Hyderabad

Christians press the panic button

A bird’s eye view of the Catholic cemetery at Mettuguda in Secunderabad, which is almost full and lacks space for new burials. (Right) Trimulgherry Cantonment Cemetery is now much sought after as all the other burial grounds for Protestant Christians in Twin Cities is full.

A bird’s eye view of the Catholic cemetery at Mettuguda in Secunderabad, which is almost full and lacks space for new burials. (Right) Trimulgherry Cantonment Cemetery is now much sought after as all the other burial grounds for Protestant Christians in Twin Cities is full.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Grieving family members forced to reuse the existing graves of relatives in the mainline cemeteries

Christians in the Twin Cities have pressed the panic button in the wake of severe crunch of space for burying their near and dear ones.

With the existing cemeteries maintained by the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches fast filling up, Christians are praying to provide a decent burial for the deceased family members. The 15 cemeteries established by the Britishers are just not enough to cater to the needs of the community.

“We are struggling very hard for the burial space. In future it will be very difficult for us to bury the community members,” says Rev. Swarna Bernard, Vicar General of Archdiocese of Hyderabad. “There is severe crisis that has engulfed the Christian community on account of lack of burial space,” Rev T. Bhaskar, Vice-Chairman of Church of South India, Medak Diocese and also Chairman of the CSI Wesley Cemetery Board concurred.

Presently, the Wesley Cemetery Board allots burial space to members of 35 CSI run churches. British era Cemetery No. 12 at Trimulgherry spread across 12 acres and managed by the Board is the only place now available for burial.

Grieving family members are forced to re-use the existing graves of relatives in the mainline cemeteries in Narayanguda, Bhoiguda and Mettuguda to bury their near and dear ones. Instances of three or four members of one family buried in single grave is common.

“Once we are informed about death, we try to enquire if they are willing to re-use an existing grave. If they say yes, the old grave of their family member is dug. In other cases, the Cemetery Board allots space in designated graveyard,” said Reverend P. Solomon Raj, Presbyter in-charge of St Thomas SPG Telugu Church at Secunderabad.

V. Hezekiah Maharaju, Executive Committee member of CSI Garrison Wesley Church, Lal Bazar says that in old cemeteries such as Narayanguda, Mettuguda and Bhoiguda, graves are being reused and on some occasion even pathways have been converted into graves.

Prohibitive cost of land in and around the Twin Cities is making the task of churches difficult to buy land. The woes of Christians frequenting the new generation independent churches and ministries is worse.

Woes of new churches

“My wife passed away recently and I could not get space for burial in any Christian cemetery as I go to an independent church. I had to pay ₹5,000 to a local graveyard committee to bury my wife,” bemoaned S. Das of Bowenpally. “Christians of these new churches and independent fellowships have nowhere go,” says Goneh Solomon Raj, Secretary of Christian Burial Grounds for Greater Hyderabad, a body registered early this year to secure land for burial grounds.

According to him, there are 4,358 churches in Twin Cities that include the decades old churches. Presently, some local churches in Alwal, Uppal, Hayatnagar, Vanasthalipuram and Qutubullapur have common space for burial grounds. But, they are restricting the burial to local members only making it difficult for others. “There are occasions when we have pleaded with the local church representatives to allow burial on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Goneh Solomon Raj said.

Land allotted

He said the government has recently issued orders allocating 63 acres of land for Christian burial grounds to be used by all denominations. The Telangana State Christian Minorities Finance Corporation has been entrusted the task of constructing the compound walls, toilets and at least two rooms in each burial ground in the five zones. A 19-member managing committee would administer the day-to-day affairs of the burial grounds.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:33:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/christians-press-the-panic-button/article30323680.ece

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