Already in grief, Jogi Gate adds to their woes

Dismantled floor where once pyres used to be lit at Jogi Gate in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Dismantled floor where once pyres used to be lit at Jogi Gate in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Cremation Grounds, Graveyards face Admn’s apathy
Sanjeev K. Sharma
JAMMU, Aug 7: Bizarre it may sound but is a reality-the biggest and the oldest cremation ground in Jammu-Jogi Gate has become the worst victim of administrative apathy which is now resulting in harassment to the visitors at this place of performing last rites.
On one hand, the electric cremation plant was never put to use at Jogi Gate even after many years of its inauguration thereby rendering the infrastructure worth crores useless, while, on the other hand the authorities have so far failed to vacate the court stay on modernisation work which is hampering renovation of the cremation ground.
“Dismantled cremation sheds and broken ground beneath along with smashed tiles at the waiting sheds with all the debris lying there itself with some additional garbage makes it risky to move through especially for the elders,” Shiv Kumar-a young man who visited the place in a funeral procession to offer wood to his deceased relative told this journo.
The cremation shed is now shifted yew yards ahead just below the Gujjar Nagar Tawi Bridge.
“To reach the new shed, pall bearers and others in the funeral procession have to take extra care to avoid a fall while making their way through the debris,” Raj Kumar, 40, said after attending a cremation there.
He also claimed that he saw an old man in the funeral procession falling while negotiating through the debris and got injured.
Rishi Gupta was very resentful after performing the cremation of his grandfather at Jogi Gate and cursed those at the helm of affairs for not maintaining the place properly.
This cremation ground though situated at the bank of river Tawi also lacked facilities for performing last rites of unmarried people and most of such cremations are done at Purmandal.
While the users of this cremation ground face problems due to debris of dismantled infrastructure, Sewa Samiti-the custodian of all cremation grounds in Jammu has started construction of shops at Jogi Gate along the roadside thereby raising many eyebrows about commercialization of the place of performing last rites.
“While they have failed badly to maintain the oldest cremation ground in the city, they are now planning to do business at this place where one visits in grief and pain after losing dear ones,” Bishamber Dass, an elder resented.
This was the story of the biggest cremation ground in Jammu city which openly exposes administrative apathy.
When contacted JMC XEN, Arun Gupta said that modernization and renovation work of the Jogi Gate cremation ground was started to renovate it on modern lines but a contractor moved court and got a stay on the work as the same was not allotted to him.
Deputy Mayor, Purnima Sharma when contacted said that JMC Law Officer is working on vacating the court stay on improvement work at the cremation ground.
When asked about vacation of the court stay, JMC Law Officer, Shamim Wani said, a petition for that has been filed in the court for that purpose.
“Though after 2-3 dates of hearing, the case could not be taken up owing to heavy rush of cases in the court,” he informed.
Meanwhile, Vishav Hindu Parishad (VHP) State President, Leela Karan Sharma (senior advocate) said if the JMC Lawyer in his petition mentions the case as one of public importance, the judge can take it up for urgent hearing.
Another cremation ground on other bank of river Tawi in Bahu Fort area is also a victim of apathy by those at the helm.
“Approach road to the cremation ground is urgently needed while the shed too needs some repair,” Sham Lal-JMC Councillor of that area informed.
He further said that a retention wall along the Nallah adjoining the cremation ground has been washed away and is urgently needed to avoid a landslide.
Other such places of performing last rites of the deceased persons of Hindu and Sikh faiths too have horrific tales to tell in Jammu with Muslims too on same page of sufferers.
Apart from poor cleanliness, the cremation ground at Shiv Nagar has a Nallah (deep drain) all along its sides and it is completely uncovered thereby emanating intolerable smell to those performing last rites of their dear ones and also to those who remain the part of funeral processions.
Surprisingly, Shiv Nagar cremation ground falls in the Ward of Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) Mayor, Chander Mohan Gupta.
“Of the four cremation grounds in Gadigarh-Chatha area, three are in very bad shape while the one among these at upper Gadigarh is facing dispute with army which claims that anti-aircraft guns were fixed at this place in 1965 and 1971 wars thereby making the land of strategic importance,” informed Prof (retired) Yudhvir Singh-JMC Councillor from the area adding that owing to this reason army disallows development works at the cremation ground though cremations are allowed there for the last 64-65 years.
“The cremation grounds at Bhour Camp and Chatha have no sheds, no sitting arrangement and no water facilities,” he further said.
He added that all these places of performing last rites have no concrete or tiled track to walk and there are problems during rainy days.
“Sewa Samiti is for name sake here and volunteers clean bushes and do other cleanliness works here,” Singh maintained.
The cremation grounds at Akalpur also have similar tales of negligence.
“There are three cremation grounds in JMC Ward of Akalpur viz., Akalpur, Sangrampur and Patnayal and these places of last rites are open fields with no shed, no water or bathing facilities, what to say of sitting arrangements etc,” said Gar Singh, local Councillor of JMC in the area.
On water facilities at these places, he informed that for the last two years there is no water supply in the taps at these places.
Despite repeated attempts Sewa Samiti head, Surinder Saran could not be contacted.
Now, coming to the case of Muslims-the biggest graveyard in Jammu on the bank of river Tawi at Gujjar Nagar is terrorized by wild dogs-20-25 in number and over the years the canines have made many goats and sheep, grazing nearby, as their prey.
“Another big issue at this graveyard are big wild bushes forming a jungle and none coming to clear the same while poisonous snakes and other similar animals freely groom there,” JMC Councillor, Ch. Mohiudin from Gujjar Nagar area informed.
He also said that the burial ground also lacks tiling at some places and similar is the plight about light facilities here.
Similar apathy was narrated by another Muslim Councillor, Sobat Ali from Bhatindi area who said that locals have erected a boundary wall at Bhatindi graveyard by personal contributions but still the place lacks tiling work and water facility.
When contacted JMC Mayor, Chander Mohan Gupta said, for Shiv Nagar cremation ground JMC has deputed two men for cleanliness work and few days back he himself started a plantation drive there.
On Nallah along the cremation ground he said that it will soon be covered and the funds for that have been sanctioned but the work will begin after the rainy season.
On other cremation grounds he said: “I have asked officers to make a list of all cremation grounds after which we will see what we can do there.”
On graveyards being turned into jungles he said that the wild growth will be cleared after the rainy season.
“We will also see what more development can be done at the places of performing last rites of deceased persons,” the Mayor said.
“Surprisingly many former Ministers, MLAs, MPs, senior bureaucrats and other bigwigs attend last rites at these places. What blinds them to see the apathy is open,” asked Bishan Lal-a retired teacher