Unable to rest in peace: Peace-loving Swamis of Thar forced out of own graveyard

Published: May 11, 2014
Email
Members of the Swami community have been holding protests in Chachro, Tharparkar, since May 5 to reclaim the alleged encroachment on their graveyard and demand better governance in the area. Ninety-year-old Satram Das has been participating in the protests every day. PHOTO: COURTESY AWARE

Members of the Swami community have been holding protests in Chachro, Tharparkar, since May 5 to reclaim the alleged encroachment on their graveyard and demand better governance in the area. Ninety-year-old Satram Das has been participating in the protests every day. PHOTO: COURTESY AWARE

Members of the Swami community have been holding protests in Chachro, Tharparkar, since May 5 to reclaim the alleged encroachment on their graveyard and demand better governance in the area. Ninety-year-old Satram Das has been participating in the protests every day. PHOTO: COURTESY AWARE Members of the Swami community have been holding protests in Chachro, Tharparkar, since May 5 to reclaim the alleged encroachment on their graveyard and demand better governance in the area. Ninety-year-old Satram Das has been participating in the protests every day. PHOTO: COURTESY AWARE
KARACHI: 

The peace-loving Swamis of Tharparkar’s Chachro district are being forced out of their own graveyard, where they have been burying their dead for the past 250 years.

A group of encroachers are standing armed on the doors of the graveyard, threatening the locals. “This graveyard is 250 years old,” pointed out 90-year-old Satram Das, a retired school teacher. “It is part of our faith to come here.”

Despite the old age, Das participated in the protest launched by the community on May 5. Apart from demands to reclaim the land, the community wants the authorities to address issues such as mismanaged wheat distribution, poor governance and lack of educational facilities in the area. They gather outside Chachro Press Club every day and are supported by a local civil society organisation, the Association for Water Applied Education and Renewable Energy (Aware). The local Muslim residents also stand alongside their Hindu neighbours.

The community members have approached the courts and submitted an application to the district and sessions judge of Tharparkar. “The court issued orders in our favour,” said Utam Gur, a resident. “The encroachers were told to evacuate the graveyard but they are still there.”

The residents named the alleged encroachers as Daim Rahimoo and Hashim Rahimoo, who apparently enjoy the support of a political party. The two men have issued several threats to the community.

A social activist in Chachro, Ali Akbar Rahimoo, claimed the encroachment has to do with urbanisation in Tharparkar that has picked up in the last 15 years. “Chachro now has a road leading to it, electricity and more water supply,” he said, adding that more and more people are moving here now. “The encroachers actually are like a qabza group [land mafia]. They take over plots of land by force and want to build houses on them.”

Another social activist, Gotam Rathi, has also joined the protesters. “The destruction of graves is despicable and we demand the culprits be punished,” he said. Also at the protest, Anwer Ali Bajeer appealed to the Tharparkar SSP to set up a police picket near the graveyard to drive the encroachers away.

‘Not Hindu land’

For the local police, the protests do not pose a major threat. “I don’t think it is such a big deal,” claimed the SHO of the area, Hamid Mari, while talking to The Express Tribune. “The land does not even belong to the Hindu community to begin with. It is government property,” he said.

“The graveyard is so old that it has almost became flat land where the animals graze,” he pointed out, adding later that he was unaware of the court orders. “I don’t think there are any encroachers there anymore,” he added.

When The Express Tribune tried to ask one of the respondents, Daim Rahimoo, for his side of the story, he cut the call as soon as he heard the word ‘graveyard’.

Swamis believe in harming no one, even in death

Unlike most people of the Hindu faith who cremate their dead, the Swamis in Tharparkar follow a unique ritual when a person in the community dies. “We make the body sit in the grave and cover it with salt,” explained a local Utam Gur. “We are a peaceful people and we do not want to harm the environment, the underground water, the soil or even the insects. So we feel it is best to allow the body to decompose in a way that harms no one.”

Some ‘saints’ of the community who attained a higher spiritual status have even opted to be buried alive in salt. “It is a stage when they do not want anything to do with the mortal world anymore,” Gur said. Ever since the encroachment on this cemetery started, the community is facing a tough time visiting the graveyard to pay respects to their deceased. Gur’s wife, Dheli, had been visiting the graveyard frequently to pay respects to their 13-year-old grandson, who died nearly a month ago of a congenital heart defect.

Dheli used to pay regular visits to the shrine of a local religious leader for as long as she can remember – sometimes every week on the days assigned by their religious leaders, and at other times, according to sighting of the moon.

Their peaceful rituals came, however, to an end around 10 days ago when she was stopped by armed men from entering the graveyard. “There are armed men there now,” complained Gur, adding that the encroachers have placed those men there with pistols and axes. “But I will go as it is a holy place and I am afraid of no one.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2014.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (15)

  • Shamsher Singh Dhillion
    May 11, 2014 - 6:46AM

    I honestly don’t know what to say anymore. Why do pakistanis shed crocodile tears when it comes to Kashmir, Syria, Palestine, but in their own homeland they treat minorities like second class citizens?

    Recommend

  • Shiv
    May 11, 2014 - 7:12AM

    @Shamsher Singh Dhillion:
    This is how they are- when in majority they will be barbaric to minorities, when they are not they will fight for minority rights. Wherever they are, they will make life for all miserable.

    Recommend

  • Nasir
    May 11, 2014 - 7:47AM

    After reading this news where SHO Hamid Mari’s remarks about the land doesnt belong to Hindus is ignorant, insensitive and smells foul corruption that he mudt have taken bribe for the armed men to encroach Swamis land.

    I think supreme court should take suo motu action against the area SHO by giving such frivolous remarks about a minority community.

    Recommend

  • May 11, 2014 - 7:53AM

    @Shamsher Singh Dhillion:
    No. Not second class citizens. Worse than that. These mullahs and citizens
    wish all minorities will just go away. Disappear…that means all Hindus, Shias,
    Sikhs, Christians, Hazaras, Ismailis, Bohrahs, Ahmadis, Agha Khanis. Kalash,..
    and Parsees.

    Recommend

  • observer
    May 11, 2014 - 8:40AM

    welcome to the kingdom of Zardari..

    Recommend

  • sid
    May 11, 2014 - 9:13AM

    Come to India let Pakistan become more Pak…….

    Recommend

  • pakistani
    May 11, 2014 - 9:43AM

    @Shiv:
    @Shamsher Singh Dhillion:
    I can vouch for the fact that many Pakistanis may they be muslim christian or hindu have condemned this act of violence and have protested against it. Also do read the news again which states that local muslims stand along side the swamis. It unlike India where a muslim cannot buy a flat in Mumbai good areas or some xyz tribe kills off muslims and nobody really cares. This problem is more of poor governance and law and order, its not a hate crime based on religion.

    Recommend

  • Broken Heart
    May 11, 2014 - 9:44AM

    PaKistani who present themself as torch bearee for human rights for muslims are not protesting against this… May be because the people who r facing the problems doesn’t belong to a particular community.. So pls, you dont talk about kashmir or indian muslims…

    Recommend

  • Nadeem
    May 11, 2014 - 10:47AM

    @Shamsher Singh Dhillion: minorities have been treated much worst in India. Kashmir is not a minority issue but victim of an illegal and immoral occupation by India. Indian armed forces have killed more than 100,000 men, women and children during this occupation.

    Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani
    May 11, 2014 - 12:40PM

    Worse is the fate of Indian Muslims if BJP forms the next government. Modi and Subramaniam Swami are full of hatred for Muslims, whom they want to convert or migrate to Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Stranger
    May 11, 2014 - 7:43PM

    These communities should be declared ‘antique’ or ‘unique’ .The archeological society of Pak should take them under their wings and do everything possible to protect their history and culture .

    Recommend

  • Timorlane
    May 11, 2014 - 10:56PM

    everything wrong is right in this province ruled by corruption party waderas

    Recommend

  • indian
    May 12, 2014 - 10:50PM

    @Shakir Lakhani:
    hinduism is not a proselytizing religion.we dont want to convert people of any other faith to ours!!!

    Recommend

  • sharabi
    May 13, 2014 - 10:38AM

    @Nadeem
    Really?
    My VP is christian & My HOD is a Shia Muslim.
    Army, navy ,air force chiefs, PM, Presidents every where you can find minorities. do you know Our PM is a Sikh?
    How these people achieved such prestigious and apex designations? They deserves & system of our country is secular thus it provided the equal or more than equal opportunities. (All these people comes from Grass-root level)

    Recommend

  • sharabi
    May 13, 2014 - 10:55AM

    @Shakir Lakhani
    who you are an Astrologer? so would you like to tell about you country, i am interested to know about India & Pakistan in 2025

    Recommend

More in Sindh