Statement of Baba Davender Kumar Ghai

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The Independent Online

"I am overjoyed by the Court of Appeal's verdict, which I consider a vindication of every struggle and sacrifice over the last four years.  I never doubted justice would be done but, in all honesty, I often feared that my health would fail me before the legal journey had ended.    This case was truly a matter of life and death for me and today's verdict has breathed new life into an old man's dreams. 

I always maintained that I wanted to clarify the law, not disobey or disrespect it.  The Court of Appeal understood my request was consistent with both the spirit and letter of the law and my only regret is that tax payers' money would have been saved had that been recognised in 2006.   My request was often misinterpreted, leading many to believe I wanted a funeral pyre cremation in an open field, whereas I always accepted that buildings and permanent structures would be appropriate.  

I am overwhelmed by the general public's sympathy and also the number of landowners who have offered land to accommodate my natural cremation.  I will be discussing matters with them further over the following weeks and begin drafting detailed proposals which will enable natural cremations to be conducted safely, respectfully and privately.

In all honesty, however, winning this case has come at huge personal cost and left me virtually penniless.  I can only pray that others will feel moved to come forward with their support and so enable the construction of a natural cremation site within my lifetime.  It breaks my heart that the high price of funerals in Britain can have a crippling impact on our most elderly and vulnerable.  My dream is that natural cremation sites would be available to anyone and at half the current price of funerals - and offered as a free service to the most in need in our country.

I understood that my case raised very sensitive and significant issues but tried my best to conduct myself in the most dignified and respectful way I could. However, I was very saddened by the insensitivity of the government's approach and know that many were appalled by official statements issued on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Mr Jack Straw.  I recall that solitary Hindus and Sikhs have publicly criticised my campaign in a manner which was most disappointing.  Now I am only grateful that the Court of Appeal possesses greater clarity, compassion and fairness than those detractors ever did. 

Both my father and grandfather proudly served in the British Army in Kenya and I myself have devoted the best years of my life in voluntary service to Britain's poor, desperate and lonely.  I never wanted to be divisive or offend anyone, the Britain I have loved for over half a century is a tolerant 'live and let live' nation and the Court of Appeal's verdict is a victory for those values."

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