Mohammed Sharif is an 82-year-old bicycle mechanic who became one of the Padma Shri awardees for his selfless services. People fondly call him ‘Chacha Sharif’ and he has been performing last rites of unclaimed bodies from the past 27 years, in and around Faizabad.
Mohammed Sharif has cremated or buried over 25,000 dead bodies till now. Though he never discriminates against the corpses based on their religion, he performs the last rites only according to the person’s religious practices.
It all started 28 years ago, when Sharif’s 25-year-old son, Mohd Raes Khan was murdered. One month after his son went missing, they found his dead body on a railway track in a decomposed state and devoured by stray animals. The incident moved Sharif which made him decided to perform the last rites of unclaimed bodies in his district.
Sharif visits the local police stations, hospitals, railway tracks, and mortuaries near to him on a regular basis. If a body is not claimed within 72 hours, he will take the dead body and bury or cremate the corpse based on that person’s religious practices. “For me, there are no Hindus or Muslims in Faizabad. Everybody is just a human being” says Sharif. He also performed the last rites of Sikhs and Christians as well.
Sharif has been facing some financial difficulties as well. Despite all the struggles, he still continued to manage with the donations he receives or the money he makes as a cycle mechanic.