A total of 18 police reports have been lodged by a group of Hindu devotees against the Penang Islamic Affairs Department (JAIPP) for snatching the remains of a woman it believed to be a Muslim without proper documentation.
One report was lodged at the Nibong Tebal police station by the deceased's son M Kamasanthren and 17 other relatives and friends of the family.
In his report, Kamasanthren said his family received information by telephone from the crematorium on Aug 14 that several officers claiming to be from JAIPP wanted to take possession of the cremated remains of his mother, M Nagamah.
He added that his uncle R Raja, who spoke to the person from the crematorium on the telephone, had categorically stated that the family would not allow JAIPP to do so.
He stressed that unless JAIPP has gone through the due process of the law, the officers have no legal authority to take possession of his mother’s remains which rightfully and lawfully belongs to the family.
"As it turned out, the JAIPP officers forced the issue and eventually took possession of the remains of my mother. In fact, they had stolen her remains from us," said Kamasanthren, 46, from Sungai Jawi.
"My mother and the rest of my family are Malaysians and our rights and interests should be protected by the federal constitution and the laws of Malaysia.
"This act of stealing the cremated remains of my mother is blatantly unlawful and is in serious and clear violation of rights guaranteed us in Article 11 on freedom of religion," he stressed.
Kamasanthren said he lodged the report as he wanted police to investigate the matter, adding that he wants the problem with JAIPP resolved "amicably" so that he could carry out his final Hindu funeral rites as the eldest son, on Aug 28.
The rite known as ‘Karumakirei’ ceremony is to be held 14 days after the death, after which her ashes are to be strewn into a nearby river.
Nagamah, who hailed from Bryam estate had passed away on Aug 14, where her remains were brought home from the Sungai Bakap hospital.
According to the family, they prepared to give her a Hindu funeral as she lived a life as a Hindu and died a Hindu.
However, JAIPP officers came to her house following her death and allegedly demanded the family surrender her body for a Muslim funeral, Kamasanthren said.
"The family refused as the officers did not provide documentary evidence about the claim. So, Nagamah was cremated according to Hindu rites at the Batu Berapit crematorium".
Ganesan questioned by what superior law or authority can JAIPP order the crematorium and the family to turn over the cremated remains to them.
He said that, based on the federal constitution, Kamasanthren is guaranteed his rights to practise his religion and to perform the last rites for his mother.
He added that this is one of the most important obligations of a son to his parents in Hinduism, and accused JAIPP of acting "unilaterally and with impunity in violating all these rights".
"If JAIPP feels that they do have rights over the cremated remains, they should go to the civil courts which protect the rights of non-Muslims for adjudication on the matter.
"Unilateral pronouncements by the Syariah court does not apply to non-Muslims, therefore this effectively becomes a theft by JAIPP," he added.
Malaysiakini has been unable to obtain comment from JAIPP or the state mufti Hassan Ahmad.