Maha Sabha lawyer decries cost of indoor cremation, claims oppression of Hindus

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Hindu cremation at the Waterloo cremation site on May 5, 2020. The Maha Sabha says Hindus feel deeper loss that they cannot perform open-air cremations under a public health order. A challenge to this measure is before the courts. File photo/Lincoln Holder

Legal adviser to the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and Pandit of the Pandits’ Parishad Dinesh Rambally is once again calling on the Ministry of Health to allow open-air cremations, decrying the high cost of indoor cremations.

The ministry’s current policy allows for covid19 fatalities to be buried or incinerated, but open-air cremations are currently banned for public health reasons.

In a press release on Sunday, Rambally said the ban is an “unjustifiable, irrational and unwarranted oppression of TT’s Hindu community.”

The Pandits’ Parishad, he said, “has been inundated with complaints from bereaved Hindu families who are the victims of certain funeral agencies which have become quite enterprising on the strength of growing numbers of deaths in the Hindu community.

“This situation unfortunately continues to be exacerbated by an uncaring Minister of Health, Chief Medical Officer and the Government of the day.”

Lamenting what he sees as the high cost of indoor cremations, Rambally said the policy has put many Hindu families at an economic disadvantage.

“The disadvantage was that once we were forced to use the indoor crematorium, we had to wait for a date. While waiting, we had to pay storage fees for keeping the corpses.

“As the wait for dates got longer, the storage fees started to mount. Now we are told that weight (as in pounds and ounces) affects the price of incineration.

“In all, it meant that people had to pay anywhere between $7,000 (and) $15,000 extra just to deal with the immediate disposal of the body. The cost of burying the dead became insurmountable for many.”

While Hindus can be buried in any way, Rambally said an open-air cremation is the most revered way of burial, on the basis of many scriptures.

“The burning of the dead for the Hindu is not a matter of mere routine disposal of a corpse. It is a Vedic tradition that has survived indentureship and the cultural onslaught of the Hindus at the hands of the colonial powers.”

He compared the current ban to previous discrimination Hindus faced under colonial rule. This included marriage ceremonies not being legally recognised and children from those marriages being deemed “illegitimate.”

“It forces us to ask the question: why are we fighting for this very same issue in an independent nation?

“One can’t help but sense the quasi-colonial forces still devilishly at work trying to undermine the morale of the Hindu community by preventing us from practising what they must undoubtedly see as Hindu mumbo jumbo.”

On Wednesday, Justice Nadia Kangaloo will preside over a judicial review of the ban.