Graveyards had no place to hold the dead
The Hindustan Times  3rd December 2000

Sadhna, a resident a Durga Chowk, Barkhedi, was preparing to give birth to her fist baby when the gas tragedy struck on December 2nd 1984. She was admitted in Sultania  Zanana Hospital only to give birth to a stillborn on December 9. The 17-year-old wife of Namak Ram succumbed to the deadly methyl isocyanate two days later in the same hospital.

Twenty-five-year old Gaya Bai, wife of Phool Chand Kushwaha of Chhola area, gave birth to a dead baby boy on December 8. The baby's body was buried in the premises of Chhola Vishramghat crematorium. Gaya Bai too expired a couple of days later on December 100 and her body was consigned to flames at the Chhola  crematorium situated close to the Union Carbide (UCC) plant.

These were just two amongst many such persons during December 1984.

After the gas tragedy, the people who inhaled the deadly gas billowed by the infamous UCC plant landed either in hospitals or their final resting place in crematoria or graveyards. There was at least a flicker of hope for the relatives of those admitted in hospitals; but the dead left behind only tears for their relatives.

beginning December 3 morning to about a fortnight, the crematoria and graveyards - particularly the Chhola crematorium and Bada Bagh near Bhopal Talkies - were working much beyond their capacity. Vishwamitra Sharma, President, Vishramghat Committee Trust running the crematoria at Chhola, Govindpura and Chandbad informed that about 2,600 bodies were cremated within 10 days in all the three crematoria. In the Chhola crematorium alone, bodies of 42 people, including those of 18 women, were cremated on December 3 itself. The figure rose to 119 people, including 40 women, the next day. Similarly bodies kept pouring in the crematoria till December 11. besides, about 50 bodies were cremated within 4 days in Govindpura and Chandbad. Similarly bodies of about 200 children were buried within the premises of Chhola crematorium between December 3 and 11. Sharma said there were several kids like Pushpendra and Pari who had died on December 3 but were buried on December 11 because their bodies had no claimants. "Probably, their parents and guardians had also died in the tragedy and hence no one came to claim their bodies," Sharma said.

The Bhopal Municipal Corporation constructed a platform and a garden at the Chhola crematorium on December 3 1990 in memory of the gas victims.

Shiv Charan, a cleaner with the Chhola crematorium said truck loads of bodies kept coming for cremation, "I was also affected with the gas and I got temporarily blinded for about 8 months. I am suffering from eczema since then," he said.

Ezad Ali, Munna Khan, Mohammed Sheikh and Shehzad, who dig graves in the bb graveyard where most of the Muslim victims of the gas tragedy were buried, have vivid memories of those dark days. they said about 3,000 bodies were buried in the 75 graveyards spread across the city. Sheikh said the first body to arrive in the bb was of an old man who died at Bhopal Talkies Chowk around 9am on December 3. "The man first trembled and soon collapsed in front of our eyes with foam coming out of his mouth", he said.

Ali said, "the same afternoon the Wakf Board ordered digging of 50 graves only for the unclaimed bodies and agreed to pay Rs. 10,000. Beside this, we dug uncountable number of graves in Chhavni, Phoota Maqbara, Jehan Ghirabad and other graveyards on receiving orders from private parties. We did not charge money from several of the families" "this happened especially in Jehan Ghirabad grave where the diggers could not keep pace with the number of dead," he said. Ironically. Khallu shah, who bathes unclaimed bodies before they are buried, was hit by the gas and was lying among the dead in Hamidia hospital ready to be buried.

Shah said on the fateful night he was on the railway station ready to leave for Jabalpur. He said like the other passengers he too stated running beserk after the gas leak, he fell unconscious and two days later he found himself amongst the dead in Hamidia hospital morgue.

Shah said, "Strips of cloth with numbers on them were tied on my forehead and wrists. I was lost. I came out of the morgue only to frighten the policemen on duty, who took me for a ghost. They took some time to believe their eyes and left me at the gate of bb." shah got Rs. 25,000 as compensation. But he thinks he was fortunate enough to survive and not get buried in the graveyard where he bathes the 'mayyat' (dead).