For Peshawar Christians, burial space is shrinking
PESHAWAR: Finding a piece of land to build a home in the provincial metropolis can be relatively easy, but securing a final resting place is harder still with graveyards now running out of room – especially for minorities.
Escalating land prices, encroachment, urbanisation and population growth are constricting the city’s cemeteries and at many of these facilities auctions now decide who gets a plot.
“Every time we dig a grave for a dead person, we find body parts and bones in it. We bury our dead over the remains of more than two deceased,” said Samson who is a member of Peshawar’s Christian community.
According to rough estimates, Peshawar has a Christian population of 30,000. There are only two graveyards – Gora Qabristan and Wazirbagh graveyard – for the community which have been filled to capacity.
Samsun added: “I fear when I die, I will also be buried over the skeletons of others. ”
Every human has the right that his last rituals should be paid with respect. However, non-Muslims in Peshawar have been facing problems because the places where they can bury their dead are shrinking.
The largest cemetery of Christians in Peshawar is situated in Wazirbagh area where the majority of Christians live. The graveyard is scattered over 14 kanals of land while Gora Qabristan has nine kanals of land. A gravedigger at the Wazirbagh Graveyard said there is no more space left for new graves and added that he had seen an open grave that had skeletons and bones of five corpses in it, and the grave housed yet another body.
A man called by the name, Augustine Jacob, told The Express Tribunethat it is really unfortunate that we have no other place where we can bury our dead.
He added if we bury our relatives somewhere away from the city it would create problems if someone wanted to visit the grave.
The members of the Christian community, who are mostly low-paid workers in governmental and non-governmental departments, have been unable to raise their voice against shrinking spaces for burial.
Most of the Christians now prefer to bury the dead in a grave full of remains because it reduces their expenses of taking the funeral to a faraway place and visiting the grave again in the future.
Jacob told The Express Tribune that the majority of Christians living in the city are poor belonging to the working class. “They live a vulnerable life and die in the same condition.”
When contacted, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Minorities Ravi Kumar told The Express Tribune that the Christian community has discussed the problem of shrinking graveyards with us for which we have arranged a meeting with Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak. “We will also discuss the minority’s security plan with him as well.”
He admitted that the issue is important and “we are trying to solve it in an effective manner but the problem of space in the graveyards is something really serious”.
He added that PTI Chief Imran Khan wanted to solve this problem through local government but the stay on the local government budget is a big hurdle in this regard.