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Houses in graveyards

Hyderabad, Oct. 1: People have begun living among the dead here thanks to greedy land sharks who think nothing of setting up housing colonies on graveyards, having already snapped up municipal parks and Waqf land.

Some colonies have been provided services by the municipality and electricity departments. But in some other cases, people have encroached on graveyards and tapped electricity illegally.

Waqf board chairman Mohammed Saleem says there are about 8,500 graveyards in Andhra Pradesh, with 70 per cent of them in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts. Most graveyards have an open area of nearly five acres, which have been encroached upon by land sharks and those living close to the spot.

Last week, workers uncovered the skeletons, purportedly belonging to a Nizam family, while digging at a six-acre plot around the historic Paigah tombs in Hyderabad. A housing firm recently began work on the plot to set up a multi-storeyed complex.

Says Kurshid Jah, a descendant of the Nizams: “Earlier the poor put up huts (at the graveyard) and… now, the sharks have taken over.”

Other graveyards are turning into residential colonies. Graveyards in Asif Nagar and Mosanbagh and many in Bahadurpura have been occupied. In some places, families have lived for nearly a decade.

For Shamshuddin and his family, a black tombstone has served as a dining table for years. Others sleep on similar tombstones.

“Poverty and proximity to the city has encouraged people to use them (the graveyards) as dwelling units. Since there were no objections by either the Wakf board or others, they continue to live (there) at their own risk,” says Abdulla Karim Pasha, a senior high court advocate, who also lives near the Asif Nagar graveyard.

“Whatever be the reason, the presence of people living among the dead is a human tragedy and measures have to be taken to relocate them,” says Saleem. The board chairman had proposed that Hyderabad’s nearly 2,500 graveyard dwellers be shifted, but the government is yet to allocate funds for this.

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