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
Are the following events just
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?
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.
Maharaj- victimised by the National Lotteries Board- proven in Court.
Maha Sabha discriminated against by the State- a position clearly stated
by the Privy Council.
dismissal of outstanding achievers from State Enterprises such as
Kansham Kanhai, Tota Maharaj, Donald Baldeosingh.
charge against Swami Kripalu Maharaj- published worldwide - and then
withdrawn months later because there is no evidence - but after the
damage is done.
charge of Basdeo Panday and Finbar Ganga for failing to declare accounts
when some 390 others, including Government Ministers, did not declare
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
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
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
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
we are going to follow, blindly, a leader who has led us to
we are or if we are going to become serious thinkers and
of our own destiny. In summary therefore, I feel that
Hindu community is in crisis - a crisis that is likely to worsen if we
do not manage it effectively and urgently.
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.
writer is the recipient of 4TH
Mahant Ramdass Award.