A grave Affair
The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was banished to Rangoon by the British after the events of 1857, lamented that he could not be buried in his own country, in his couplet:
Kitnaa hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn key liye,
Do gaz zameen bhi nahi mili kuu–e–yaar mein
(How unfortunate is Zafar that he can not get two yards of land for his burial in his beloved country).
In the future, the fight for do gaz zameen would be a very uphill task in Delhi because of the increase in the Muslim population and the absence of urban planning in Capital city, Delhi.
According to the census of 2011, Muslims in Delhi formed just 12.8 percent of the city’s 1.78 crore population. According to the Delhi Wakf Board record, there were 488 Muslim graveyards in the city. The walled city of Delhi, Old Delhi, has four graveyards like Delhi gate, Mehidiyan, Khwaja Baqi–billah, Chamilayan and Sidhupura near Eid–gaah . Similarly, Nizamuddin has 25 listed graveyards, of which about four survive. Mehrauli has 41 against its name, but in reality, only a few remain after partition.
Newly Muslims populated areas are Mustafabad, Seelampur, Zafarabad, Welcome colony and Baburpur, where each area has single grave accordance with Small size proportionally to their Population.
According to the Delhi Waqf Board, two graveyards of the listed four in Jamia Nagar area survive. It covers like Muslim localities Ghafar Manzil, Noor Nagar, Okhla, Tamur Nagar, Zakir Naga, Okhla Vihar, Okhla Village, Joga Bai Extension, Abul Fazal Enclave, Shaheen Bagh and Jasola areas.
Most of Muslims in Delhi are ghettoised localities, often living in close proximity to each other in small geographic areas. The hunt for graves is becoming a serious problem and has led to trends such as the advance booking of graves and the reuse of graves is being continued in the Walled City graveyards like Mehidiyan, Khwaja Baquee Billah, Ahaata Badruddin and Chamilyaan , wherein, demands for pre–booked graves (Hayati Qabr) are continued.
There are five graveyards are situated in The Walled City areas ( Old Delhi), which are part of personal properties of individuals, who often claim that the land belonged to their grandfathers who had won it after long litigations. “There is even directly overseen by the Delhi Wakf Board, but are maintained and overruled by local Committees,” said Delhi Waqf officer.
In fact, the local land mafia has been encroaching freely upon the graveyards as the Board dare not raise its voice. Nabi Karim, residents said. A resident of Kucha Pandit, Sajjid said that the sale of graves is like a property deal nowadays. It even involves brokers, who in turn, have deals with the Mutawallis (caretaker).”
Allama Iqbal, the Urdu Poet, had predicted as 100 years ago about deteriorating of morality as well as humanity especially Muslim Community.
‘Ho nako Naam ,jo qabaron kee tejarat karke, Kiya n bechoge, jo mil jaiyen Sanam Pathar ke.’ ( If as traders of tombstones you have earned such renown, what is there to stop you in trading gods made of stones?)
Mehidiyan graveyard is located in behind of Maulana Azad Medical college. It is one the oldest as well historical graveyards, where big religious scholars have been buried including freedom fighters Syed Mahmood, Shah Walliullah and his families. Mehidiyan’s caretaker Wali Mohammad says that many people prefer to be buried near their loved ones after death, so they pre–book graves. For advanced booking, the people will have to pay something between Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000. Wali Mohammad admitted that in most cases, people book graves for their entire family, the arrangement ironically called ‘for long life’ implying a reservation for next generations. Those who book graves are given a receipt against which the burial takes place.
The former BJP leader and Kerala governor Sikander Bakht had been pre–booked ( Hayat Qabre) , said Wali Mohammad, he did not wish to disclose the amount.
The oldest Qabirstan (graveyard) is Khwaja Baquee Billah , which is situated in Nabi Karim. Most of the people express their will to be buried in Baqi Billah graveyards but getting a space here is not easy, because of a crisis for vacated spots. The normal charges for a grave is between Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000. If someone is interested in getting space to make a concrete grave, they will have to pay at least Rs 50,000. Most of the people expressed their desire a place near owns dear ones after death, they would be pay between Rs 75,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
The second oldest graveyard ‘ Panj–e–Peeran’ near Nizamuddin–Jungpur just adjacent to Lodi Road Crematorium ( Shamshan Griha). It is said that as 300 years old. The minimum charge for burial is Rs 10,000 / including all expenses. Here, the committee has decided to not build a concrete grave owing to space crisis.
To near Walled city, Delhi Gate Graveyard is the largest in size among all graveyards in Delhi. In 1921, the British government had donated 50 acres of land. Besides that, two other designated areas for graveyards were donated adjacent to Firoz Shah Kotla. These graveyards fall under the Delhi Wakf Board. There is no pre–booking system here.
The management Committee, General Secretary, Haji Feyaz Mian said, “We abolished concrete graveyards, because of major space crisis for graveyards. After 12 years, it could be re–used as grave for another person.” Jamia Nagar, Batla House graveyard serves a population of around 6 lakh people. The lack of sufficient burial places is one of the main problems faced by Jamia Nagar migrant population.
“The land which serves as the graveyard, is engulfed in a dispute between the family of the caretaker and the Delhi Waqf board,” says Dr Anwar, who adds that a Committee formed by the Delhi Waqf Board was supposed to take over the land. Presently, a nexus between local politicians and the caretaker, who claims it is ancestral land, is preventing the proper functioning of the graveyard.
Each grave measuring 7 feet by 2.5 feet and costing Rs 5,000 per grave.