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Amirul Rajiv

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Suraya Parveen says the grave was the final image of her late father Mejbah Uddin Ahmed

Most graves in densely-populated Dhaka are momentary as a result of the Bangladeshi capital has run out of room for its useless. However what do you do when somebody takes over your beloved’s burial plot?

Suraya Parveen can not go to her father’s grave as a result of a stranger’s physique is buried in the identical plot.

“Because the eldest daughter I deal with issues. At some point I requested my brother whether or not he had visited the grave currently,” she instructed the BBC in her tiny condominium in suburban Dhaka.

After hesitating for a second, he instructed her there was a model new grave on high of their father’s.

“A special household now owns the plot they usually’ve cemented it. This information got here as a lightning bolt to me. I could not communicate for some time,” she mentioned, tears working down her face.

Azimpur cemetery, Dhaka

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Amirul Rajiv

“If I had recognized I might have made an effort to reserve it. This grave was the final image of my father and now I’ve misplaced it.”

She will be able to nonetheless go to Kalshi cemetery, a small personal one, however her father’s grave there not exists and another person is buried on high of him.

It is not the primary time this has occurred to Suraya.

She misplaced the graves of her first-born little one, her mom and an uncle in the identical method.

The disaster has left many others within the capital unable to safe a everlasting resting place for relations and mates.

It is not troublesome to search out house for burials – momentary plots are very low cost, however underneath metropolis guidelines each two years one other physique will likely be buried in every plot.

So a number of our bodies are buried in momentary graves – that is how Dhaka manages.

Person at Azimpur cemetery

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Amirul Rajiv

Individuals discover it troublesome however most don’t have any selection. Generally members of the family share the identical grave.

Cremation is just not an possibility in Muslim-majority Bangladesh – Islam doesn’t ordinarily permit for cremation.

Since 2008 metropolis officers have stopped allocating everlasting graves, whereas a semi-permanent one can price almost $20,000 (about £14,000), in a rustic the place the per capita annual revenue is simply $1,610 (£1,130).

At Azimpur close to previous Dhaka employed labourers clear weeds. It is among the metropolis’s largest and the perfect recognized cemeteries and hundreds of graves stretch in each course, most in a dismal state.

Grave digger at Azimpur cemetery

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Amirul Rajiv

Indicators marking the graves carry particulars concerning the individuals buried in them. Each inch of land has been used.

Sabiha Begum’s sister killed herself 12 years in the past and is buried right here. For the final 10 years she’s been attempting to guard her grave and admits to paying bribes to those that take care of the cemetery.

“I miss her day by day and consider that she’s going to come again. I generally go to her grave and discuss to her. I discuss concerning the newest motion pictures I’ve watched or the songs I have been listening to. It feels as if she exists in her grave. It’s actually troublesome to clarify this emotion.”

Yearly when her sister’s grave comes underneath menace she will get a name from the employed caretaker, who makes certain one other physique is not buried in the identical house as her sister’s stays.

“After we buried her we knew that they don’t allocate everlasting plots. About 18 or 22 months after she was buried, I do not keep in mind precisely… they known as me and mentioned her grave will likely be demolished. I desperately began on the lookout for methods to reserve it,” Sabiha says.

Watering at Azimpur cemetery

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Amirul Rajiv

“The man I employed to have a tendency the grave instructed me it’s potential to reserve it with cash. So I’ve been managing this manner all these years.

“Yearly round August or February I get a name from the caretaker when the time of the demolition is close to and I spend some extra cash other than the caretaker’s month-to-month charge. And that is how I’ve been taking good care of the grave for 12 years.”

In line with non secular students in Bangladesh, Islam permits a couple of physique in the identical grave. The overwhelming choice of individuals is for his or her deceased family members to have their very own graves which are not shared.

However in Dhaka that is simply not potential any extra, it doesn’t matter what religion one holds.

On the Holy Rosary, Dhaka’s largest Catholic Church, the peaceable cemetery seems like a breath of recent air in a packed, business district of the town.

However even right here, the freshly reduce grass and neatly painted crosses over every grave typically cover a grim story, says head priest Father Komol Koraya.

“It has change into actually troublesome as many individuals are migrating to Dhaka. We deal with the cemetery very properly. Most individuals wish to be buried within the church cemetery as they consider it’s a holy place.

“However now we have restricted house so now we have to repeat each 5 years. So after we dig we frequently discover bones that haven’t but rotted.”

And that is the stark actuality for Dhaka, a metropolis of 16 million individuals residing in just a little over 300 sq. kilometres – only a fifth of the house of London, which has a inhabitants half the dimensions.

Unplanned urbanisation in Dhaka

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Dhaka is among the world’s quickest rising and most overpopulated cities

In line with UN Habitat knowledge, Dhaka is probably the most densely populated metropolis on the planet, with greater than 44,000 individuals residing in every sq. kilometre.

Bangladesh’s capital has solely eight public graveyards, plus a number of small privately owned ones – method too few to deal with demand.

Metropolis officers struggling to search out house at the moment are encouraging individuals to bury their useless of their ancestral villages – and are even planning to supply incentives for many who do, says Khan Mohammad Bilal, CEO of Dhaka Metropolis Company Southern district.

“Possibly there are households in Dhaka who’re keen to bury their useless of their village house. But it surely might be expensive for them to move the physique. So we are going to make the association to move the physique by offering a automobile. We can even supply some cash to deal with the rituals. Possibly this manner many will likely be discouraged from burying useless individuals in Dhaka.”

The transfer might assist alleviate a worsening drawback, however it’s little consolation to Suraya Parveen and others in her state of affairs who should endure the ache of shedding the final resting locations of their family members.

Person at Azimpur cemetery

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Amirul Rajiv

Pictures by Amirul Rajiv