Sawan Chudhry’s father Jawarya Chudhry died in 1965. Forty six years later, he still regrets not being able to cremate his father’s body.
“My father was buried at the Munawar graveyard in Madina Colony. It is unfortunate that his final rites could not be performed according to our faith,” he told The Express Tribune.
Sawan’s family is not alone. “Hindus in DI Khan have to bury their dear ones because there are no shamshan ghats (cremating places) here. Our relatives in other parts of Pakistan can perform funeral rites according to Hindu custom and we also want to do the same,” said RC Sharma, pundit of Balmeek Mandar.
“In 1985 Pandith Kahdaree Lal was cremated and he is the only Hindu whose remains were incinerated in the district since the inception of Pakistan,” said 67-year-old Sawan, adding that the ceremony had prior approval from the local government and was performed within the premises of the army cantonment area.
The former minority MPA Kishore Kumar, who was elected on a JUI-F ticket, said he had taken up the issue before the Provincial Assembly’s Standing Committee on Minorities. He added that the panel has forwarded its recommendations of making cremation places to the federal government. “Hindus want ownership of the shamshan ghat in Madina Colony, which belonged to the community in the past.” If we file a civil suit, it will take years to decide and we cannot wait for so long, Kumar further said.
Data obtained from the Evacuee Trust Property shows that around 7,000 square yards of the Madina Colony were previously a cremation ground for Hindus.
“After partition all property belonging to Hindus was handed over to the Evacuee Trust Property Board. The community can get ownership of the land, but only if the federal government gives it back to them,” an official of the Evacuee Trust Property told The Express Tribune.
Hindus claims there was another cremation place in Town Hall area, but it was sold for approximately Rs3 million in an auction. Now in place of the shamshan ghat, there is a private clinic called Rehman Medical Clinic. “We protested against the auction, but no one in the government heard us,” said Madhan Lal, 63, a retired supervisor at the District Headquarters Hospital.
An official at the Evacuee Trust Property office said he was reluctant to share official records about the shamshan ghat in Town Hall.
While some people argue that Hindus, most of whom are employed in janitorial positions, cannot afford wood for cremation, the community rejects the reasoning. They say that in a city as populated as DI Khan, there must be some place for them.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2012.