Space crunch at burial grounds hits Muslims

Rampant encroachments of burial grounds are also a massive problem.

Rampant encroachments of burial grounds are also a massive problem.

There is dearth of space for graves in the city. This, despite the fact that official sources peg the number of Muslim burial spaces in Hyderabad at over 550.

The space crunch, experts and community members say, is on account of several graveyards across the city either running out, or, quickly running out of space. Typically, burial spaces comprise graveyards – which are usually attached to a dargah – or takiyas, meaning public graveyards managed by a takiyadar, a person appointed to administer these spaces, oversee burials, and charge a fee for this. Those in the know say that most of these major graveyards are at least a couple of hundred years old.

“Graveyards attached to dargahs were large, and old. Over the past few decades, they began filling up. Now, I think around 90% of them are full. This includes one of the oldest graveyards, the one at Dargah Hazrat Yusufain,” says Mutawalli of Dargah Shah Khamosh Syed Akbar Nizamuddin Hussaini. The dargah he manages has a graveyard which is largely for family members and mureeds (disciples).

He opines that the city has not seen any new land parcels being endowed as public graveyards in the last half a century. “There is rampant urbanisation. And there have been no major new waqf endowments for graveyards as the price of land has skyrocketed; at least it is better in districts,” Mr Hussaini, who is also a senior member of the Telangana State Waqf Board, observes. Both graveyards and takiyas are managed by the Muslim endowments panel, Telangana State Waqf Board. According to official figures, in Hyderabad district, there are 513 graveyards and 51 takiyas.

Syed Nadeem Hussaini, Mutawalli of the over-300-year-old Dargah Shah Raju Qattal in Misrigunj, echoes similar views. He too points out that there is a space crunch.

“It would be best if some land parcels are sought from the government for graveyards,” he says.

Waqf protection activist Syed Ifteqar Hussaini, on the other hand, points towards a more systemic problem. He says that a vast number of graveyards, including those at Dargah Shah Khamosh, Dargah Hazrat Yousufain, Ziaguda Qabrastan, Puranapul Graveyard and many others, have witnessed rampant encroachments. The Telangana State Waqf Board, he says, has no powers to remove them on its own.

“Graveyards, for unscrupulous elements, are pure real estate. The Board has no teeth. It cannot remove encroachers on its own. It has to send a surveyor, who writes a report and sends it to the police and district administration. They have to finally intervene. What if they don’t act on time? The graveyard land is lost. The Board should be given powers to remove encroachments,” Mr Hussaini says.

Those in the know said that the shrinkage of space is forcing some graveyard caretakers to reuse old graves. “Some graveyards which are out of space are left with no choice. What can they possibly do? Some openly say it, others don’t. The other issue is that certain burials at several graveyards permit only locals to be buried there, no outsiders are allowed,” a graveyard Mutawalli, who did not wish to be named, says.

Those who have buried their loved ones say that it costs between ₹ 5,000 to nearly ₹ 70,000 in some cases to find graves in the city. “The closer one wishes to be to the Sufi buried in a dargah, the higher the price. I have paid ₹ 20,000 for burying my father in a graveyard in Nampally,” says Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, a businessman.

Interestingly, a Mutawalli from a prominent dargah admits that charges depend on the affordability of family members of the deceased.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 4:37:54 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/space-crunch-at-burial-grounds-hits-muslims/article30323574.ece