I understand the difficulty of doing away with age-old traditions, but still the question needs to be asked: why does the Bheel community not cremate the (dead) bodies? Is it not a win-win situation, no unnecessary offense given to the majority, while satisfying criteria set by your own religion (presumably one cant escape by being an atheist). Finally cremation with assistance of electric furnaces are probably a better deal for the environment. Of course in extremis (and that will come for sure in a few decades time) the only possible options will be to convert or to migrate.
But that day, as Bhoro Bheel’s relatives were digging his grave, his
elder brother Moti Bheel says, “Some people warned us against burying
Bhoro in Haji Faqeer graveyard.” He says he was told that the cemetery
was reserved for Muslims and that the Shariah did not allow the burial
of non-Muslims in a Muslim graveyard.
As news of the problem over
the burial spread, many locally influential people, including the
Muslim landowner who employs Bhoro Bheel’s family as farm workers, got
involved. Together, they ensured that the burial took place.
as the Bheels were leaving the graveyard, says Moti Bheel, a few people
turned up and told him and his relatives to exhume Bhoro Bheel’s body
and bury it somewhere else. “They threatened us. They said they would
exhume the body themselves if we did not do so on our own,” Moti Bheel
tells the Herald. The next morning, the Bheels informed the local police
of the threats. This, however, did not deter the other side. “In the
evening, a member of the Bheel community informed us that some people
were digging Bhoro’s grave,” says Moti Bheel. “When we reached there, a
charged crowed of 300 to 400 people had gathered and Bhoro’s body was
lying outside the grave,” he adds.
The crowd had come together
through the efforts of one Qari Abdul Basit, the administrator of a
madrasa in Pangrio. Working through local mosques, he had distributed a
fatwa against the burial of non-Muslims in Muslim graveyards. He also
had prayer leaders announce that those who had exhumed Bhoro Bheel’s
body had discharged their religious duty and had not committed any
Perhaps deterred by such massive mobilisation, Shaukat
Khatyan, the senior superintendent of the local police, did not take any
action against those who had dug up the body even though he reached the
graveyard immediately after the exhumation. Instead, says Moti Bheel,
he told the Bheels to bury Bhoro Bheel elsewhere.
For the next
eight hours, Bhoro Bheel’s body lay in the open because the landless
Bheels did not have any place to bury it. Their employer came to their
rescue again and donated a six-acre plot of land to them for a
graveyard. Some of the Bheels, however, say they do not know how long
their landlord will allow them to bury their dead in the donated plot.
months later, a similar incident took place in another part of Badin –
in Goth Yar Mohammad Lund in Tando Bhago subdivision – where a recently
buried body of a Hindu was exhumed because it was buried in a graveyard
said to be reserved for Muslims. The only difference, this time around,
was that the exhumation was undertaken by the dead man’s own family
under severe pressure from the local Muslim community.
Bheel, an old Hindu man, had died in Goth Yar Mohammad Lund on December
23, 2013, and was buried in Bachal Shah graveyard, near Tando Bhago
town. The next day, Allah Dino Khaskhaili, a Muslim prayer leader at a
local mosque, approached Allah Dino Bheel’s sons – Laung, Ramchand and
Dano – and told them to exhume their father’s body and bury him
elsewhere. The prayer leader told them that the Islamic Shariah did not
allow the burial of non-Muslims in a graveyard for Muslims. Khaskhaili
said his followers would exhume Allah Dino Bheel’s body if the Bheel
brothers refused to. With Bhoro Bheel’s example still fresh in their
minds, Laung Bheel and his brothers decided to retrieve their father’s
body and bury him elsewhere.
When Aftab Aghim, the deputy
superintendent of local police, received information about the
exhumation, he rushed to the spot and ordered the Bheels to stop. This
angered Khaskhaili so much that he called for a shutdown of Tando Bhago,
leading to the immediate closure of all local businesses, while some of
his supporters blocked all entry and exit points of the town. Aghim,
then, held prolonged discussions with the elders of both communities and
proposed to build a wall within the graveyard to separate the graves of
the Hindus from those of the Muslims. Luckily, say eyewitnesses, the
two sides agreed to his proposal and the situation was defused.