Muslim Undertaker For Kashmir’s Hindus
17 February 2008
Srinagar: Under the majestic chinar in a cremation ground, Mohammad Yasin Dar, 55, has lit a bonfire to stay warm on a nippy February morning. He has spent a larger part of his days at the place for 10 years. A devout Muslim, he has embarked on an unusual mission-to perform last rites of the dead of Kashmir’s minuscule Hindu population. “Earlier, it was a pathetic situation here. There was no one to cremate bodies of Hindus as everyone was afraid. Cops would ferry the dead in dingy vans and lit the pyre in a callous manner,” said Dar. After Kashmiri pandits migrated from the valley in 1990, there was no one to take care of the dead of those who stayed back. Official figures reveal 34,878 Kashmiri pandit families are registered as migrants in Jammu. “I remember in 1990, police brought the body of a Hindu youth and there was no one to conduct his last rites. This haunted me and I decided to take care of the cremation ground,” said KL Wali, president Hindu Welfare Forum. Later, he roped in Dar. Dar, a father of three, is paid a monthly honorarium of Rs3,000 by the crematorium’s management. The 55-year-old also pressurised the management to restore temples set on fire by militants. “I had a dream in which a Hindu goddess commanded me to restore her temple in the cremation ground. As I had no means, I told the management to do it else I would not stay here,” quipped Dar.