Shia Muslims are demanding cemetery at various places in Mumbai but their demands remain unfulfilled.
At first glance, it looks like the perfect place for burying the deceased. But all is not well. The recent issue came into light when Hashmi Begum (Noori) (34) died of heart ailment on Monday at 4.00 pm but no land is available for her burial. Relatives were concerned about her last rituals and officials from the cemetery were worried due to lack of space.
There is a self made rule here that if you are a blood relative of the already buried then they exhumed them and buried the new one, but not less than three years. “Her mother had passed away in the year 2000 and after that in 2013 her maternal uncle was buried in the same place, so we can’t dig that grave,” said Shavez, husband of Hashmi Begum.
“If you want to bury in others grave then you have to seek permission of their relatives for this,” added Shavez.
There is rule that states that one can’t exhume the remains of the body till three years.
Shia Muslims follow different burial rituals and women are allowed to enter the cemetery whereas in other sects women are denied entry, so they have different qabrastan.
Shia Muslims are demanding cemetery at various places in Mumbai but their demands remain unfulfilled. In Mumbai, they have only one Qabrastan which is more than 100 years old.
They are demanding cemetery at Malad and Andheri in western suburbs and Govandi in eastern suburb.
A social group, Mumbai Shia Ashna Aashri Jama’at along with local leaders in Malad had also gone on hunger strike six months ago, but nothing relevant came out of it.
“We met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard. He promised us to offer space for building cemetery at Malad,” said Fakhrul Hasan Rizvi, President of the Jama’at.
“Local MLA Aslam Shaikh also assured us that he will raise this issue in Assembly,” said Sohail A Rizvi (Bablu), General Secretary of the Jama’at.
“It’s a long pending demand. There is land for development of high rise buildings but government can’t allot a place where deceased persons can rest in peace,” said Congress leader and prominent Jama’at leader Anwar Hussain.
Rehmatabad Cemetery in Narialwadi area of Mazgaon houses thousands of graves. However, this cemetery too is facing space crunch issues. This means that a body buried today is likely to be dug up after three or four years to make space for someone else.
Rehmatabad is managed by the Iranian Shia Trust. The Trust is negotiating with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for allotment of additional space.
Shias from across Mumbai are buried here, and their families pay for maintenance. There are celebrity graves, including those of Bollywood actresses Meena Kumari and Purnima, and Shirin Mohammed Ali, the mother of director Mahesh Bhatt. In November 2011, Meena Kumari’s grave was restored after her stepdaughter intervened. The broken marble structure was repaired. This memorial, although it holds a famous body, is much like the other graves here, except it is taller.
Each grave has a shelf-life of three years, says Shirazi, except those of celebrities. Officials at the site say that even well-built marble memorials have to be broken down to make way for new ones. Old remains are covered with a fresh layer of earth to house the next set of graves. “I know it is not proper, but what do we do?” asks one official.
“Many tourists used to come to see Meena Kumari’s tomb,” says a worker. Nowadays she is forgotten, and her grave is visited hardly once a year.