is also the legal advisor for Mumbai. He is helping many families to cremate dead members.
Jama Masjid Trust told Afternoon Voice, “Despite the shortage in the crematorium, we are coordinating with the heads of each graveyard and doing the needful for the community.”