The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amity on land for dead

Malda, Nov. 17: Hindus and Muslims have united to honour the dead.

Concerned over the lack of space for Hindus to cremate bodies, members of the minority community have donated a portion of land they used for burial.

For years, residents of the Muslim-dominated Sitalpur village in Chanchol subdivision have been using a plot (no. 352) spread over a little more than 3 acres to bury and cremate the dead. But the Muslims, who make up almost 70 per cent of the village, had the lion’s share of around 2.86 acres, as given to them by Raja Saratchandra Mukherjee of Chanchol in 1927. The Hindus had only 20 decimals (.20 acres).

Over the past few years, tension had been simmering over this disparity as Hindus said the land they had was not enough for cremation. Trouble erupted on October 10 when a family decided to cremate a body on the burial land. Timely police intervention prevented a showdown but it was then that village elders decided that a solution had to be worked out.

On Saturday, an all-party meeting, at which district administration officials were present, was called to discuss the issue. Among those who attended were the joint block development officer of Chanchol, the officer-in-charge of Chanchol police station, pradhans of two village panchayats and local leaders of the Congress and the CPM.

At the meeting, it was unanimously decided that Muslims would give away a portion of land to the Hindus so that cremations could take place without having to encroach on burial land. The Muslims, in a pre-Id gift, agreed to transfer 16 decimals (.16 acres) from their 2.86-acre plot to the Hindus.

Malda superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta said: “Though there has been no major incident, there was tension over ownership of the land given to the local Muslim association by the Raja of Chanchol. Since the cremation and burial spaces were adjacent, it created some problem. That divide has now been bridged forever, thanks to the efforts of the local people.”

Local Congress legislator Mahbul Haque, who was present at Saturday’s meeting, said he had not expected the dispute to be resolved so amicably. “I never believed the local people would find such an honourable solution.”

CPM’s Chanchol zonal committee member Ali Hasan said there was no point fighting when everyone had to stay at the same place. “I explained to the people that quibbling over it would not solve anything. I am happy that they understood, which paved the way for such a great decision. The Muslims had 2.86 acres and the Hindus .2 acres, which was simply not enough,” he said.

Residents have asked the district administration to arrange cremation facilities on the land.

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