A priest performs the last rites for a Covid-19 victim at a cremation ground in New Delhi on May 17. (Photo: AFP)
A land dispute in Ghaziabad district of India's Uttar Pradesh state is preventing the Christian community from using a cemetery as the country reels from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Even today, two of our members died of Covid-19 and we are running from pillar to post of the administration office to perform the last rites. If we cannot use the cemetery, we will take them to the neighboring state of Delhi,” Maneswar Das, a pastor of the Eternal Life Fellowship Society, told UCA News on May 17.
“We have been using the cemetery from 1988 and there was no such problem before, but two persons claimed their share of this land in 2014. Once the case came to our knowledge, we informed the local municipal corporation who asked us to approach the court. The municipal corporation passed a proposal in 2018 to give land for the construction of a cemetery for the Christian community.”
However, the contract letter was not given on behalf of the municipal corporation.
“From August 2018, we have been using the cemetery but last month Ghaziabad municipal corporation said the land is in the name of four people — two individuals, Ghaziabad municipal corporation and myself. The case was referred to the court, which directed us to stop the use of the land until further notice,” said Das, who serves as general secretary of the Ghaziabad Christian Leaders' Fellowship.
“The case is in court now and we are struggling to bury our dead as the district is witnessing a high number of Covid-19 cases.”
People of the Christian community say that due to not having a cemetery, the bodies have to be buried in Delhi
Ankur Massey, another local pastor, said the community is helpless as the matter is now pending before the court.
"People of the Christian community say that due to not having a cemetery, the bodies have to be buried in Delhi,” he said.
However, Catholic Bishop Francis Kalist of Meerut, which covers Ghaziabad, said he has no knowledge of such a problem as he is busy supporting priests, religious and faithful who are affected by Covid-19 in his diocese.
As of May 17, Uttar Pradesh had recorded 149,032 coronavirus cases and 17,817 deaths, government data showed.
There are 4,320 active cases in Ghaziabad and the recovery rate stands at 91 percent. From April 1 to May 17, Ghaziabad recorded 375 deaths.