Grave Concerns

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An area in the graveyard has been cordoned off for the COVID-afflicted dead.

Picture for representation

Shuaib Khatib hasn’t seen his wife and four kids in three weeks. As one of the three men put in charge of the burials of the Muslims who died of COVID-19 in Mumbai, he is now holed up in a hotel with 10 of his staff members from Bada Qabrastan in Marine Lines. An area in the graveyard has been cordoned off for the COVID-afflicted dead. He expects it to be sealed off for at least a decade.

“Unlike other graves which are dug four feet deep, these are 10 ft deep,” says Khatib. As per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation guidelines, there is a separate entrance area for the ambulance, everyone present at the site wears PPE, the bodies are buried with the help of a rope so as to avoid contact and thereafter the area is sanitised. Khatib has set aside 15 people for the job who work in shifts.

Currently, Bada Qabrastan is handling around 50 per cent of the COVID-19 casualties in Mumbai and Khatib has got eight more graveyards to make space for the bodies. He even once claimed a body from the hospital when no one from the family would. At Bada Qabrastan, the COVID-19 burials are done free of cost. “It hurts when people are fearful and object to take them in,” he says. “If we close our doors, then the government has no choice but to use an electric crematorium,” he says.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.
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