The death Pandit Rishi Bharrat reveals a stark decadence in the Hindu community. Priests occupy a special place in the hearts of many devotees and have been largely responsible for maintaining a way of life brought from India.
Many already conclude that noise and alcohol abuse, resulting in criminal actions and nuisance cannot be solved as it is woven in the culture. Every second home in some villages have a rum shop, legal or illegal. Some are located in front of temples and schools.
What is equally depressing is that these comments come from spiritual, political and other community leaders. This defeatist attitude fails to recognise that the culture to which they refer is thousands of years old and represents a civilization that has survived all others known to mankind. One must ask what has led to the present situation in the Caribbean and Guyana where Hindus are rapidly reducing in numbers and a significant number know little or nothing about the universal principles of Sanatan Dharma more popularly known as Hinduism.
Media reports have chronicled detailed speculations where the government and police failed. There is no dispute that one of the primary functions of government is to make and enforce laws to protect its populace. When they fail to do so International Law offers some protection.
It is only a few weeks ago and this event is no longer in the headlines yet this catastrophe has the ingredients that can change the course of human relations particularly among Hindus. Some subscribe to the theory that the best government is the one that rules least, but this leaves a lot of freedom and responsibility in the hands of citizens. This is also consistent with Gandhi’s dictum ” you must be the change you wish to see in this world ‘.
The following are suggestions of what Hindus can do and a few brave souls have done.
WEDDINGS, BIRTHDAYS, OTHER CELEBRATORY EVENTS.
- Invitations should be reduced to writing to include the following so there is no misunderstanding
“This is a NON ALCOHOLIC EVENT and the parking lot will be monitored by cameras and security. We hope you can still laugh, sing and dance to help us celebrate this memorable event”. There are still bold families who have not consumed alcohol for generations and they do not offer it to guests. These may be on a very short list but they ought to be recognised publicly.
- All priests should let devotees know beforehand that they will not perform a religious ceremony to mark events from birth to death and after if the premises have alcohol.
- Announced at a funeral: “This is a sad day but police will be called if car trunks are used to store alcohol and converted into mobile rum shops. There are other ways to meet and greet long lost relatives and friends.”
It is only reasonable to give people notice when these drastic changes take place especially by those of us who have indulged before but have changed.
- Politicians, friends, relatives and all community minded persons should have the intestinal fortitude to sign a letter with words of similar import: “THANKS FOR THE INVITATION; WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ATTEND AS WE HAVE RECENTLY DECIDED THAT WE WILL NOT BE PRESENT WHERE ALCOHOL IS SERVED.
- Which is the better wedding or social event? The ones where everybody goes home intoxicated or worse yet with a bottle of rum, or the one where everybody gets eternal knowledge in the form of a copy pocket sized GITA as a gift?
In addition to criminal charges damage caused by those who consumed alcohol and then caused harm to innocent parties can be sued in civil court. An establishment where alcohol is served to those who are already intoxicated or by hosts of private parties may also be liable in some situations.
Those who manufacture, distribute, and sell alcohol rarely consume the product. Those who drive and own taxis and buses are all in business and hope to make a profit. It is up to the customers to decide which ones to support. When rum ceases to be profitable the machinery already exists to package fresh fruit juices or milk healthy milk products. The bus that advertises that there is no music on board so passengers can converse with each other may be pleasantly surprised how many will wait a few minutes more rather than risking damage to their ear drums.
There have been allegations for decades that police and other authorities are corrupt and matters are settled or dismissed for lack of evidence. They have been challenged to produce the evidence.
Almost everyone has a Cell phone today and these can be used to take pictures and tape conversations . Several copies can be made in case one is destroyed or missing in the process. If locals do not have the courage then a temporary visitor can supply the evidence before leaving the country that a certain vehicle or rum shop has been violating the noise regulations.
Gated communities and condominiums attract residents who do not want rum shops in the area. This idea of living in a NON ALCOHOLIC ZONE can be extended to villages and new housing projects.
Authorities at all levels can ensure that the new or existing run shops are located in non residential areas. Several ALOCHOL FREE DAYS not just religious holidays, can bring attention to a problem that has already destroyed families .
People can change if they appreciate the harm they are causing to their own bodies and loved ones. They must be approached when they are sober and shown how they behaved. Addicts are a different species and need treatment not punishment. Those serving prison sentences from alcohol related events should attend lengthy counselling classes even after they are released. They should be encouraged to share their experience with school children and other impressionable groups.
Guyana has less than 1 million people yet too many opine that this man made problem cannot be solved. The state of Gujurat, India, which has an estimated population of 70 million people also, had issues with alcohol consumption. The Mahatma made it a public issue and became a champion of temperance. It is now a Dry State along with a few others. Those who consume alcohol secretly feel the pressure of relatives and neighbors who make them ashamed of their actions . Police enforcement is rarely necessary and alcohol related crimes are down. One example is that of marriages which would not take place if it is discovered that the other family consumes alcohol as this demonstrates disrespect for law and social norms.
Conspicuously missing in Guyana is the village Panchayat system, whereby a few older and wiser folks can help to resolve family and neighbourly disputes.
Curbing the social ills of noise pollution, alcohol distribution and consumption gives one and opportunity to appreciate the challenge that Arjuna faced on the battlefield of Kurukshreta. One may have to face teachers, relatives, friends on the opposite side but it will all be worth it if righteous living is the result. This battle however is not for the timorous souls whose courage lies in a bottle.