An acute lack of space has forced Christian cemeteries in New Delhi to reuse graves after five years, with a Catholic priest advocating that Christians opt for cremation.
The Indian Christian Cemetery Committee that manages two cemeteries for various Christian denominations in New Delhi, announced that from Sept. 1 burial plots to families of the deceased will be given only for five years.
Reverend Samson R. Nath, the committee chairman said this was because “very soon we will have no space to bury our dead.”
He said requests to the Delhi government for more land for use as cemeteries have not been successful.
“Asking people to opt for cremation will be the last resort when we will have no other choice. It is a very sensitive issue,” said Reverend Nath, a Methodist.
The lack of space for Christian and Muslim graveyards has been a growing concern in Delhi and other Indian cities, the Delhi high court in July observed.
As the population increased, the death rate also increased but cemetery land remained the same.
Father Savarimuthu Shankar, spokesman of Delhi Archdiocese, said the archdiocese is aware of the situation and has “been advocating for people to go for cremation as alternative.”
“But we cannot force anyone because it is a very emotional and sensitive subject that needs to be handled very carefully,” he said.
Father Shankar said that “it will take some time for the people to naturally opt for cremation.”
Father Thomas D’Cunha, secretary of Indian Christian Cemetery Committee, said Catholics should be “ready to face the challenges as other metro cities too have the same problem.” Father D’Cunha represents the Delhi Archdiocese in the committee.
Delhi has some 17 million people and Christians from all denominations together count for some 140,000 people, according to the 2011 Census report.