Tablighi Jamaat and other volunteers conduct funerals of COVID-19 victims in Tirupati | IAMC

Tablighi Jamaat and other volunteers conduct funerals of COVID-19 victims 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, (many who are not part of the Tablighi Jamaat), he is part of the COVID-19 Joint Action Committee (JAC) under the Tirupati United Muslim Association, following the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 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 do their last rites. The JAC 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.”

Tirupati MLA Bhuma Karunakar Reddy, who has been infected with coronavirus twice and recovered, also joined the JAC earlier this week, by helping complete the last rites of 21 bodies, that were lying in the mortuary either because entire families were infected or because the kin was hesitant. In a press statement, he had appreciated the work done by the JAC. “Last year, my friends and colleagues formed the Muslim JAC and have conducted the last rites for over 500 bodies till date,” he said.

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; if they are Christian, we put the body in a coffin and call up a Church father to arrange a prayer; and if they are a Muslim, we hold a Janaze ki Namaz (rituals),” Gouse explained.

Gouse said that they’re 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 department staff are assisting them in going ahead with the service.

According to members, so far the teams have conducted funerals for 534 people ever since the pandemic broke out. Of these, 184 were in the first wave while 350 are in the ongoing second wave.

Some of the members will coordinate and arrange logistics for shifting 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, others, who are neither part of Tablighi Jamaat nor are they Muslims, have joined them after being inspired by the work.

When asked how it is to work for people after being attributed wrongful motives, Gouse said, “A few people had gone to Delhi in March 2020 for the congregation, and then several 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.”

This article first appeared on thenewsminute.com