Kerala passes ordinance to end dispute over burials
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a draft of the ordinance has been sent to Governor Arif Mohamed Khan for approval.
After many failed attempts to broker peace between two Christian factions, Orthodox and Jacobites, the Kerala government on Wednesday brought an ordinance aimed at ending disputes over burial of bodies.
Announcing this on Wednesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a draft of the ordinance has been sent to Governor Arif Mohamed Khan for approval. He said the ordinance will not infringe on the tenets laid by the court order is only aimed at ensuring the rule of law.
“Now members of both factions can use the graveyard in their parish after conducting the last rites by a priest of their choice outside the church. The government will take action against those who disrupt such functions,” he said, adding that the government was forced to intervene after many burials were delayed inordinately due to the tiff. While the Jacobite faction has welcomed the government decision, the Orthodox one has said it will not allow anyone to dilute the Supreme Court order. “We will study the ordinance in detail and take necessary action,” said Biju Umman, a spokesman of the Orthodox church.
After many years of litigation, in 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the 1934 constitution of Malankara church and gave the Orthodox group control of over more than 1000 parishes and churches in Kerala, but the Jacobites, who were controlling a majority of these , were not ready to give up control.
Later, the order was implemented partially after the court threatened contempt proceedings against the state government. As the two factions continued to spar, even the dead were not spared. Two months ago, for instance, the Orthodox faction did not allow the burial of a BSF jawan belonging to Jacobite faction in a church graveyard in Ernakulam. Recently, the angry relatives of an 80-year-old contributed her body for medical research after they were prevented from burying it in a church graveyard . Another body was buried three months after the death following the intervention of the state human rights commission. Some bodies were also exhumed after the tiff.
The government constituted a ministerial sub- committee to talk to both factions but this failed to yield any results. Later, different church heads tried their hand at mediation but failed.
The Malankara Syrian church has two factions, Orthodox, which is headquartered in Kottayam, and Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Beirut, as their supreme leader. Both factions differ in their leadership but they share the same rites of worship and have a long-standing rivalry that goes back to 1912 when the Malankara church split into two.