Hindu outrage over cows

2013-12-05 00:00

THE use of four calves to test the new cremators at the embattled Mountain Rise crematorium has outraged the Hindu community.

Cows are regarded as sacred in Hinduism and the community has labelled the test as insulting, insensitive and a gross violation of their religious beliefs.

Hindus are not permitted to eat beef as the cow is revered as a mother.

Religious leaders have called for an investigation into the incident on October 8, and are demanding an apology from the municipality and for those involved to be disciplined.

Some have said they will be boycotting the facility.

DA councillor Mergan Chetty said he was shocked when he saw how casually this “disrespectful action”, was described in a report presented to the Community Services Portfolio Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Under “status of cremators”, the report said: “A test run was done by infrastructure services (Mr Y. [Yusuf] Ismail) on new cremators on 8th October, 2013 using carcasses of four calves which were successful.”

An angry Chetty wants “heads to roll”.

He has also called for an investigation and for the officials to apologise. Chetty said the Hindu community had formed the Mountain Rise Crematorium and Cemeteries Concerned Citizens’ Committee (MCCCCC) last year as a result of the municipality’s failure to sort out problems there.

“If the officials had bothered to consult with the committee they would have avoided this catastrophe,” he said.

The chairperson of the community services committee, Manilal Inderjit, himself a Hindu, condemned the test.

He said his fellow ANC councillors on the committee felt equally strongly about the insensitivity of what had occurred.

Inderjit said he had received calls from the Hindu community calling for a boycott of the facility.

He said this was of concern as the crematorium had recently been fitted with two new cremators at a cost of about R6 million.

“I am worried that this sense of violation could result in the crematorium becoming a white elephant,” he said.

Inderjit felt the problem was that departments worked in isolation of each other with no consultation.

“This test was done by the infrastructure unit; had they spoken to parks who run the crematorium, this blunder would not have happened.”

He said the cremators had given endless problems and he told his committee that the “ancestors must be very angry”.

“Perhaps we need to do a cleansing ceremony,” Inderjit said.

Chairperson of the Midlands Hindu Association and the MCCCCC, advocate Ranjiv Nirghin, said he was disappointed with the municipal officials.

He said his organisation had previously tried to engage with them to ensure that the crematoriums complied with Hindu beliefs and customs.

Nirghin said this was another example of officials disregarding the community.

When the new cremators were installed, there was no consultation and as a result a number of requirements — including space to perform rituals — was not accommodated.

Nirghin has demanded a meeting with mayor Chris Ndlela.

“We want an investigation as to how this came about, who was responsible and for those responsible to be disciplined,” he said.

According to Nirghin, the MCCCCC had been formed specifically to assist the municipality to ensure things went well after endless problems with the cremators. “We are still not being consulted. Who are they engaging with as officials?” Nirghin asked.

Dr Lokesh Ramnath Maharajh, the chairman of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha’s priests’ council, also condemned the test.

“The cow is a symbol of creation and revered by Hindus. This is just so insensitive and shows total disregard for another culture,” said Maharajh.

The Witness contacted Yusuf Ismail, whose name was mentioned in the report.

He said according to his employment conditions with the municipality he was not allowed to speak to the media. Ismail said he would consult with his managers.

Cremators still malfunctioning

THE brand new cremators installed at Mountain Rise cemetery in August this year failed to function within days of being installed. They continue to malfunction.

In August, The Witness reported that at the first cremation 10 days after the installation, the door malfunctioned on one of the two new cremators. Days later both were not working. The one cremator had a malfunctioning door and the second cremator’s motor blew up.

Since then undertakers have complained of breakdowns from time to time. The continuous breakdown of the facilities resulted in the controversial test run using the carcasses of calves. Monday’s council report also mentions a jammed door that was repaired and carries the line, “New cremulator not working, used old cremulator”.

Sanctity of the cow in Hinduism

PUNDIT Bob Maharaj, who runs a sanctuary for the protection of cows in Thornville — known as the Shri Krishna Gowshala — said in Hinduism the cow was regarded as a mother, not just because it gives milk, but as the mother of all gods and that all gods resided in the cow.

Maharaj said that as soldiers on a battlefield tried to protect the flag of their country that represented everything a country stood for, so is the cow treated in Hinduism.

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