Dead silence

January 18, 2015

The historic Taxali Gora Kabristan is in a shambles. Is the city district administration listening?

Dead silence

It is hard to catch sight of the Christian’s graveyard in Taxali, commonly known as the Taxali Gora Kabristan, because the vendors have nearly covered its entire front wall by hanging second-hand woollies and other articles of clothing on it.

The road running along the graveyard is occupied by makeshift stalls, carts and customers’ vehicles, all of which block the main gate of the cemetery, making it difficult for a funeral procession to enter the place.

The graveyard, which is situated on a 170-kanal land, has recently been given a new boundary wall and a gate but they are not manned. As a result, irrelevant people are seen hanging around. Stray dogs also enter the place and damage the graves.

The footpath along the cemetery is dusty; the plaster has come off and has not been repaired since. Young kids are often seen using the road that leads inside the graveyard, as a cricket pitch. There is no one to stop them.

The gravestones are variously chipped and broken. Those not damaged are without a readable epitaph because of layers of dust or the eroding marble.

Heaps of garbage littered by the neighbouring houses can be seen at different corners of the churchyard.

The centuries old Taxali Gora Kabristan, which is the last abode of such luminaries as Rev. D C W Forman, the founder of Rang Mahal Mission School and the Forman Christian College, Lahore; his wife Marcaret J Forman; and Dhyan Singh, a wazir (minister) of Sher Singh, the Maharaja of Punjab, lies is in a shambles.

Other important Christian personalities who are buried here include Mary Caroline, Meera Elizabeth, Martha FR Half, William Montgomery, Dr Charles, Sara John H, Edward Henry John, Richard Reign, Sister Mary, Edward Herbert, John Edward Hutson, James Alex, Earnest Alfred and James C S Stag.

According to Babu Lal Gill, the graveyard caretaker, who has been looking after the historic cemetery for the past 40 years, new graves have been made and the old ones have disappeared. "When the Christian graveyard in Chaburji did not have enough room, either because of the encroachments or the growing population in the city, the community started burying their dead at the Taxali Gora Kabristan."

New graves clearly outnumber the old ones. Recently, a 1733 grave was encroached upon by a new one.

Christians based in Shahdra, Youhanabad and other remote areas of Lahore, despite having graveyards in their localities, bury the corpses in Taxali because the cost of burial is far less here.

"It costs between Rs600-1,000," says Gill. "A grave with a box costs Rs1,000, and the one without the box costs Rs600. Besides, the fee of the church affiliated with the graveyard is Rs200."

Reportedly, the other Christian graveyards charge a huger fee. For example, the Gulberg Gora Kabristan charges Rs20,000-25,000.

An office-bearer of the Christian Gora Graveyard Development Committee (CGGDC) tells TNS, on condition of anonymity, that the Data Gunj Baksh Town Administration has made no cleanliness arrangements at the Taxali graveyard. "There is no janitor or a security guard at the graveyard. The committee is trying, on self-help bases, to improve the condition of the place," he says.

"We constructed the boundary wall, repaired the main gate [of the graveyard], installed a water tank and a water pump. We also built a structure for funeral prayers, fixed the lights and reconstructed the rundown graves of important personalities."

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In the event of the Urs of a saint, the pilgrims often stay in the premises of the graveyard. They forcibly enter the cemetery by jumping its outer wall, sometimes damaging it as well. They don’t care for the graves or the holy writings on the epitaphs.

As the committee official puts it, "If these people are stopped, they resort to violence."

The CGGDC has lodged complaints against such people with the police but no action has been taken so far.

The committee is now organising a meeting of Christians where the measures to restore the Taxali Kabristan will be discussed.

Dead silence