RAWALPINDI, Jan 27: Low caste Hindus, who bury their dead, unlike the upper caste Hindus who cremate them, have requested the City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) to provide land for the burial of their dead.
While municipal officials claim that they have already provided two burial sites, the Hindu community said the sites are full to capacity and there are issues with security.
On the other hand, upper caste Hindus said the low caste Hindus were welcome to cremate their dead at the Shamshan Ghat (area designated for cremation) but would not allow them to bury there as space was limited. The Shamshan Ghat is located on Tipu Road in front of Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC).
Security and capacity
The two sites provided to low caste Hindus for burial has its own problems. The most contentious is the site near Benazir Bhutto International Airport area.
According to the Hindu community they avoid burying their dead in the locality because of security concerns, as a Pakistan Air Force base is located next to the airport.
“The area is also surrounded by security departments and the Hindus avoid going there, fearing security checks,” said a Hindu community member.
However, it is a self-imposed restriction as the administration has never stopped them from utilising the space.
The cremation ground, Shamshan Ghat, has its own problems.
“We have a Shamshan Ghat on Tipu Road but there is no place to bury the dead there. One of our community members had to bury his daughter in a Muslim graveyard but later had to exhume the body after a year,” said Pandit Chana Lal.
In another context, although related, there is also an issue with privacy at the Shamshan Ghat.
“When we go to Tipu Road Mandir (Temple) and Shamshan Ghat to cremate our dead, all the people residing in the adjacent buildings come out on the rooftops and see our religious rituals, making us feel very uncomfortable,” said Pandit Lal.
He said the Hindus were left with no option but to request the administration to allocate more land for burial and cremation.
“The low caste Hindus are poor and they will not be able to purchase land for their graveyards,” said Mr Lal.
Highlighting the anomalies in low caste Hindus, Pakistan Hindu-Sikh Social Welfare Council (PHSSWC) President Jag Mohan Kumar Arora, said: “Scheduled Hindus (Balmekee) in Rawalpindi bury the corpses and do not cremate them. However, the same caste Hindus in Kohat and even in India burn their dead.”
Mr Arora said in Hindu religion, the corpse of a sanyasi (Saint) and children below a particular age are buried and not cremated.
He said low caste Hindus wanted to use the Shamshan Ghat on Tipu Road for burial but they were not allowed as it was meant for cremation.
“We told them (low caste Hindus) that if they wanted to burn their corpses, then we would allow them, otherwise the place could not be used for burials,” he said.
Potohar Town Municipal Administration (PTMA) Town Officer Regulation, Mohammad Kamran, told Dawn that he had conducted a survey after receiving an application from the Hindu community but found that they already had two graveyards, one on Rawal Road and the other in Lal Kurti.
He said he had invited elders of the community to his office, on Monday (today) and would check the record and present the position of the Hindu graveyards.
He said the PTMA would submit its report to the district coordination officer.
On the other hand, DCO Saqib Zafar said the Hindu community delegation met him and he had sought details from PTMA.
He said after deliberations, he would submit a report to the Punjab government for the final decision. He said in all probability space would be allotted in the outer areas of the city.