Grave matter
M. L. Dhawan

LoVeS of Hindi cinema have been shocked at the way the trust managing the Juhu cemetery in Mumbai, where bodies of some of the film industry’s legends were interred, recently demolished as many as 21 tombs, including those of stars like Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Naushad Ali, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Ali Sardar Jafri, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Naseem Banu and Madhubala, etc., to make room for new graves.

After demolishing their tombs and digging the graves, the mortals remains (the bones and skulls) of these legends have been disposed of without even informing their families. After demolishing the tombs, the ground has been levelled with truckloads of soil, nearly three feet high, and another layer of graves has been created to overcome the shortage of space in this cemetery. When their families and fans expressed outrage, Asgar Ali, president of the Muslim Majlis, managing the burial ground, justified the action saying that there was an acute shortage of space on account of the increasing Muslim population. "We are forced to turn over graves each year due to the shortage of space."

Realising the gravity of the situation and the emotional upheaval the action of the cemetery managing authorities was likely to create, Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu requested the civic authorities well in time to allot the trust another plot in Juhu Koliwada to accommodate new graves. But nothing was done by the civic authorities to mitigate the problem. Sacrilege to the departed legends could have been avoided easily had the authorities done something to solve the problem being faced by the trust.

In any other country, these legendary artistes would have been knighted and appropriate memorials erected for them. Unfortunately, here economic considerations always rule the roost and when economic considerations reign supreme, art and artists are sidelined or sidetracked. Under these circumstances, the souls of these legends must be turning in their graves, raising a hue and cry. A couplet by Bahadurshah Zafar would hold true here, "Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar daffan key liye/Do gazz zameen bhi na milli koo-e-yaar mein" With the destruction of the graves and dismantling of their tombs, their fans have now no marker to go by when they could pay them respect on their anniversaries.