Much has been said, good and bad, about the man Bhadase Maraj, and much has remained unsaid. It has reached a point where now just the mention of his name brings up foremost in the minds of many a negative, and derogatory picture.
For the sake of balance, I would like to add a few points about the good side of the man Bhadase, which I learned while attempting a master’s degree in History on his life at UWI St. Augustine.
(1) Bhadase was easily the most rounded and most successful leader in Trinidad’s entire history, being at stages and sometimes all at once Member of Parliament, leader of a major political party, Opposition leader, leader of one of the largest trade unions in the land the All Trinidad sugar union, head of the largest Hindu body the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, executive head of the Maha Sabha school board with dozens of schools all over the country, self made millionaire, businessman owning most of the racing pools in Trinidad and a large number of cinemas, massive land owner, housing developer, monster philanthropist, and yes a formidable wrestler, street fighter and crack shot with rifle or pistol!
(2) His feat of organizing the delivery of primary school education to Hindus, a quarter of the population, while still a private citizen is unparalleled anywhere in the modern world.
(3) Bhadase was the most feared and the most influential politician in his lifetime in Trinidad, despite never being head of government. Leading up to the scheduled 1955 election government leader Albert Gomes of the POPPG was so terrified that Bhadase’s PDP would win that he postponed the election to 1956, allowing Eric Williams to slip in and beat them both. Bhadase defeated the PNM in the 1958 federal elections, causing total panic and fear of another defeat in the 1961 elections. Eric Williams rigged the elections to keep off Bhadase’s DLP by bringing in crooked voting machines, gerrymandering the boundaries and flooding the country with illegal small islanders who were given voting cards and residence in Trinidad. The DLP leaders were so terrified Bhadase would return to lead the party again after his rest to recover from illness that they kept him out of the party he had created, foolishly denying themselves their best vote getter. Without Bhadase the DLP slowly collapsed and died after the 1971 No Vote campaign. In 1970 Bhadase denied the Black Power marchers the Indian support they sought during the Port of Spain to Caroni march, which support would almost certainly have led to the fall of the Eric Williams PNM government and Daaga as prime minister. Bhadase told his sugar union and Chaguanas constituency members not to join the march back to Port of Spain and in effect saved Eric Williams, the PNM and the country from Black Power rule. Bhadase’s chosen successor Basdeo Panday revived his DLP and sugar union base going on to succeed him as Opposition leader and later prime minister.
(4) Bhadase was without doubt the most generous philanthropist and benefactor Trinidad has ever seen, as the donor in chief to the entire Hindu population of over 200,000 people. Every Hindu who was holding a puja or Ramayan reading or any other Hindu ritual knew he could go to Bhadase’s house and get a hefty donation. My informants tell me there would often be 50-60 waiting at Bhadase’s Champs Fleur home for help and he could give out as much as $3,000 in a day, at a time when $3,000 could buy a decent wooden house in the country or a motor car. He was also most generous towards building the many Hindu mandirs set up by the Maha Sabha. There were many Hindus with as much money or more money than Bhadase, but none so generous with his personal funds.
(5) Bhadase’s Hindu school building program broke the meteoric rise of the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad, which had been expanding geometrically because of its near monopoly of primary education in Hindu areas and conversion of Hindu children and their parents using those schools. All at once hundreds of Hindu children switched to Hindu schools rather than Presbyterian schools, conversions dropped off sharply, and Hindus could get jobs in Hindu schools and keep their religion. The decline of the Presbyterian Church dates from this time and directly because of Bhadase’s Hindu schools,
(6) A completely unknown side of Bhadase the man was his spontaneous financial support of criminals facing serious penalties in court. He would walk through the courts and sometimes seeing a man facing the death penalty or a life sentence without a lawyer to defend him, Bhadase would on the spot offer the pay all costs for a good lawyer to defend the man, and he would ask nothing in return. Often the good lawyer would get the man freed, and the man would go up to Bhadase’s house and offer to be his servant for life. These men were fanatically loyal to Bhadase and never deserted him as long as he was alive.
(7) Perhaps Bhadase’s greatest gift was his boosting of the pride of Indians and the change in the perception of Indians by non Indians. Before Bhadase Indians were generally viewed with contempt as uneducated, backward, poor, superstitious, unsophisticated, couldn’t dress, couldn’t talk English properly, heathen country bookie coolies. There were some exceptions like the wealthy doctors, lawyers, business tycoons like Timothy Roodal and big contractors, but these folks kept a low profile and kow towed to the colonial system and the Africans. Enter Bhadase big, bad and bold, a millionaire sharing out money left and right, Member of Parliament, duking it out with the white people and the African rulers, afraid of no man or dog, king of the Indians, king of the Hindus, driving by in his 20 foot long American convertible with two 45 revolvers in his waist, such a change from the humble, cringing Indian of old. Really hard to look down on a millionaire politician hanging out with the Governor and sporting a huge house with swimming pool and American convertible, you know. Non Indians gained new respect for all Indians because of Bhadase and perhaps unfortunately started believing all Indians were as rich as he. Indians lifted their collective eyes and shoulders now they had such a man as their champion. Few men or women have it said of them that they uplifted an entire race but Bhadase is one such.
(8) Bhadase has to figure in the list for the bravest human beings in Trinidad. He defied the assembled Black Power marchers, all 10,000 of them who stopped in front his house in 1970 roaring Power! till the very road shook. Bhadase left the gate to his house open, stood alone on his lawn and dared the marchers to come in – no one did. Then he picked up a rifle and walked alone out the gate onto the road in front of that howling crowd, put the rifle down on the road and walked up to the Black Power leaders saying “I come in peace”. He spoke a few words with the leaders then turned around picked up his rifle and walked back into his yard. I have an eyewitness to this event, a Guardian reporter at the time.
(9) Bhadase in 1967 when he had no political position in Parliament persuaded the PNM government his old enemy to give a public holiday for Divali,
(10) Bhadase started the weekly press in Trinidad by financing The Bomb and hiring Pat Chokolingo to run it.
There is plenty more I can say about Bhadase, some of it politically X rated and some just unbelievable. I will let his biographers relate them in another place.