Tablighi Jamaat Volunteers Conduct Funerals for COVID-19 Victims
A 60-member team of volunteers from Tablighi Jamaat have conducted over 500 COVID-19 funerals in Tirupati.
"Last year, many blamed some of us for the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, everyone is appreciating us," said JMD Gouse, while preparing to attend the cremation of nine COVID-19 victims in Tirupati city.
Gouse is an active member of Tablighi Jamaat. With other like-minded members, he founded the COVID-19 Joint Action Committee (JAC) under the Tirupati United Muslim Association to address COVID-19 related issues of people, including conducting funerals.
While getting treatment for the disease itself became harder given the existing crisis, several families are hesitant to conduct funerals, fearing infection. Further, for orphans and destitute persons, there is no one to conduct their last rites.
Gouse coordinates with as many as 60 volunteers every day based on inputs and requests he gets on the phone, for carrying out a dignified funeral for victims.
According to Gouse, the team has been conducting funerals of at least 15 bodies daily for the past month, irrespective of community and religion. He said, “In the first wave, there used to be very few deaths, mostly of older people; but now most of the people dying are youngsters. It becomes tough to convince or console the people as they become helpless before conducting the funeral.”
The 60 members are divided into three teams, and each team is assigned at least four-five bodies every day.
“We conduct the funerals based on their religious traditions. If the victim is a Hindu, we put a cloth and flower garland. For Christians, we put the bodies in a coffin and call up a Church to arrange a prayer. We hold a Janaze ki Namaz (rituals) for Muslim victims.”JMD Gouse, Member of Tablighi Jamaat
Gouse said that they were arranging for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) on their own, with some contributions from people in Tablighi Jamaat. According to him, the police, municipality and other departments are assisting them in going ahead with the service.
According to members, so far the teams have conducted funerals for 536 people. Of these, 134 were during the first wave while the rest were in the ongoing second wave.
Some of the members coordinate and arrange for logistics to shift bodies to designated cremation/burial grounds. Gouse said that all the volunteers are auto drivers, workers in eateries which have closed now, and daily wage earners.
According to him, at least six youths who are neither part of Tablighi Jamaat nor Muslims, have joined them in their work after being inspired by the work.
When asked how it is to work for people after being accused of wrongful motives, Gouse said
“Two-three people had gone to Delhi in March 2020 for the congregation and then people blamed all of us. Now things have changed. People have understood things. I hope we will come out of this situation with brotherhood and compassion.”JMD Gouse
(This story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission.)
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