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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grave issues

The members of Konain youth group are from a small village in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the Social Action Project started by them is unique in that it tries to tackle a problem shared by both the dead and the living: shortage of land for graveyards.

The village has two graveyards. When the group launched their Social Action Project, neither of the graveyards had a proper boundary wall, and some of the graves were unmarked. Both graveyards had been severely neglected – no focused effort to maintain them had been made for more than 40 years. The sites of both graveyards were over-run by weeds, and residents of the village dumped their rubbish in parts of the graveyards as well.

Because of the ill-defined boundaries, sometimes residents of the village buried their dead relatives on other residents’ private property – either knowingly or by mistake. This became such a contentious issue that it sparked incidents of confrontation; mostly verbal, and sometimes violent.

The Konain youth group is made up of five male members and three female members. They appealed to the community to help them clean up the grave-yards. According to a female group member, initially their pleas fell on deaf ears, but when the village people saw the female members engaging in manual labour, they quickly joined the group members to lend a hand.

The group along with the help of the community members picked the trash and got rid of weeds and overgrown grass; this helped greatly in exposing the unmarked grave mounds. After the clean-up phase, the group members analyzed both graveyards for space. They concluded that one graveyard was entirely full, while the other still had room for new graves.

The group members put up a fence around the full graveyard and convinced the community members to help them raise a wall around the second graveyard. The community members have hired two grounds men to maintain both graveyards and have started a fund to pay their wages.

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