| April 24, 2018

Christians cremating bodies in lack of burial land

KATHMANDU, April 2: Christian community in the country is forced to burn the bodies of their dead ones against their tradition due to the want of land for cemetery.

According to the 2011 Census, there are 375,699 Christians in Nepal out of the total population of 26.6 million.
KB Rokaya, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Nepal, said that they do not have land for burial ground. "We have started burning the bodies in Catholic Church of Teku. We carry the bodies even to Chitwan and other places or burn the body in churches, as we have no other option," he added.

Rokaya informed that when they moved the Supreme Court, the apex court ruled that every religion has the freedom to carry out their funeral in accordance with their religion, but without the help or involvement of government.

Rokaya said that, Christians had bought land in Lele of lalitpur for graveyard but due to some difficulties they couldn't carry out their funeral any longer.

A few years back, Hindus and non-Hindus, specially Chriastians, had raised a serious concern over the graveyard at the vicinity of the Pashupatinath Temple, a Hindu shrine, enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Non-Hindus such as Christian and Kirant communities used to bury the bodies at the Pashupatinath area for years against the local culture and tradition. "They promised not to bury their bodies about three years ago. However, they are still burying the bodies illegally at the shrine area," said the officials at the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT). "They come by the night and bury the bodies."

It is reported that Kirant, Christian and many other religious communities are using the Pashupati forest as the burial ground for 30 years. Some 200 ropanis of land is being used as the burial ground in the Pasupati area, according to the PADT.

Ramesh Kumar Upreti, executive director of the PADT, informed that the issue was taken to the Supreme Court where it was decided that other than Dashanamis, such as Giri, Puri and Bharati, and Hindu sages, other religion aren't allowed to carry their funeral rites in the area.

"Being a secular and democratic country, the Government of Nepal is responsible to settle down the problem," said Rokaya.

Rokaya said that the government isn't responsible to provide land for any religion to bury the bodies. "We have to manage it even by purchasing land for ourselves," he added.

Upreti further said that the PADT has deployed police force to stop the illegal activities of non-Hindu burial. "We have police officers deployed to stop people from bringing bodies to the area. We have fenced from stopping them to enter into the area but to no avail," he said.

"We are under dilemma. Moreover, it would be insensitive to send them back with dead body without burial, but we are bound to follow the laws," he said. "Whether we are Hindus or Christians, it is a must to have proper funeral but the government has left us in a very difficult situation" he added.

Hari Pant, a guard of Bishwaroop Temple in the same area, informed about the unmanaged condition of the burial. "We don't know from which religion they are. We see many burials every other day but there is no headstone or whereabouts written in the burial," he added. "It is so much unmanaged that even when someone comes to visit the grave, they are left around wandering," he added.