Meet the Muslim youth cremating bodies of COVID-19 victims in Telangana

Hyderabad: At a time when even family members and close friends are turning their backs on those dying of COVID-19 due to fear of getting infected, a group of young heroes from across Telangana have taken it upon themselves to give honourable farewells to those who battle the virus and pass away. Putting religious differences aside, the group has set an example of communal harmony in the city. 

The Youth Welfare Telangana, led by Syed Jalaluddin Zafar, has cremated over 1600 people since the pandemic began. Out of all the deceased they have put to rest, more than 200 are Hindus, while two were Sikhs and 15 were Christians. The group now has 160 members across Telangana, of which 60 members are in Hyderabad itself. According to Zafar, 10 members are always available, at any point of time. 

Youth Welfare Telangana was formed in 2014. Initially it was limited to undertaking typical social service acts like conducting blood donation camps and helping school dropouts rejoin school, and it never originally planned to undertake the poignant task of burying the dead.

Members of the Youth Welfare Telangana

It all started after a friend of Zafar’s lost his father. “His son deserted him due to fear of COVID-19 and his sister requested us to carry out the final rites of their father according to traditions, and asked us to give him an honourable burial,” Zafar recalled. After that, the organisation started performing cremations of people on a regular basis. “We met health minister Eatela Rajendar in a meeting which he had with NGOs and told him that we would be performing such a service.” 

The group started cremating the bodies of Hindus after a a specific incident last year. Syed Jalaluddin Zafar said that there was a daily wage labourer from Andhra Pradesh who had passed away. “He had no one to look after him except his wife. A a number of different NGOs called us to perform his final rites, so we took his body to the Shamshan and did his final rites according to tradition” he said. 

After that incident, the group started performing the last rites of non-Muslims as well and had their cremations take place according to the customs and traditions of the victim’s faiths. “People are leaving their own fathers and mothers and running away. We are Muslims, we can’t sit still and watch this happen. We still have humanity left with us,” Zafar told

Overwhelming response 

Zafar said that the response from the non-Muslim communities has been overwhelming. “They praised us and said that not even their brothers or neighbours from their own communities came forward to help them, but that strangers or Muslims like us came forward to help them.” Further, he added that some family members of the deceased even called them “angles” and “bhagwan” for their service. Zafar says it is nothing but a task they undertake out of humanity.