Mohammed Shamin is a third-generation gravedigger, who is supervising the Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam in Delhi. Since April, he has buried over 200 COVID-19 victims in this cemetery.
He shares his hard-hitting story and states that death has never given him discomfort up to now, but since the coronavirus crisis has triggered, each time he feels shaken to see an ambulance at the cemetery with a new COVID-19 diseased. He has never felt so much scared for his own life.
“I’ve been burying dead bodies for the last two decades and I always felt safest around the dead. I have never been scared for my own life before. Now, I find it is difficult to sleep at night.”
Whenever he gets a call from a victim’s family to discuss the last rites, as a responsible worker he asks them to wear protective suits, gloves and masks. He often advises them not to bring older people to the cemetery. Sometimes, he has to call the hospital and beg for gloves so that he can distribute to the relatives who he thinks aren’t following rules properly.
Sometimes, the family members and the health workers stand at different poles and argue with each other on who will unload the body. As either of them refuses to touch the body, he has no options than stepping in. At a recent burial, only a wife and a small child came to the burial ceremony of a man where Shamin had to prepare the last rites alone. Such a heartbreaking scene he has never seen in his life.
After digging more than 200 caves, he states that often he has to defy orders to stay away from the dead body. He is so worried about his own health that he has twice been tested for the Covid-19 and had to pay for one himself amid poverty.
A usual grave would be 3 feet deep whereas the COVID-19 graves are 10 feet deep. JCB machines are helping the workers to dig the graves at this cemetery and people only pay the machine operators. Shamin charges nothing for the burial. However, the cemetery management committee and city authorities have helped him in this task but with no help from the Government, he is feeling extremely worried.
38-year-old Mohammed Shameen has a family with four kids. A few days back, he had no other way than sending the kids to stay with his parents while he lives with his wife and tries to take the utmost precautions. He only steps in at night after sanitizing himself and taking a shower.
Delhi is one of the hotspots of Covid-19 in India with a death toll of about 1,400 till now. The Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam is spread over 2 acres of land, which is already filled up to half its capacity. Shamin fears that soon the cemetery will be full if the death toll continues for a few more days.