- Islamist outfit opposes burial of elderly Ahmadi woman in her home village of Kathowali
It appears that Bishen Singh, a Sikh character from Saadat Hassan Manto’s Toba Tek Singh who was displaced after the partition of India and sent to a mental asylum, cursed his village so powerfully that minorities in the village, trapped in their very own ‘no man’s land’, are continuing their quest for a piece of land to bury their dead.
Ahmadis and Muslims had been living peacefully in Kathowali – a village 15 kilometres from Gojra in district Toba Tek Singh – until March 2013 when a Muslim religious outfit objected to the minarets of the Ahmadis’ worship place in the village.
“Minarets are for a mosque; not for the worship place of a non-Muslim. They should bring the minarets down. We cannot have Ahmadis continue to project themselves as Muslims,” said the people who often gathered at Kathowali on the call of the religious outfit.
As the Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants of the village, whose 45 per cent land is owned by Ahmadis, according to reports, started to doubt their age-old relationships, some ‘extremists’ belonging to the religious outfit added fuel to the fire by objecting to the combined burial of Muslims and Ahmadis at a local graveyard.
In the month of December, the extremists denied burial of two Ahmadis, a septuagenarian woman and a one-and-a-half year old girl, at the local graveyard, which embeds over a dozen graves of Ahmadis alongside Muslims.
The minor daughter of Waheed Ahmad, a Kathowali resident, died December 18. When Ahmad, his relatives and members of the Ahmadi community took the body for burial, a group of extremists stopped them from entering the graveyard saying only Muslims could be buried there.
The Ahmadis held a sit-in on the main road and blocked traffic to protest against the incident. As the group of extremists refused to show any laxity, senior police officers requested the Ahmadis to bury the child at some other place.
Jamaat-e-Ahmadia Toba Tek Singh Public Relations Secretary Ahsan told Pakistan Today that the police offered them to bury their dead at a place far away from the village where Hindus were cremated.
“I objected to this offer! Why should we bury our dead at a far off place when we have a joint graveyard here in Kathowali? We have been peacefully living here with other Muslims for a long time and have been burying our dead together. Why this discrimination now? What did we do?”
He added that the dispute was being fuelled by the ‘miscreants’ from Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat who basically wanted to have the minarets of Ahmadi place of worship removed.
“The local police keep telling us to get the minarets removed and they will solve all our other cases. By the time the cases are not resolved, our dead will have to face refusal at the doorstep of the graveyard it appears,” he said.
Ahsan said that the child was later buried at a private property, adjacent to the graveyard, owned by a Muslim Yaqoob Ranjha.
“Yaqoob himself is a Muslim but he offered his land for the burial. Such a display of brotherhood was not possible if Ahmadis and Muslims had problems with each other,” he said.
The wife of Iqbal Ranjha, a resident of Faisalabad, died on Saturday. When Ranhja and members of the Ahmadi community took the body for burial at the same graveyard in Kathowali, a group of Muslims led by a local cleric intercepted them and asked them to bury the dead at some other place.
Before the two groups entered into a brawl, the police reached there and persuaded the Ahmadis to bury their dead at some other place. Following which, the elderly lady was also buried in Yaqoob’s property, right next to the graveyard.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Jamaat-e-Ahmadia Press Section In-charge Amir Mehmood said, “The police took the side of extremists who caused the brawl between the locals. We are a peaceful community and follow the law and refrain from indulging in any kind of violence. However, the police taking side of the miscreants is condemnable.”