A devout Hindu has told a British court that laws preventing him from being cremated on an open-air funeral pyre in "a sacrament of fire" are a breach of his human rights.
Davender Ghai, who emigrated to England from Kenya in 1958, has a number of ailments including diabetes, asthma, anemia and a degenerative spinal disease but says he fears he will not be allowed to die with dignity. The 70-year-old spiritual healer said that when he does die, he would like his eldest son Sanjay, who lives in Canada, to light the pyre as his family watches what they believe is his soul being released from his body. However local officials in his home city of Newcastle, in northern England, rejected his request for a license for a pyre site. They ruled that cremations outside of crematoria were illegal under the 1902 Cremation Act. What do you think Ghai, a founder member of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society (AAFS), subsequently took his legal challenge to the High Court on the grounds that this refusal violated his human rights. He described normal cremation facilities as “a mechanized humiliation of dignity — a waste disposal process devoid of spiritual significance.” “Confining bodies in coffins and concealing the cremation process” did not reflect his cultural values, Ghai added, according to the Press Association. If Ghai is successful when the court makes its expected ruling on Thursday, the test case could mean other Hindus and Sikhs are allowed similar last rites. Ghai and his supporters were in court Tuesday as his legal counsel Ramby de Mello said he was “yearning to die” according to the Hindu religion and to be cremated “with dignity.” In July 2006, Ghai and the AAFS escaped prosecution after cremating the body of Rajpal Mehat, an Indian-born Sikh, on an open pyre in a remote field hired from an apparently unwitting landowner, PA reported.