LUCKNOW: Agra's name is synonymous with the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum dedicated to eternal love. Ironically, in its backyard, families are forced to bury their dead in their homes due to the lack of a burial ground.
In the small village ‘Chhah Pokhar’ in Kirawali tehsil of Achnera block, some 30 km away from proper Agra along Agra-Jaipur Highway, there are close to 50 Muslim families. Whenever anyone dies in a Muslim family in the ‘village of graves', the person is buried in his own house. It is not a tradition but a compulsion, say the villagers.
The village has over 50 Muslim families with a population of over 300 but there is no identified permanent place to bury the dead. Majority of these Muslim families are landless and the menfolk work as labourers in the city. Those who have land or farms can afford to bury their dead in the cities.
Noor Mohammad, a resident of Chhah Pokhar, lamented: “I have my wife and daughter buried in my house itself."
As per local sources, in many houses, the graves are adjacent to the kitchen, or bedrooms. Women are sometimes forced to cook beside a grave.
Some graves are located right outside the main entrance of the houses. “The bigger the families, the more the graves in the house,” says Firoz, another villager.
Moreover, as the corpses decompose in the graves, the families have to bear the stench as well as the threat of contamination, in addition to the mental trauma and social ostracisation. The residents of adjoining villages (mainly dominated by Nishads) and the Hindu community, avoid visiting the Muslim locality in the village.
The monsoon adds to their trauma with rainwater entering the graves and human remains being exposed.
“We seek nothing but a graveyard from Allah on Eid. We pray to God that no one dies in the village. However, Allah is yet to heed our 'dua' (prayer) and so are the authorities,” said Firoz.
A graveyard for the village is earmarked on a land where a pond exists. According to authorities, it would be a costly affair to fill the pond up for this purpose. A new location is reportedly being identified.