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Grave concern for Christians

- Only burial ground at Satya Nagar runs out of space

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 6: The Christian community in the city is having a hard time finding a place to bury their dead. The only burial ground at Satya Nagar has no free space left.

The city has 31 designated graveyards, according to revenue records, but only three have been developed under the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and 28 of them either have no boundary wall or are partially encroached upon.

The Christian community, comprising followers of Roman Catholicism and the Church of Christ (Union Church), has a population of more than 15,000 people. The city has 74 churches where the members congregate on auspicious occasions and prayer days. Community members said when the city took shape there were a little over 1,200 Christians here.

The population of Christians has gone up manifold since the Kandhamal riots in August 2008, when many people came to the city in search of livelihood and began living here.

Paresh Das, secretary of Church of Christ (Union Church), Bhubaneswar, feels it is high time the state government thinks about providing land at other locations with the Satya Nagar graveyard becoming overcrowded.

“At times, people stumble upon skeletons while performing a burial service. The problem has become so acute that the community members get worried whenever someone dies. People from both the churches are now buried at the Satya Nagar graveyard,’’ he said.

In September last year, members of both the Catholic Church and the Union Church wrote to the state government through the general administration department on this issue. However, there has been no response to it yet.

“We are planning to write another letter requesting the government to grant us land for more burial grounds,” Das told The Telegraph.

Another member of the community, Amit Nayak, said: “Almost 15 per cent of the Satya Nagar graveyard has rocky soil unsuitable for burial service.”

Father Bijay Kumar Pradhan, parish priest of the Catholic Church, Bhubaneswar, said: “New land for burial grounds for the Christian community is the need of the hour. We came to know that there was a plan to provide us with land near Khandagiri and Chandrasekharpur. But there has been no response in this regard to us from the government.”

Sources said the Satya Nagar crematorium ground, which was planned when the capital city was designed in the early fifties, had 1.29 acres of burial ground for the Muslim community, 1.09 acres for Hindus and 0.99 acres Christians. The venue was planned to reflect a sense of communal harmony with all funeral activities taking place in a single complex.

The Satya Nagar crematorium ground was under the active control of the general administration department till the electric crematorium for Hindus on the plot became operational. The electric crematorium was inaugurated on April 13, 1999, by the then chief minister Giridhar Gomango.