Srinagar: Habibullah Khan, the famous grave digger at Eidgah Mazar e Shuhada was laid to rest in Srinagar on Thursday. Khan is survived by his son and two daughters. He developed serious health issues and was admitted in SMHS hospital a few days back and breathed his last on early Thursday morning.
Khan’s funeral was led by chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at Eidgah grounds a he was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard adjacent to his house. Mirwaiz paid glowing tributes to Khan and stated that the deceased was a gentle soul and a staunch Awami Action Committee (AAC) activist, who used to dig graves and oversee the affairs of martyrs’ graveyard without any monetary benefits in the past 30 years.
According to Khan’s relatives, it was 1989 and there were hundreds of people around the body, but none came forward to dig the grave.
Militancy in Kashmir was a few months old and the body of a youth had reached the Eidgah area of Srinagar from Soura for the burial. Habibullah Khan, a resident of Ganderpora, Eidgah volunteered to dig the grave for the slain youth, who was unidentified.
According to Khan’s relatives, it was 1989 and there were hundreds of people around the body, but none came forward to dig the grave. Unmindful of the stigma a gravedigger endures in Kashmir, Khan dug the grave for the young man whose remains had reached the area within 20 minutes.
“It was after three days, we came to know that the person buried in the grave was Mir Mushtaq from Soura,” said Bashir Ahmed, a close relative of Khan. And when situation in Kashmir turned ugly after 1990, Khan even lost the count of graves he would dig each day.
He dug graves for almost 1500 “martyrs including top leaders that include late Mirwaiz Moulana Muhammad Farooq, Khawja Abdul Gani Lone, Ishfaq Majeed Wani, Abdul Hameed Sheikh, Advocate Jaleel Andrabi.”
Today, Kashmir lost its gravedigger who never charged a single penny for digging graves and instead would thank God for the job he was chosen for.
“He was doing it for the sake of Allah unmindful of the criticism the job of grave digging evokes in a place like Kashmir,” a family member of Khan said. “The only thing is that he couldn’t see the groom his second daughter as her marriage was scheduled early next month. Preparations for the marriage were in full swing.”
He said there was a time in early 1990s, when Khan would keep at least five graves ready for the dead. “Such was the situation in Kashmir that one day, six bodies were lowered in graves in a single day,” said another relative of Khan.
Khan, according to his family members, had buried people of all ages including a four-year-old kid from Maharaj Gunj. A senior Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Noor Muhammad Kalwal said that Khan was an expert in grave digging. “I have been meeting him frequently over the past 30 years. I have seen him digging graves for almost all the dead who are buried at martyr’s graveyard Eidgah,” said Kalwal. “He was doing it all alone. I have never seen him shivering while digging graves and lowering the dead in the graves. He would weep whenever he would lower the bodies of children and very young boys in the graves.”
The Eidgah graveyard, which before 1989 used to be a vast playground, is surrounded by a concrete and iron wall. There are some telling epitaphs on the tombstones on the graves.