Casteism even in death: Odisha civic body operates "Brahmins only" crematorium
The crematorium has sparked backlash from Dalit activists and political leaders, who argue that it violates fundamental rights and promotes caste discrimination.
A civic body in Odisha has drawn flak for operating a crematorium in which bodies of only Brahmins are cremated.
The 155-year-old Kendrapara Municipality, the oldest civic body in the eastern state, has even put up a 'Brahmin crematorium' signage at the entrance of the burning ghat at Hazaribagicha locality in the town.
Local sources said that although the crematorium was being used for performing the last rites of Brahmins for a long time, the official signage was recently put up after the renovation of the facility with government grants.
People from other castes cremate their kin at another nearby crematorium, which was also renovated in the recent haul-up, they said.
"Yes, the issue has come to our notice, and we are looking into it. Steps will be taken to set right the alleged caste discrimination," Prafulla Chandra Biswal, Executive Officer of Kendrapara Municipality, said.
The matter has drawn flak from Dalit rights activists and political leaders.
Nagendra Jena, district unit president of Odisha Dalit Samaj, says, "I was shocked to know that the municipality has been maintaining a crematorium only for Brahmins for a long time. By doing so, the government body is breaking the law and promoting caste discrimination. This practice should be put to an end at the earliest.".
CPI(M) district unit secretary Gayadhar Dhal said it is illegal for a civic body to run a crematorium only for Brahmins.
"People from other castes should also have the right to perform the last rites of their dear ones at the cremation ground," he said.
Dhal said that the 'Brahmins only' crematorium violates fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to people of all castes.
Allocating a separate cremation ground for Brahmins amounts to encouraging caste inequality, he added.
While the Kendrapara Municipality has been running a separate crematorium for Brahmins, no such discrimination is witnessed at Puri's sacred 'Swagra Dwar' burning ghat, which literally means 'gateway to heaven', where people of all castes are cremated, Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher on the 'Jagannath culture', said.
"It is believed that cremation at 'Swarga Dwar' ensures a place in heaven. The burning ghat runs on Shri Jagannath ideology wherein there is no place for discrimination among castes," he said.