Yet another English law is being challenged, another ruling disputed. Of course I am referring to the case of Davender Ghai, who wants to have a designated place for an open funeral pyre. He believes that this is a requirement for his soul to be released from his body in a sacrament of fire. Mr. Ghai is a Hindu and feels that his religious beliefs should be given some freedom of expression.
First off, even the Hindus have differing views on this religious practice. Some have stated that the soul is already released at the moment of death, so this open funeral pyre is not a requirement for the soul to be released. Some believe this practice is antiquated. Having been around for 4000 years, I would agree it is antiquated. However, many Hindus still practice it. That is why many of them still send the bodies back to India to have it done properly.
“Everyone has the right to live and die by their religion.” What would be the effect of allowing Mr. Ghai to have his way? Would the practice of suttee be reintroduced? After all, that was also part of the ancient religious rites of death. What other religious beliefs and practices will we have to accommodate? Who will foot the bill to convert some ground in order to provide such an area for open pyres? In most democracies, the consensus usually prevails. I may be guessing here, but I’m sure the consensus would rather use the money to pay for books for schools rather than converting and subsequently maintain crematoria for an open pyre. The courts will have to take all that into consideration. What other adverse effects will result from this? Can murder potentially be covered up with the use of open funeral pyres?
The laws of this country forbid open funeral pyre. I don’t care that the government found that open fires to kill all the dead animals that suffered foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 carried no risk to the environment. The government had to get rid of thousands of animals as efficiently as possible and I will not believe that such a report was not politically-motivated. However, it had to be done. The risk to the environment was negligible when compared to the risk of allowing such animals to live. The fact is, some environmental pollution will exist. What about the smell? When wood burns, you can smell it from a mile away. What would a human body smell like? Must we, the general public, endure all this? In a crematorium, it is a closed environment, where toxins would be filtered appropriately. The heat generated by an open funeral pyre could not possibly reach that in a crematorium, so the body would be left to burn for a long time.
I am tired of hearing about people wanting Britain to be tolerant of their religious or cultural beliefs. These same people show absolutely no respect for British law, yet, like a spoiled child, they demand to have their way. Supporters of Mr. Ghai point out that despite the 1930 law against open funeral pyres, it is not “illegal”. They cited the case in 1934 of the open air cremation of the wife of the Nepalese ambassador in Surrey. Just because no one was prosecuted does not make the act “legal”! Mr. Ghai himself broke the law in 2006 after the court had ruled against allowing him to have an open funeral pyre. He went ahead and did it. Northumbria police did nothing at the time, but later stated it “may” have been illegal. There is no “may” about it. It was downright illegal. The law says “No open air funeral pyres!” Did he have an open air funeral pyre? Yes. Was he prosecuted? No. So, what does that say. It does not say that the act was legal. It just says that the law was there for him to break it. And in not prosecuting, the justice system in this country is showing some hypocrisy. Possibly, they were afraid to appear to be non-PC. Even if Mr. Ghai should lose his case this time around, there’s no guarantee that his family will not proceed according to his own wishes.
There’s also the argument that open funeral pyres used to be practiced in this country prior to the 1930 law. What’s the use of pointing out an outdated practice to compare to today’s world? Over the years, it was obviously found to have had adverse effects on health and environment, otherwise, why would it have been banned? India has not banned it, but have people forgotten that India is one of the world’s biggest polluters and it is by far not the healthiest nation?
From Mr. Ghai’s comments, I cannot but think that he is just trying to create some controversy. He calls this nation “squeamish”, so it sounds like he is one of those bullying kids trying to taunt one of the “sweet” kids on the playground. If he is so insistent on pursuing this “religious” rite, what is his problem with having his body transported to India or Uganda or wherever they will permit it? Others have done so before him. He’s been so spoiled in this country that he wants more rules to bend to his wishes.
One person stated that it will come down to whether this religious practice will be deemed “British” or not. Yes, I have to say that I would like to protect the “British” image and such a practice is not, in my opinion, “British”. Roasting chestnuts on an open fire is a British tradition, roasting Hindus on an open pyre is not. This is Britain. These are their rules, their laws. End of story.