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The Kerala government has issued an ordinance that allows the burial rituals of Jacobite pariosnhers to be conducted in their family cemetery that is now under the control of the  Orthodox church. The decision was taken after all efforts of the government to broker peace between the two factions of the syro Malabar church failed.

The government took the ordinance route following a bitter standoff between the fractions that saw the body of a 91-year-old woman being kept in a mortuary for more than a month as the other faction refused to allow the conduct of the funeral. Several more cases have been reported from around the state. For more than 100 years, the two factions of the church—Jacobites and Orthodox—have been squabbling over possession of church properties.

In 2017, the Supreme Court directed that over 1000 churches, hitherto held by the Jacobites, be handed over to the Orthodox faction. Since then, the Orthodox insisted that the burial of Jacobites can be allowed only with its own priests conducting the rites. But the Jacobites objected.

The decision in this regard was taken at last week’s cabinet and the ordinance was promulgated by the state government yesterday. “We had been taking all efforts to resolve the issue. Though we tried to hold discussions, one section refused to come for talks,” Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said, adding that the Kerala Governor, too, had made some efforts to resolve the vexed issue. But after all their attempts to find a solution failed, the government decided to bring in the ordinance, he said.

The relatives of the deceased have the right to conduct the funeral rites by a priest of their choice outside the church and then bring the body back to the place of worship for burial. The CM also said that every person has the right to be cremated in their family cemetery as per the ordinance.

While pointing out that the government was not taking an adamant stand on the issue, the chief minister said their only concern was to ensure speedy burial of the dead. There have been several instances when the issue turned emotive, and law and order problems cropped up, he said.

—India Legal Bureau

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