In Dakshina Kannada, where actions are often scrutinised for communal connotations, the act of Muslim neighbours pooling in money to perform the last rites of a 52-year-old Hindu woman has won praise.
The sequence of events began after Bhavani, a resident of Janaswati Colony at Vidyapura in Puttur, died following a cardiac arrest at around 8 am on Saturday. Residents in Vidyapura alleged that her family members did not come forward to perform her final rites and despite the area being a hotbed of right-wing activism, none of the 160 families participated in the ceremony performed at the cremation ground.
Bhavani’s cousin Krishna, whom she was living with, informed her paternal cousins and other relatives, who lived barely a few kilometres away. However, the family members allegedly refused to attend the cremation.
According to Krishna, her relatives were economically well off, unlike Bhavani, and suggested that they felt embarrassed at her financial position as she was a beedi roller.
“She was not married, she has been living with us for over a year now. We knew they were not on talking terms with her, but we don’t know the exact reason behind it,” Krishna says.
Bhavani, who was known to keep to herself, had been employed as a beedi roller at a private company at Puttur for about 45 years.
Despite Krishna’s repeated attempts to convince them, Bhavani’s family members did not budge to his plea to perform her last rites. Till 1.30 pm on Saturday, the body continued to remain at home. Moved by Krishna’s plight, a local resident Farooq, along with his friends Shaukath, Hamza, Nazeer and Riyaz, decided to help him.
“Krishna is himself a coolie, he did not have enough funds to arrange for the transportation of the body. So all the neighbours pooled in Rs 5,000 and ferried the body to the cremation ground,” Farooq says.
Further, assisted by a local anganwadi teacher Rajeshwari, Safia, Zubaida and a few other women also bathed the deceased. Subsequently, the body was cremated as per Hindu rituals.
“We have earlier heard of such incidents of disrespecting the dead in north India. It would have been very sad if we had let such a thing happen in our own town. Irrespective of what differences the relatives had with Bhavani, they should have seen her off one last time. It is their loss,” Farooq says.