UK-based Davender Ghai (71) is a man with a mission, and this mission is a matter of life and death for him - literally.
For the last four years Ghai was locked in a legal battle with the British government for his right to be cremated in the open, which is prohibited in the United Kingdom under 1902 Cremation Act.
But in February this year, he won the battle in the Court of Appeal, Britain's highest court, which ruled that Hindu cremation rites should be accommodated within British laws.
Ghai, who is currently in Delhi to generate awareness and garner support for his cause, has already met Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and plans to meet Union External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
“Though I have won the case, the British government is yet to implement the ruling. I have not been given a site for an open air crematorium yet,” says Ghai, who has been living in Newcastle, Britain, for the past 54 years.
Ghai started the campaign for open-air funeral pyres for Hindus when his father’s desire to be given a proper Hindu cremation couldn’t be fulfilled.
“Neither the British government nor anybody helped me fulfill my father’s wish. I was devastated and decided that I will fight till my last breath to earn my right to be cremated on an open-air funeral pyre,” says Ghai, a pensioner who lives alone in his Council House in Newcastle.
For the past 100 years, says Ghai, Hindus in Britain have been performing last rites in a Church and cremate the deceased in electric/ gas crematoriums.
“Muslims and Christians have separate burial grounds, but not Hindus. Why are we not treated as equal in death?” asks Ghai.
Ghai, who fears that the now UK government might put environmental hurdles in setting up an open air crematorium, plans to visit some open air crematoriums in Delhi.
“I want to see how open air crematorium functions here so that I can create blueprint for open air crematorium and submit it to British authorities,” says Ghai.
His is truly a fight to the finish!