Although Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is home to a number of Hindus, there are few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed. As a result, many Hindus have no option but to deviate from their rituals and bury them.
“We have a few shamshan ghats [platforms designed for cremation of bodies by Hindus] in K-P,” All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarbdiyal told The Express Tribune. “There is one is in Mardan and another in Kohat. The other one by Attock River.” A cremation ground is also situated in Buner.
Most Hindus cremate their dead and scatter their ashes along Attock River as it is next to a cremation ground and proper facilities are available there. The cremation ground is situated near Mallahi Tola and only a few people can afford to travel such long distances to perform the last rites of their loved ones.
Cremation sites for Hindus
He added, “The journey from Peshawar to Attock river costs Rs15,000,” he said. “We also have to purchase nearly 650 kilogrammes of wood and and other expenditures. This roughly amounts to between Rs30,000 and Rs40,000.”
Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites of their loved ones near Attock River. “Among the 1,250 Hindu families in the province, only a few are able to arrange a bier for their deceased in Attock,” Sarbdiyal said. “This is because many Hindus live below the poverty line. It is impossible for them to spend large amounts of money on performing the last rites.”
Financial constraints have compelled these families to go against rituals and bury the bodies of their loved ones in nearby graveyards. The practice is fairly common in Bannu, Hangu, DI Khan and Malakand.
“It is not in our religion that we bury corpses,” said 43-year-old Azeem Tara, a resident of Peshawar. “We burn a coin and use it to make a mark on the palm of the body to satisfy our ritual. Although people say minority communities enjoy equal rights, the ground reality seems to be completely different.”
No space for further burial
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes.
According to locals, there is no space in graveyards for Hindus to bury their loved ones. “We are forced to bury our deceased in old and broken graves,” Kamla, a woman from the community in Peshawar, said.
“In our religion we do not bury corpses – we live according to the teachings of our religion and want to be cremated when we die,” said Sumitra, another local.
Allot cremation grounds, Hindus exhort govt
However, an MPA and adviser to the chief minister of minorities’ affairs, Sardar Soran Singh, said Peshawar is a crowded city and it would create problems if a cremation site is established.
“A foul smell will spread through the city,” he said. “We have not yet received any demands for a crematorium in Peshawar. However, if we find a better place outside the city, we could think about establishing one.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2016.