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Parishioners of St Sebastian church at Aquem in Margao addressing media on Saturday

Chaos in Aquem cemetery over MMC’s controversial order


Aquem in Margao witnessed chaos on Saturday afternoon after the parishioners were shocked to see four unknown persons including a female taking advantage of an order issued by Margao municipal council (MMC) chairperson Babita Prabhudesai and chief officer Y B Tavde and asking the Aquem church grave digger to dig a grave in order to bury an unidentified dead body in the cemetery, which belongs to the Aquem parish.
Speaking to the media, the Aquem parishioners said, “These four unknown persons, who claimed to be human rights activists, showed an order issued by the chief officer of MMC and demanded that the dead body be buried in the Aquem parish cemetery.” The upset parishioners claimed that the order was in total violation of law.
The order stated that the Vicar (parish priest) of the St Sebastian church and the Vicar of Holy Spirit church, president of Hindu Mathagramastha Sabha, Margao and president of the Sunni Jamat Ul Muslameen, Margao have to make necessary arrangement either by demarcating some portion of their existing burial or cremation ground for dead body of any person professing any faith or arrange for a separate common burial or cremation ground within their cemetery or crematorium. The order was issued on September 19, but parishioners became aware of it on Saturday, as the parish priest was out of station.
“The order has been passed without jurisdiction and power and in complete violation of the law. We demand immediate revocation of the order,” demanded Aquem parishioner advocate Rajeev Gomes. He questioned as to how the MMC can dictate terms over property, which does not belong to it.
As the news spread about the “most faulty order,” the parishioners gathered at the church to see what exactly was written in the order, which was signed by chairperson of the MMC and the chief officer. The parishioners planned to hold a morcha. However, being a non-working day, they could not go ahead with it.
“The parishioners have utmost reverence for persons of all faiths but the cemetery, being an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church, burial of persons of other faiths is not permissible as per the Catholic tenets and sentiments of the Catholic community,” the parishioners said.
President of the Hindu Mathagramastha Sabha Bhai Naik said that it is totally a wrong order. “The Supreme Court has never asked anybody to interfere in a private burial or cremation ground. I do not know why MMC does it. They have no right to do it,” he said demanding immediate revocation of the order. He also said that they were not taken into confidence before issuance of the said order by the chief officer.
When the chief officer Tavde was contacted, he said that the order was issued based on a resolution passed by the Margao municipality. He also stated that office of the directorate of municipal administration (DMA) had issued a circular to make an arrangement for a common burial ground in the MMC jurisdiction.
But when asked as to how the MMC can issue such a controversial order directing private owners of burial grounds to make such arrangements and told that a morcha has been organised in protest, Tavde had no answers. “If it has hurt religious sentiments, I will revoke the order on Monday,” he said. Similar assurance was also given by the MMC chairperson.

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