Stray animals prey on dead children at ‘burial ground’

Stray animals prey on dead children at ‘burial ground’

By Areeba Falak & Dibyendu Mondal | NEW DELHI | 10 December, 2017
A dog tries to dig up a grave in Chhath Ghat in east Delhi.
In the absence of any caretaker or regulatory authority, the burial place has zero safety standards.

The odd strip of 500-600 metres of land on the banks of River Yamuna near Geeta Colony, is home to stray dogs, ivory coloured horses used in baraats and dead children lying in their cold graves. Due to the lack of proper burial grounds for children, families in the capital are forced to bury their dead children in a place ridden with litter, stagnant black water and a perpetual stink as stray dogs feast on the dead bodies of children.

The Sunday Guardian visited the Chhath Ghat in east Delhi near Geeta Colony, also known as “Bachon wala ghat” where people bury dead children, illegally. Requesting anonymity, a worker who works for the adjacent privately-run crematorium, also located on the ghat, said: “At least 4-5 children are buried here every day. Wherever you dig here, you will find a dead body of either an animal or a human child. Since there are two ways to access the ghat, we are not always able to stop people from burying dead children here.”

A municipal corporation worker said: “Around 20-30 bodies were recovered when the soft ground was being cleaned and levelled for the Chhath festival. All of the remains recovered were thrown in the river water. People don’t dig deep graves, which is why it is obvious that when water comes to the shore, it washes away the sand and whatever is buried comes to the surface.”

In the absence of any caretaker or regulatory authority, the burial place has zero safety standards, thus providing easy access to stray animals.

A source said: “It is common for dogs to smell and dig up a grave. They eat the dead remains and leave everything else littered for nature to take care of. Some of these dogs are wild too. We have complained to the local police station and MCD a number of times to take these dogs away, since they look dangerous, but no action has been taken yet.”

However, officials at the Geeta Colony police station denied receiving such complaints. Though the strip of land near the Chhath Ghat has effectively become a burial ground, it is not legally permitted to serve as one. 

An MCD-run burial ground where Hindus bury dead children is on Bela Road near Kashmere Gate. On visiting the place, The Sunday Guardian found out that the situation did not seem as bad as in the “Bachon wala ghat”, but the issue of stray dogs digging up graves persisted. 

A worker at the burial ground said, “We bury at least 5-6 children a day. There is a boundary wall enclosing the area and an iron gate, but dogs find their way around. The problem is that because there are too many bodies coming daily, it is difficult to dig deep graves. That is why it is easy for dogs to access them. We have written to the MCD multiple times to provide us better infrastructure, but there has been no initiative.” Dr A.K. Bansal, Health Officer, MCD north, said: “People cannot bury the dead anywhere they want. We have three burial grounds at Bela road, in Paschim Vihar and there is one in South Delhi. This is where people are allowed to bury the dead.”

Back in 2007, a PIL was also filed, taking up the matter of lack of a proper burial ground for Hindu kids. Shantanu Sharma, the petitioner, had filed the PIL after the loss of a child in his family. The family could not find a proper place to carry out the last rites. Rahul Mehra, advocate for the PIL, told The Sunday Guardian, “The petitioner wanted to give a proper cremation to the dead child, but he was told that it is not allowed because of Hindu customs. There was no proper availability of a burial ground either. That is when we decided to file a PIL requesting the government to provide a proper space and regulate cremation or burial of children.”

Often families do not even get to know if the grave has been dug up since they hardly ever visit the grave again. Mehra said, “Even if they discover that the grave has been dug up, what can they do? There is no acknowledgement receipt to prove that they buried their child on a river bank.”

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