October 2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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Rest of the World | October 2007

 


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Discrimination in Trinidad 

BY PROF. VIJAY NARAYAN SINGH *

It is difficult for anyone to understand how touching an experience it is for me to receive an award in the name of Mahant Ramdass. I was born and grew up in Tunapuna only about 1 mile away from the El Dorado Shiv Mandir. Stories about this powerful Sadhu were often told and people would visit the Mahant for various ailments as his siddhis/powers were well known. Once per year, people would arrive from all over the island to witness the ‘fire pass’ where the Mahant, after a prolonged period of strict fasting and prayer, would walk through a bed of fire. Although, as a child, I was never taken there, my parents and others from Tunapuna would take the walk to El Dorado to witness these events. Other legendary figures of my childhood from the Tunapuna area were Pundit Sahadeo and Bhadaase Sagan Maraj. I always heard stories of these powerful people and now, I often wonder what they would have done if they witnessed the present crisis in which Hindus find themselves.

Are the following events just accidential?

1.    The Chief Justice, Sat Sharma is removed from Office because of a mere allegation, but the Chief Magistrate, proven guilty of an offence, remains in office?

2.    Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie is removed as Principal from U.W.I.-can no longer sit on Appointments, Promotions, Assessment Committees etc.-though he was a most outstanding Principal.

3.    Devant Maharaj- victimised by the National Lotteries Board- proven in Court.

4.    The Maha Sabha discriminated against by the State- a position clearly stated by the Privy Council.

5.    The dismissal of outstanding achievers from State Enterprises such as Kansham Kanhai, Tota Maharaj, Donald Baldeosingh.

6.    The charge against Swami Kripalu Maharaj- published worldwide - and then withdrawn months later because there is no evidence - but after the damage is done.

7.    The charge of Basdeo Panday and Finbar Ganga for failing to declare accounts when some 390 others, including Government Ministers, did not declare their assets.

8.    Hindu women from Princess Town, handcuffed and paraded on the streets, charged for Voter padding but never proven guilty, while two women from Morvant charged and proven guilty were not handcuffed when taken to court.  And I mention this specifically because when, my wife, Seeromani, a Hindu woman who spent her entire life in Hindu work- when taken to court was always handcuffed. A policeman, one day, explained to me that it is not usual to routinely handcuff women prisoners unless they are unruly or a great risk, but they have instructions from high office, that whenever Seeromani Maraj is in public she must be handcuffed - and that is why your Television and newspaper pictures always looked like that.

9.    And of Course my own case - they knew I could not be there - the Chief Immigration Officer told them so and moreover, the building did not exist( burnt 5 weeks before) and confirmed by the Chief Fire Officer.

10.  Then the assault on the Murtis in Waterloo and the attempt to burn down the Siewdass Sadhu mandir. Six men arrive in a car at midnight, put on masks, jump the fence, vandalise the place and the police arrive at the amazing conclusion that it is because of rum drinking.

And Hindus are still looking on at all these events as our loved ones are kidnapped, our businesses looted and our children shipped aboard - often never to return to a land that we proudly call our janma bhoomi.

In my view, these events are not accidental and they will increase in numbers, hostility and wanton injustice if Hindus do not take charge of their political destiny. These events are occurring because, at political and administrative levels, Hindus are discriminated against - and the Privy Council stated that in two rulings so far; they are not just my view.

Politics has determined the fate of Hindus and the future of Hinduism in most countries where Hindus live. The Uganda oppression of Hindus was political, so was Fiji, so Kenya and so Guyana. Do we really think that we are so unique that this is not happening to us?  Who are the victims of kidnapping? Who are migrating? Who are sending their children aboard?

I am of the firm view that Hinduism and politics are not separate. After all, Central to the Ramayan are the politics of Ayodha, of Kishkinda and of Lanka. The entire Mahabharat is about the politics and struggles relating to kingship and kingdoms, about systems of government and social ethics.

Right here in T&T, the first opposition political leader in 1956, Bhadase Sagan Maraj was also the leader of the SMDS. His successor Dr. Rudranath Capildeo, was also a prominent Hindu.  Hindus, therefore, cannot separate religion from politics and in fact should be unafraid of political challenges since these often influence the development and practice of Hinduism and the future of Hindus themselves.

If Hinduism and politics are inseparable, what really is the political position of the Hindu today? When Eric Williams referred to the Hindu schools as ‘cowsheds’ and the ‘recalcitrant minority’ opposition, he was describing a people who had a firm loyalty to their then leader, Bhadase Sagan Maraj. That group of people has remained steadfast in their loyalty to Basdeo Panday for almost 40 years. That group of people has followed faithfully, unwaveringly, even blindly their leader. Loyalty to a leader, a teacher, a Guru is part of our creed; it is strength but it is also potentially our greatest weakness. After following so faithfully for some 40 years, the Hindus are now Caroniless, landless, jobless, penniless and almost hopeless. We are dragged through Courts, dismissed from strategic positions and denied opportunities using State resources. The Presbyterians have adjusted their political loyalty as they saw fit, the Muslims did the same but the Hindus maintained a blind loyalty to their leader, no matter what. Yet we are today leaderless because this same leader destroyed or sidelined every potential leader that could have emerged in the last 40 years. He started with Suren Capildeo and went on and on through Suruj Rambachan, Vishnu Ramlogan, Sahadeo Basdeo, Brinsley Samaroo, Amrika Tewarie, Bhoe Tewarie, Hulsie Bhagan, Kusha Harracksingh, Kelvin Ramnath, Ramesh Maharaj, Winston Dookeran, Roodal Moonilal and others. A few of these crawled back on bended knees to their master but most remain in the political graveyard. That’s the sorry state in which we Hindus find ourselves, all possible leaders executed by the leader himself. What is the answer?

Maybe there are many answers, but in my view there is only one answer because time is too short for other options. Because political leadership has destroyed or sidelined leading Hindus and because their action has often not been in the best interest of Hindus, the Hindu religious leadership must take the responsibility of leading the Hindus. Every Hindu leader, every pundit, every temple group must come together and make firm decisions about the political future of Hindus-because the political future of Hindus will determine what happens with our education, our jobs, our promotions, our temples, our schools,our cultural activities, our children and even the extent to which we are victims of the criminal element and, indeed, of the State.

The religion of the Hindu is not separable from the politics of the Hindu- it is not so in our scriptures, and it is not so now.  Bhadase Sagan Maraj epitomizes this link between politics and religion and now, 50 years later, the challenge is laid before us again. Are we going to let others determine our future or are we going to come together and chart our destiny.

I sometimes hear Hindus express concern about if the PNM gets a Constitutional majority. But I tell you, Patrick Manning does not need that, all he needs is a 21:20 victory to do whatever he wants. Right now he does not have a Constitutional majority but he could fire the Chief Justice, dismiss the Principal of the University, build a Brian Lara Stadium for 800 million dollars, get a monorail for 1.6 billion dollars, fix his home for 150 million dollars, build 4 smelter plants, shut down Caroni and send the workers home-all without a Constitutional majority.

The Hindus cannot risk further loss at this time. Any further

loss is the beginning of a slow, painful death. We must decide if

we are going to follow, blindly, a leader who has led us to where

we are or if we are going to become serious thinkers and planners

of our own destiny. In summary therefore, I feel that

a.    The Hindu community is in crisis - a crisis that is likely to worsen if we do not manage it effectively and urgently.

b.    The solution is political - and Hindus cannot, according to our tradition, separate politics from religion.

Our religious leadership must take over the guidance of our people since our political leadership has failed us.

I want to thank the members and executive of the El Dorado Shiv Mandir for this special honour, and all of you, my friends for being here tonight.

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The writer is the recipient of 4TH  Mahant Ramdass Award. 

Award-winning

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