IN NOVEMBER 2005 Pakistan became the first Islamic country ever to permit Hindu open air funerals. Pre-Partition Hindu-owned land on Lahore’s Bund Road, since held by Pakistan’s Waaqaf Board, was originally allotted as a shamshaan ghat (Hindu cremation ground) in 1972.
However, amidst the intervening years of domestic and geopolitical turbulence, including reprisals in protest against the controversial Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodha, all existing cremation sites were demolished.
Hindus and Sikhs had been compelled to abandon cremation altogether and comply with Islamic burial customs.
In Pakistan to deliver earthquake relief supplies, Baba Ghai campaigned vigorously alongside AAFS (Pakistan) Official Representative Dr Munawar Chand and urged the Government’s Law & Human Rights Advisor to personally intervene in the matter.
Within weeks the land was formally assigned and construction of the shamshaan ghat site commenced with funding from the Waaqaf (Evacuee Property Trust Board).
On the eve of 2006, AFGHANISTAN followed suit and repealed a Taliban-imposed prohibition on cremation.
In March 2006 a delegation flew to Athens to celebrate the GREEK parliament’s decision to abolish the last remaining anti-cremation laws in Europe. AAFS Greek representative Maghar Gandhi has of prominently campaigned against the Greek Orthodox Church’s opposition to cremation for many years, highlighting the plight of Hindu and Sikh families forced to fly their loved one’s remains to Bulgaria for their last rites. Since then, delegations have also inspected cremation facilities in TURKEY as well as Christian and Muslim burial provisions in the HINDU KINGDOM OF NEPAL.