KOHAT, May 6: Local tribesmen refused to grant permission to the Hindu community living in the region for centuries to perform the last rites of their dead on the land allotted to them by the British before partition.
The Hindus had sought permission for cremating their dead in the mountains of Alizai area, which, they claimed, was used as ‘Shamshan Ghat’ (cremation site) with the approval of the British in pre-partition days.
The nazim of union council Alizai Iftikhar Hussain on Monday inaugurated the place for cremating the bodies but the local elders stopped the ceremony, saying they would give permission after discussing the matter in a jirga.
It is important to mention here that the Hindu community living in Kurram tribal region, Hangu, Orakzai tribal region and Kohat used to cremate bodies of their deceased in their areas before partition but after 1947 they were refused permission by the local Muslim population, although they enjoyed full rights to live, do business, offer prayers and celebrate annual festivals inside and outside their temples.
As they could not get an alternate site, they started carrying the bodies to district Attock for cremation. They had requested the government many times for providing them a place for the purpose in the settled or the tribal areas of the region.
A Hindu elder on condition of anonymity told Dawn on Tuesday that they used to cremate their dead near the Kohat Toi few decades back, then the military forcibly stopped the practice taking the plea that it demoralised the soldiers who took part in exercises in these areas.
He said that the poor Hindu community was unable to bear the extra burden of expenses incurred on taking the bodies to Attock and then make arrangements for wood and costly oil used in cremation.
A place for the last rites of the Balmiki Hindu community living in the tribal as well as the settled areas was inaugurated in union council Ali Zai two years back by former MPA Syed Qalb-i-Hassan. It was, however, formally inaugurated by the nazim of the area, Iftikhar Hussain.
However, the elders of the area intervened during his speech and made it clear to the Hindu community that they should not perform the last rites of their deceased there unless the issue of demarcation of the ‘Shamshan Ghat’ was settled and the elders gave consent in this regard.
The MPA, who was again elected in the last general elections, and his brother who is an influential elder of the area, did not turn up at the ceremony and called the president of the ceremony that one of them was sick and another was out of town, therefore, they could not attend the function.