By Linah Baliga
Mumbai, July 31, 2019: A coffin came floating out of a grave in Sewri Christian Cemetery on July 28, much to the horror of the family and friends of the dead person.
A combination of groundwater and rainwater turned the grave into a well, making the burial ceremony a nightmare.
The incident angered many Christians who rue the dearth of space at burial grounds. “This is the first time I have seen such a bizarre sight where a coffin came floating to the top after it was buried,” said Neville D’Souza, a friend who attended the funeral of Keteria Fernandes, 80.
“The laborers were scooping out water but the pit kept refilling. Ultimately, the casket was placed inside the pit but it floated to the top. The undertaker tried to apply pressure by sitting on it. Then he had to literally stand on it [to push it down],” he said.
Loved ones and relatives who attended the funeral could not sprinkle mud on the casket once it was placed inside the pit, D’Souza said, adding that Christians should be buried with dignity.
“In Thane cemetery, before the body decomposes they put another body on top because of dearth of space. The graves are shallower too. But what happened in Sewri was terrible. We don’t want to be buried in this manner,” he said.
Thomas Joseph, a Thane resident and another attendee, said cemeteries should be equipped with water draining equipment.
“The condition of cemeteries here is so pathetic… The same thing happened in Thane cemetery recently. In Sewri, the undertaker had to sit atop the floating coffin and people placed heavy stones and bricks on it.
“We are trying to call the cardinal. The Christian Burial Board should look into this matter.”
Melwyn Fernandes, secretary, Association of Concerned Catholics, criticized Church authorities and said there was no respect for the departed and no space to bury them.
“The Church should stop selling land and keep space for cemeteries. What is the use of the archdiocese taking in two Sunday collections from 122 churches when they cannot fulfill basic requirements of parishioners who make donations and pay tithes on a regular basis?” he asked.
The Archdiocese of Bombay does not manage the Sewri cemetery, said Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of the archdiocese, when approached for a comment.
“Sewri cemetery is a multichurch trust. It is not just the Catholic Church; there are other groups also. There are churches of various denominations. Each of the churches has a representative on the board of trustees. The office of Sewri cemetery will be able to provide answers,” he said.
The manager of the Sewri cemetery was not available for comment.