Mahatma Gandhi said: “In times to come the people will not judge us by the creed we profess or the label we wear or the slogan we shout, but, by our work, industry, and sacrifice.”
There is an urgent need for us to build institutions to serve the well-being of the community. For example, we need academics to act as watchdogs to monitor syllabi and texts to ensure that our history and culture are properly reflected in the education system. In this regard, there have been emotional outbursts but limited dedicated efforts.
The current ban on open-air cremation vis-a-vis death by Covid is another case in point. Apart from the effort of Anand Ramlogan, SC, and now Dinesh Rambally, the legal advisor to the Maha Sabha, and Member of Parliament, there is no Hindu lobby working to end this tyranny of discrimination. While the Appeal Court has ruled that there is merit in reviewing the ruling of the government’s ban on open-air cremation – notwithstanding the prohibitive cost of using an inhouse crematorium – there are no debates in the media to highlight this grave injustice.
Despite this, the Hindu community and leadership go about their merry ways like kids who have no cares in the world. Idle talk and rhetoric are no substitutes for organized, sustained and focused action to find solutions to problems. Is there a tool kit to guide our action to solve this problem? Our activism shouldn’t be mere psychotherapy -a feel-good experience- but aimed at finding solutions to problems that threaten our existence as a community.
When literacy was a challenge in the 1950s, our leadership rose to the challenge. Doon Pandit, Pandit Jankie Persad Sharma, and Chanka Maharaj pioneered what was later Maha Sabha’s school building program. It was later left to Bhadase Sagan Maraj to bring this dream to reality.
Bhadase Sagan Maraj had to abandon school in form two after the untimely passing of his father. Living on the streets with only his wits, Maraj worked hard to build businesses and never failed to identify with the struggles of his community. In Caroni Village, he formed the Caroni Indian Association and served as its President.
When Doon Pandit received the MBE in 1949 and he was being celebrated at venues across the country Bhadase Maraj held a reception for him at Monarch Cinema in Tunapuna. Maraj understood that Doon Pandit was an influential figure and their alliance resulted in the formation of the Maha Sabha with the core focus on building schools to bring literacy to the children of the sugar belt.
When the Trinity Cross, the highest national award, was an insult to non-Christians, Sat Maharaj pledged to have it replaced with a symbol that was reflective of the religious and cultural diversity of the society. Employing the services of Anand Ramlogan, SC. to launch a legal challenge all the way to the Privy Council, Sat Maharaj also launched a national media campaign to inform and educate the public on why the national award must be replaced with one with a wider national appeal and acceptance.
Again, when Maha Sabha’s application for a license to operate a broadcasting station was delayed while others, applying after the Maha Sabha, were being granted licenses, Maharaj again launched a campaign to highlight his grievances. Again, the services of Anand Ramlogan, SC. were hired and a legal challenge was mounted that once again went all the way to the Privy Council and won.
It is time for us to ensure that our activism bear fruits. In the 1980s the Hindu Seva Sangh launched cultural programs including street processions, the re-enactment landing of the arrival of the Fatal Razack across the country. The awareness generated could not be ignored by the politicians. This led the Patrick Manning government to declare May 30 a public holiday in 1995.
When the Temple in the Sea at Waterloo was in a state of disrepair the Seva Sangh built a statue of Sewdas Sadhu, the builder of the temple. Subsequently, the Rampersad brothers of Carapichaima lobbied the then government and had the temple rebuilt.
Hindu activists need to get real and get relevant…not hopping around in shining armor and hiding under the bed in diapers when the bugle is sounded. Our activists need to sober up and start addressing real-time issues like men in dhoti.