Tirupati: When 26-year-old K Damodar Reddy lost his battle to Covid-19 at SVIMS Hospital in this temple town, his blood relatives did not come forward to perform his funeral, but a group of Muslims ensured his last rites as per Hindu traditions.
When a church pastor Vetti Dasu died of Covid at Ruia Hospital, nobody from his relatives came to receive the body and again the Muslim group rushed to the hospital, received the body and arranged for his last rites as per Christian customs.
Unfazed by the hateful propaganda carried out against Tablighi Jamaat last year, blaming it for spreading Covid-19, members of this Muslim religious organisation in this Andhra Pradesh town are conducting last rites of Covid victims, irrespective of their religion.
Active under the banner of Covid-19 Joint Action Committee (JAC), 60 volunteers belonging to Tabligi Jamaat have cremated bodies of 560 Covid victims since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.
They are performing the last rites of not only the unclaimed bodies but also of those whose families abandoned them for fear of contracting the infection.
JAC president Shaik Imam Saheb said that they perform the last rites of the bodies according to the religious beliefs of the deceased. “If the deceased is a Hindu or a Christian, we use services of their priests to conduct the last rites,” he said.
Imam believes it is an opportunity to respond to those who maligned Jamaat out of their hatred. “We are responding to the their hate with our love, compassion and humanitarian service. We believe that Almighty Allah has given us this opportunity,” said Imam, a practicing advocate at Andhra Pradesh High Court
He recalled how ‘false propaganda’ was carried out against Tabligi Jamaat last year after the congregation in Delhi. “They even dubbed Jamaat members as terrorists. Today, the same Jamaat members are conducting the last rites of Covid victims by risking their lives. There couldn’t have been a better answer to them,” he said.
A group of Muslims had formed Tirupati United Muslim Association in 2014 to undertake relief works during natural calamities. Last year after the pandemic broke out, it formed the JAC and requested the local authorities to allow them to perform the last rites of the victims according to the religious beliefs of the deceased.
JAC works under the guidance of ulema or Muslim religious leaders of the town. Moulana Ibrahim Hashmi, Hafiz Ishaq Mohammed and Moulana Jaber are the key leaders of the group.
“JAC received Rs 20 lakh as public donations. We bought a new ambulance. We now have two ambulances offering free service,” said Imam.
He thanked Tirupati MLA Karunakar Reddy for extended all help to the JAC. The legislator belonging to state’s ruling YSR Congress Party also provided some monetary support.
Despite testing Covid positive twice, the MLA personally participated in the last rites of some deceased along with JAC members. He also praised the services being rendered by the JAC.
The JAC now plans to expand its activities by arranging free oxygen cylinders to Covid patients. Its activities have come in for praise from various sections of the society and authorities, who were worried over piling up of bodies in various hospitals.
Tirupati has four major hospitals and it gets patients from the entire Rayalaseema region and also Nellore district.