A dignified burial for unclaimed bodies

Newspaper editor and readers team up for a noble task

December 12, 2021 12:26 am | Updated 12:26 am IST - Hyderabad

Biers lined up in front of Dar Ul Shifa Masjid before the final rites for unclaimed bodies.

Biers lined up in front of Dar Ul Shifa Masjid before the final rites for unclaimed bodies.

It began on a warm April day in 2003 when Zahid Ali Khan received a rather strange phone call.

“A police constable was on the line. He wanted to know if I can do something about an unclaimed body of a Muslim man that the police were in the process of cremating as per procedure. I decided to step in to help with the funeral,” says Mr. Khan, the editor of Siasat Urdu newspaper, sitting inside the Darul Shifa Masjid.

Outside, 11 biers brought from different mosques were covered with a white cloth. The 11 bodies would take the total number of bodies buried through the network of Siasat to 5,030 over a period of 18 years.

On Saturday at 1.30 p.m., the funeral prayers were read for 11 bodies that were brought from the mortuaries of Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital. The bodies were later taken for burial to a graveyard in Kukatpally. “There is no space in the graveyards in the city. So, burials are being done at Kukatpally,” said Syed Zahid Khan, a retired police official who supervises the burials of unclaimed bodies.

“After the first unclaimed body was buried, I wrote to the then Hyderabad Police Commissioner M.V. Krishna Rao about my plan to carry on the work of dignified burials. Now, whenever there is an unclaimed Muslim body, the police reach us,” said Mr. Khan, adding that the organisation with the help of readers has spent about ₹2 crore over the years.

“The number of bodies for which we performed funerals did not go up during the pandemic as we deal with mostly those handed over by the police from their morgue,” he said.

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