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Monday, March 23, 2009 5:10:00 PM

UK court to decide on allowing Hindu-style funeral pyres

A top British court will begin a landmark judicial review on Tuesday, on allowing funeral pyres according to Hindu rites in Britain.

The review by the Royal Courts of Justice has been brought by Davender Kumar Ghai, founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society, who has been campaigning for a change of British laws to allow open-air cremation conforming to Hindu rites.

Currently, open air funeral pyres are not allowed, and many families in Britain take bodies of their deceased relatives to India for cremation according to Hindu rites. Open-air funerals in Britain are illegal since 1930.

The judicial review hearing is scheduled over three days from Tuesday.

Newcastle-based Ghai, 70, who is in poor health, said: "I have lived my entire life by the Hindu scriptures. I now yearn to die by them and I do not believe that natural cremation grounds — as long as they were discreet, designated sites far from urban and residential areas — would offend public decency.

"My loyalty is to Britain’s values of fairness, tolerance and freedom. If I cannot die as a true Hindu, it will mean those values have died too."

In an earlier legal hearing on the issue in March 2007, Justice Andrew Collins said the judicial review was of "considerable importance" and a full hearing in the High Court was "in the public interest".

A British Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "There are inevitably competing views on the appropriate arrangements for disposing of bodies stemming from different views about religion, morals and decency.

"The current law requires that cremations must take place in a crematorium and open air funeral pyres are not allowed. The government considers that this requirement is justified, taking into account the complex social and political issues raised".

In July 2006, Ghai organised a funeral pyre in a remote field in Northumberland of Rajpal Mehat, 31, an illegal Indian immigrant.

The act was against the law but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges.
Vote: Should Britain accept funeral pyres?

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Members Comments

AndrewSlade 11-Apr-2009 10:58
OF COURSE we should allow & even encourage Hindus to use funeral pyres! It is a cheap, cost effective, tried & tested method of disposal of the material remains of those whose mortal coils have been shuffled off. How can it be considered pollution, when nothing could be more evidently recycling than this return of God's (or the Gods') gift to where it came from: the Earth & air of Mother Hind (Hindustan). Or, in this particular case, out here in the colonies: Britain. Hindus believe it releases the soul for reincarnation in another life form. They are entitled to their belief, obviously.

Dioxins are the main problem, as they can be released into the air by incomplete combustion. Hindus use gold teeth fillings, which is incombustible, avoiding the problem of mercury vapour released to the air by western teeth amalgam fillings. Heart pacemaker batteries should be removed. The real problem, however, is to ensure that only SONS can be allowed to light their fathers' pyres. Sons in law, just maybe but definitely not daughters (as many Hindu modernisers want) because that would subvert the whole tradition of millennia & undermine the patriarchal character of Hindu society, which is based on the desire of every man to generate a son to light his pyre. "Baby won't you light my pyre", as the old sixties song says.

As the Hindu family shrinks, especially out here in the Diaspora/Colonies, beyond the All-encompassing Sea (Surinam, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Fiji, Samoa, England & many others even more insignificant) it becomes ever more difficult to guarantee a son to continue a Man's name, even though his soul continue in other form & his body is recycled. Many men are stuck with only daughters, useful to succour them in their old age (if they deserve it: karma) but useless when it comes to lighting pyres.

From the point of view of the English Dalits/ Untouchables/Harijans (beloved of God, as Gandhiji called all the uncaste) it would be good to contain all the million Hindu invader colonist Babus into Hindu ghettoes insofar as possible, until they (the indigenous English untouchables that is) feel strong enough & self confident enough & above all find enough good LEADERSHIP to put an end to the Hindu Raj in England (as they ended the British Raj in theirs). Gandhiji promised in October 1930 in London & in Lancashire "Swaraj means swaraj for India & swaraj for Britain". (Self rule & a homeland for India & the same for Britain). The first half of this promise was fulfilled in 1947, "At the stroke of the midnight hour", as Nehru said at the time. But the second half is yet to come. Can the promise of a god prove false? For Gandhiji is a god to Hindus.
Herb 28-Mar-2009 0:47
I should have thought that since Davender Kumar Ghai has already given up his proximity to the Ganges (which I understand has special religious significance and can't be replaced by, say bathing in the Thames) he should be equally willing to accept a modified form of funeral pyre - i.e. U.K. style cremation. If he isn't willing, then I suggest that he should arrange for his corpse, when he does die, to be flown back to India where, presumably his body can be disposed of in the traditional funeral pyre that he wants. He's also, I presume, free to fly to India so that he can die there?

Another possibility is that U.K. Hindus should compromise by devising and paying for a special Crematorium for Hindus only where their funeral rite, in modified form could be observed?
evansthespy 24-Mar-2009 11:45
There are good reasons why we cannot allow unofficial funeral pyres - obvious one is pollution and there are laws governing the way dead bodies can be recorded, treated etc.

More importantly though is the fact a minority group is able to simply ignore a British law and just get away with it. I say if they don t like British law then nothing is stopping them from leaving the country.
Heidelberg 24-Mar-2009 10:45
Yes, Britain should accept funeral pyres but only if they are in secluded locations and only if everyone can do it irrespective of race or religion.

I once saw one at the back of a Hindu temple in Bombay and as the body was covered in rose petals all you could see was the face. It was all done in the best possible taste.
Wildgoose 24-Mar-2009 9:33
Of course they should. English Common Law has always been based upon Common Sense and the general principle that we only prohibit actions that are harmful. (In contrast to the European Corpus Juris in which only actions expressly permitted are lawful).

Presumably at some point in the past it was considered unacceptable (for whatever reason) for a body to be disposed of in this way. I would say that this no longer applies and that Ghai should be allowed his freedom of religious practise to do something that harms no else, i.e. does not break the Golden Rule.

The English have always adopted a "Live and Let Live" attitude. We shouldn't let the statist attitudes of the "Celtic" countries in the UK to override English tolerance.
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