This problem can't be buried!

This problem can't be buried!

Tellingly enough, the cemetry attached to the St Anthony’s Church is precariously poised to lose land to the Mysore road widening project. The fate of many burial grounds could be the same.

Head Priest of the St Anthony's Church, Father Irudayam is a worried man. According to him, the Church would lose part of its cemetery land, while 175 trees on that stretch would face the axe. Losing the cemetery land would also mean shifting the tombstones.

The Church has already alerted the relatives. "We have asked many families to collect the bones of their loved ones and bury the remains separately, since the tombstones come in the way of the project.  Many families were reluctant to this proposal and were unhappy to shift the remains of their loved ones," says Fr Irudayam.

St. Anthony’s Church has only five acres of land, the cemetry part of which is now almost full. Community members are trying to cope with the lack of space by burying the new bodies at the same place where their ancestors were put to rest. The head priest says he has requested the State Government to provide more land for burials.

The grave problem of land is not restricted to the St Anthony's Church. Muslims in Bangalore are also faced with the same challenge. The Muslim burial ground at Chamarajpet in front of St Anthony's Church too is also space-starved.

Once spread across 60 acres, the burial ground has now shrunk because land was given to the government and other individuals for various purposes. The ground is all of three acres today !

According to Muslim scholar Syed Anzar Shah Qazmi, Imam of Noorani Masjid at Jayanagar, the problem is still under control but it would get worse if people from the community do not realise the situation. Qazmi suggests that people should give up constructing concrete graves, since that would prevent the land use for burial purposes in the future.

Maqbool Ahmed, an office bearer of the Central Muslim Association of Karnataka (CMAK) says the search is on to identify alternate locations for burial grounds. But so far, the pleas to the government haven’t yielded much.

Father Anthony, associated with the Archdiocese of Karnataka, says the problem of land is a major challenge for cemeteries across the City. Many Churches are in touch with local MLAs to sort out their problem.

The Lingayat community, which buries its dead, is also faced with a similar problem. The Lingayat burial ground at Chamarajpet once had nine acres of land. But now merely half-an-acre is left. The community has a tradition of constructing concrete graveyards.

As emotions are attached with these issues, the possibility of the reuse of the land for burials is quite bleak.

Sources in the revenue department admit that the problem of graveyard is indeed, grave. "If the graveyards are packed with dead bodies, then alternative places have to be given. But in the current situation when the land prices in Bangalore have gone up, getting a large area of land at huge prices is next to impossible.

Communities which have traditions of burying bodies have to search for alternatives with the available resources," suggests an official. The government, he says, is sympathetic to the communities’ demands for more land.

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