Dr. Gampat Responds to PPP’s Rohee

Clement Rohee (SN, 5 June 2019) focused his entire rambling and disjointed response on paragraph 2 of my letter (SN, 20 May 2019). I rebutted Kean Gibson by arguing that Jagan was not a Hindu and Hinduism did not influence the leaders of the PPP.  Mr. Rohee labels my response as “fabrications,” which he “shall endeavor to put to rest.” 

  Dr. Gampat Responds to PPP’s Rohee
Dr. Ramesh Gampat

Dear Editor,

Clement Rohee (SN, 5 June 2019) focused his entire rambling and disjointed response on paragraph 2 of my letter (SN, 20 May 2019). I rebutted Kean Gibson by arguing that Jagan was not a Hindu and Hinduism did not influence the leaders of the PPP.  Mr. Rohee labels my response as “fabrications,” which he “shall endeavor to put to rest.”  To do so, he lays out three expectations of my essay as if he were the author and not I: (i) “whether the issue raised is factual,” (ii) whether the letter  will “in anyway excite public interest, give impetus to the people’s struggle for free and fair elections,” and (iii) whether it will “make suggestions that will help lift the living standards of the people from the degenerate level it is at today.” These were not my expectations.  Indeed, I had no expectations; only a motive, which was to counter the issue that Hinduism impacted the PPP. Neither did Rohee’s response meet any of his three expectations nor did he explain how Hinduism influenced him.  The PPP does not take kindly to even the mildest criticism of Jagan.  Its strategy amounts to propaganda: pounce, claim criticisms are not factual and therefore unjustified and then to venture into illogic and bewilderment.

Illogic abounds in Mr. Rhoee’s letter. Consider these.  First, it is difficult to make sense of his claim that my last letter was “an attempt to stir controversy and to distract attention away from the much anticipated CCJ’s ruling”  Second, “… Gampat uses Jagan’s ideological and philosophical beliefs as the means to an end, that end being, to evince damnation of Jagan’s beliefs.” How can one use beliefs as the means to an end that is also beliefs?  This does not epistemological sense.  Third, by what logic can my argument that Jagan was not a practicing Hindu a “clear contradiction to Sanskrit?”  Since when is Sanskrit a philosophy and not a language?  How can one contradict a language?

Merely saying Jagan was not a Hindu is deemed an “excursion into the realm of damnation.”  The PPP does not acknowledge this fact, but several other scholars have discussed it.  For example,  Dr. Vishnu Bisram relates several incidents clearly demonstrating that Jagan was not a Hindu (GT, 26 May 2019); Dr. Baytoram Ramharack explains in his masterful 2005 book how Jagan used Pandit Ramlall to lead the “religious” opposition against Balram Singh Rai and how upset Jagan was that his mother did a puja for him after he returned from the USA; in a forthcoming book, he discusses how Jagan and the PPP undermined Dr. J. B. Singh; and Mohan Ragbeer (Book 1, 2011) has numerous references to Jagan’s pro-socialist and anti-religious inclinations.

Jagan told the 1962 Wynn Parry Commission “I have always said that I am a Marxist …” (p. 136).  He did not say he was a Hindu or a Hindu who believed in Marxism, which is an oxymoron.  Marxism is a materialist philosophy and Marxists do not believe in God; they are atheists. If Mr. Rohee construes Marxism-Leninism as religion with Jagan as its high priest in Guyana, then Jagan practiced a “materialist religion,” which is both illogical and befuddling. “Since Hinduism is a way of life and because ‘religion’ is not an isolated concept in Indian culture … to ‘discard Hinduism’ would have meant discarding himself and what he had confessed was a way of life.” This assumes that Jagan was a Hindu and that the Hindu way of life was his way of life, but the two, Hinduism and Marxism, doth strange bedfellows make. Mr. Rohee and the rest of the PPP should tell us in what ways Jagan was a Hindu.

Analytically, there were three Jagans but none was a Hindu: (i) the young Cheddi, the social rebel, probably up to the time he left for the US (ii) the die-hard Marxist until the early 1990s, and (iii) the aged Cheddi who thought and behaved like an ascetic but was still not a Hindu. The “first” Cheddi set the stage for his materialist and atheistic beliefs; the “second” for a misguided revolutionary, who thought he could take on the combined might of the United States and Great Britain, the consequences of which is the mother of the Indian Guyanese Diaspora; and the “third” Cheddi, who by his behavior, diet and doings suggest a return to his Hindu roots while still not being a Hindu. His Deepavali message of 1 November 1994 offers a good insight into the “third” Cheddi, which prompted Ridler (2008:115) to observe that Jagan “began adding what can only be described as a spiritual touch to his message to the Guyanese people.”  The hardened Marxist softened a little in old age.

Two sets of circumstances and happenings apparently turned Jagan away from religion.  The first was the plantation world in which he grew up and the cultural shock during his “Georgetown sojourn,” including the “Georgetown humiliations … at the hands of high caste Hindus,” which “probably turned him away from religion …  It alienated him from his Indian frame of reference” (Seecharan 2005).  The difference between Port Mourant and Georgetown, the “clash of cultures” between the plantation world and the world of Georgetown, lost Cheddi in the wilderness. He could not make sense of the “two cultures.” Speaking to Naipaul (2002), Martin Carter observed: “Coming from the plantation coast … the sheer area of experience was too much for a young man from a plantation background to deal with comfortably …  You could imagine … the lostness of a young man … coming out of a background without a literary culture.  It froze him into attitudes which have lasted.”  The two men, Naipaul and Carter, came to the same conclusion about Cheddi’s “lostness.” The lad, and later the man, “… had no literary culture, nothing that would have helped him see and understand, and put things in their places.  He had simply taken things as they had come” (Naipaul 2002).  Kwayana was perhaps the first person to connect Cheddi’s “lostness” to his lack of groundings in Hindu culture.   He spoke to Naipaul (2002) about Cheddi’s cultural gap: “I think he [Cheddi] had a cultural problem.  If he had been a devout Hindu … he would have had a more workable … frame of reference ...”

The second set of circumstances spans his years in the US to his return to Guyana and probably up to 1992.  “My seven years in the United States,” Jagan (1954) wrote in Forbidden Freedom, “were for me a political awakening,” which transformed his way of seeing, thinking and doing and drove him away from religion.  Once back in Guyana, “It was Janet,” Cheddi explained to Naipaul, “who, when she came here in 1943, brought me Little Lenin Library Books … It was the first time that I read Marxist literature … I began reading Marxist books like mad” (Naipaul 2002). By the time PAC was launched in 1946, Jagan was a full-blown Marxist. For the first time in his life, Jagan was acquiring an analytical framework that satisfied his psychic and emotional predispositions. 

Soon the literary void of which Martin Carter spoke vanished.  Then, like a mystic, Cheddi was enlightened, around the mid-1940s, by a Marxism-Leninism revelation that “helped me to have a total understanding of the development of society.  Until then, all the various struggles … had been disjointed experiences. To put it in a way that was totally related to a socioeconomic system came from the reading of Marxist literature … It was exciting to me, an intellectual excitement, because a whole new world opened to me, a total understanding of the world, which then made coherent all my previous experiences in America” (Naipaul 2002).  In a speech at Freedom House, Jagan (1987) said “Karl Marx made me understand what makes the world go round.” Not Hinduism.

Yours truly,

Ramesh Gampat

Note: Stabroek News refused to carry Dr. Gampat’s letter, which is a response to Mr. Rohee’s letter of 5 June 2019.