Amir Mir, Sunday, June 04, 2006, DNA,
LAHORE: The dead body of a 70-year-old Hindu woman, Radha, which was rotting in the mortuary of a government hospital in Lahore for the last five days because of the absence of a shamshaan ghat in the Punjab capital, has finally been buried at the historic Miani Sahib Graveyard, which is a graveyard of Muslims.
Radha, who had been living in a senior citizens home since 1997 because she had no relatives in the city, died in Mayo Hospital on May 30. Her body remained at the city morgue for five days because of the absence of a shamshan ghat in the city.
After the Hindu community refused to take responsibility for her cremation, saying they had no place to perform her last rites, representatives of South Asian Partnership (SAP), a non-government organisation, raised the issue with the Punjab government. However, they soon disappeared from the scene when the Model Town police tired to contact them to hand over the body for the purpose of cremation. Ultimately, the dead body was handed over to the Edhi Welfare Trust which laid Radha to rest at the historic Miani Sahib Graveyard, but for the time being, saying she would be cremated once the Trust has proper arrangements to perform her last rites.
However, the burial of Radha’s body instead of cremation as per Hindu customs has highlighted the long standing demand of the Hindu community for a shamshan ghat. According to Hindu Balmik Sudhar Sabha General Secretary, Amar Nath Randhawa, the Hindu community in Lahore offered all-out cooperation to police for cremating Radha’s body but the police did not hand over the body, fearing that they would use it to stage a protest on The Mall to press for the shamshan ghat demand. He said Hindus in Lahore either take their dead ones to Nankana Sahib for cremation or burn them near the River Ravi after obtaining permission from the city district government.
In 1976, the Evacuee Property Trust allotted a piece of land on Bund Road in Lahore for a shamshan ghat but it was a disputed property and Hindus could not build a cremation place. Later, in May 1999, the Board of Revenue allotted 10 kanals of land on Bund Road near Saggian Bridge for a shamshan ghat but the plot had not been handed over to the Hindu community.