The Times of India – ‘Fear drives Peshawar’s minorities to turn cremation ground into graveyard’

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2018. In yet another twist to the Peshawar crematorium issue, the Sanskar Sewak Samiti (SSS), a Peshawar-based organization, has claimed that Hindus and Sikhs, who can’t afford to travel to the nearest crematorium (which is about 90km at Attock), are forced to bury their dead in a five-kanal (2,500 sq yards) cremation ground that has been turned into a graveyard following objections by the locals.

Former SSS president Zahid Kumar told TOI over the phone from Peshawar that after the Partition, they were allotted five-kanal land for a cremation ground, but due to opposition by neighbouring residents and some locals against burning the dead, they started burying them.

“We are peace loving minority communities of Pakistan, so we changed our last rituals so as to not create any bad blood,” said Zahid, adding that they had also got the platforms constructed for burning the dead ones, but they didn’t use them to maintain communal harmony.

He said both Sikhs and Hindus have filed a writ in a court urging it to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government to release Rs 3 crore, which was earmarked by it in 2017-18 budget for a crematorium for the minorities. The writ was filed by Gurpal Singh, a resident of Peshawar, said Zahid.

He said an ambulance charged something between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000, while a bus takes Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000 to ferry a body to Attock for cremation.

“Sometimes when there are many relatives or friends, then there is requirement of two buses which costs anything around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000,” he said, adding that everyone couldn’t afford the expenses.

Notably, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK has also appealed to the KPK government to provide land to the minority Sikh and Hindu communities of Peshwar for the cremation ground in the absence of which they were forced to bury their dead ones.

GK had also offered financial assistant for the construction work, which evoked sharp reaction from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

Zahid said SSS provides conveyance expenses, wood and a pandit for the Hindu families who couldn’t afford to travel to Attock for cremation of their dead ones.