Datia (Madhya Pradesh) | January 29, 2006
Plagued by poverty and to protest the lack of a graveyard in his village, a Muslim farmer in Madhya Pradesh has converted his courtyard into an impromptu burial ground for family members. Shakir Ali, a small farmer from Rampura Khurd village in Datia district, 250 km north of Bhopal, said he did not want to trek to graveyards in neighbouring villages to bury his dead.
Besides, with the nearest village about 20 km away, funerals could be long drawn out, costly and inconvenient affairs, Ali told IANS. By using his courtyard as a cemetery, Ali, 64, said he was also protesting against the absence of a burial ground for the 20-odd Muslim families in the village.
With three burials behind him, he was now worried about a possible lack of space in his homegrown graveyard to accommodate more deaths in the extended family. At 93, Shakeena Begum is the frailest member.
"There may be no space left in the courtyard for more bodies after she is buried," said Ali, who has so far seen off relatives Kareem Khan, 85, Mufridan Begum, 58, and Khuda Baksh, 12.
However, some villagers are spooked by Ali’s indigenous form of protest."People, especially children, are scared to step out once it is dark due to the graves in Ali’s house," said Ashraf Khan, a villager.
However, no one disagrees with Ali’s reasons, which they vouched were sound."He has turned his house into a graveyard only due to the government’s apathy," Khan said. Rampura Khurd was not always bereft of a resting place for the dead. A Muslim graveyard had existed here decades ago until a water pumping station replaced it.
Even as the government promised people a new graveyard on paper, ground realities differed, said Ali, who has been striving for the last 40 years to get a plot of land earmarked for a village graveyard.
"I met several officials in the last 40 years to get a piece of land where the dead could be buried, but I was unsuccessful," he lamented.