Pakistan: Let Her Rest in Peace – A Hindu Girl Buried in a Muslim Graveyard
On 29th April 2009, a 13 year old girl Shahmira, an Oad (Non-Muslim) by cast, resident of village Khuda Bux Chandio, Hyderabad, died due to an unknown disease. With the permission of local elders, she was buried in a Muslim graveyard located in a nearby village. The burial became an issue when a local religious cleric (Mulla), eight months later, proclaimed this burial as an act against Islam. He approached a prominent Mufti and other religious leaders to issue a Fatwa that this was an illegal act by Oad and the dead body of 15 year Shahmira should be removed and taken elsewhere.
Soon after being instigated by the local Mulla, a prominent Mufti issued a Fatwa in writing, that the dead body of Shahmira was be removed immediately otherwise the forgiveness prayers for the dead Muslims in the graveyard will not be accepted by God. A Fatwa under the Shariah Law becomes binding on all Muslims. Immediately after this Fatwa, a local court summoned Shahmira’s family and gave a verbal verdict that they should remove the dead body of their daughter from the Muslim graveyard within two days, otherwise, legal action will be taken against them and the body will be removed in the presence of the police.
Bhej Bhittai Welfare Association Bhit Shah, a partner organization of SPO, informed concerned officials of SPO Hyderabad about this issue. SPO Hyderabad immediately conducted a press conference and presented this case as a human rights issue. SPO’s team also approached other human rights organizations for their support. Immediately SPARK Hyderabad responded by providing a lawyer for the case, free of cost, who would represent the Oad community. SPO Hyderabad team also tried winning the support of the local community by visiting the burial site and meeting with local community in order to get their opinion on the matter. In the meantime, Sindh Rural Development Society (SRDS) Matiari, part of SPO’s network, organized series of rallies in Hala and Bhit Shah to support the Oad family and pressurize the decision makers to reconsider their decision. SRDS also consulted other Muftis on the matter and one prominent Mufti, belonging to a minority Muslim faction, gave a Fatwa in support of the Oad family.
Owing to pressure imposed by the civil society, a united front of all human rights based organizations in Hyderabad, the verbal court verdict was reversed. Following the civil society intervention a legal court procedure followed and the matter was taken to court with the Oad family represented fairly. Finally on 10th March 2010, district and session court Hyderabad gave a final verdict and said that in the light of the Fatwa given earlier, it is illegal to bury a non-Muslim in a Muslim graveyard in the future. However, in Shahmira’s case both parties reached a consensus that her corpse should not be removed. This agreement was reached between the Local Mulla and Oad community due to pressure of civil society organizations.