Cut off from Haridwar, Urns with ashes of Hindus piling up in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Hindus have the option to perform the rites at Sadh Belo, an island on the Indus river. But people …Read More

NEW DELHI: Urns containing the ashes of deceased members of Hindu families in Pakistan are piling up in temples and crematoriums there as the community awaits restoration of train and bus links with India to perform the final rite of passage — immersion of the ashes in the Ganga.

“The majority of Hindus in Pakistan prefer to perform the last rites of their deceased family members in Haridwar. Now, ashes of the deceased are being preserved in urns and kept in temples, special rooms in crematoriums and, in some cases, even at home,” provincial assembly member Diwan Chand Chawla told TOI over phone from Sukkur in Sindh province on Thursday.

All transport routes between India and Pakistan have been shut since August last year, when bilateral ties snapped in the wake of Parliament nullifying Articles 370 and 35A that used to guarantee special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Chawla, a former functionary of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, urged the Indian and Pakistani governments to arrange a special train to the Attari-Wagah international border so that scores of Pakistani Hindus are able to take the ashes of their deceased family members to Haridwar for the final rites.

Pakistan’s Hindu community has the option of performing the last rites at Sadh Belo, an island on the Indus river with a cluster of temples and a gurdwara.

“However, people prefer to visit Haridwar. They would rather wait for the resumption of rail and road communication than hurriedly immerse the ashes somewhere else. A special train would do for now,” Chawla said.

Hindu families that can afford higher travel costs use private transport to first reach Lahore or Wagah rail station, from where they take taxis till the international border. After crossing the border on foot, they hire taxis till the nearest town they have visas for and then proceed to Haridwar.

“This journey is long and expensive,” Chawla said. “Only a few give it a shot.”

In the past, Hindus who couldn’t afford to travel to India would hand over the ashes of their loved ones to religious organisations, including the Hindu Cremation Ground Association in Karachi, to take the urns to Haridwar and perform the last rites on their behalf.

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