Hindus in Britain Stage Rare Open-Air Cremation
Hindus staged their first open-air cremation in Britain in more than 70 years Wednesday and hope they can now get the go-ahead to light pyres for all their dead.
At an emotion-charged ceremony, the family of an Indian illegal immigrant found dead in a canal bade a tearful farewell to him on remote farmland in Hexham, a city in northeast England.
Hindus insist on the right to stage open-air cremations so their dead can take an unimpeded path to reincarnation. They are offended by the use of gas-powered crematorium furnaces and are fearful that the ashes could be inadvertently mixed with those of others.
About 500,000 Hindus and an estimated 320,000 Sikhs live in Britain, where open-air cremations have been banned since the 1930s amid environmental concerns over mercury emissions.
"Police had been alerted that an illegal pyre was to be lit. I showed them copies of all the certificates required to burn a body," said Andrew Bogan, legal adviser to the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society. "They were satisfied all due process had been adhered to and said the funeral should go ahead with the blessing of the police. This is the first open-air cremation in Britain for 72 years. Hopefully we have created the precedent we are seeking."
The mother and sister of the dead man, Rajpal Mehat, 31, pleaded for information to clear up the mystery of his death. Police investigations were unable to confirm whether he jumped, fell or was pushed.
"By lighting Rajpal's body on the funeral pyre, his soul will be released to find peace from the torment he suffered in the final frantic moments of his life," his sister Sonia said.
Remarks About Jesus Cut From Student's Speech
As Brittany McComb gave the valedictorian's address at Foothill High School in Las Vegas, officials cut off the microphone in mid-sentence as she said "God's love is so great that he gave His only son up . . . "
McComb continued without amplification: " . . . to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace."