In the last 5 years Indian Arrival Day (not Arrival Day) has become the official holiday for Sat Maharaj to mouth off, with open encouragement from the Prime Minister, and make offensive comments to the rest of the national community while acting as if only Indians of Hindu descent arrived here, ever.
In light of this auspicious holiday, Sat’s comments this weekend, and an advert making the social media rounds, I feel compelled to write this piece.
The Pooja should not be pimped out for the purpose of politics. Not even by religious sects that think themselves the voice of orthodoxy.
In fact, no religion should be pimped out for the purpose of politics. Religion should at all times and in all instances remain a personal and private thing that you never wave in anyone’s face: unless they ask nicely.
Unfortunately, this government and its supporters are desperate. So desperate that they have shifted from the quiet campaigning which we all know happens in religious houses and have made it an open and national thing.So desperate, that all pretence at inclusiveness and ethnic harmony are out the door.
So come June 2nd, Hanooman pooja is going to be pimped out to help Kamla regain office. I didn’t say it, the pg 17 ad in the Trinidad Express did. Its purpose is to protect Kamla. From what, it didn’t say. Maybe tins of peas? Fake assassination plots? Hyper/Hypo/Hyppa glycemia?
And frankly, to use a religious ritual in this way is disgusting. But no less disgusting than the disdain and contempt with which this government has treated the nation in the last five years with the constant missteps, coupled with the abuse of the Treasury and Constitution. Now, we have the flagrant use of religion in the political gayelle; with Ministers of State no less, endorsing and hosting said poojas.
The implied meanings are clear. This is a government for Hindu citizens. Temples that are openly promoting such poojas are also implying that their devotees operate with a hive mind. And their altars and congregations are politically aligned. Try and imagine any of the Churches here holding novenas, prayer services and mass for Dr Rowley’s victory at the next elections? And having the temerity to advertise such openly? Imagine the uproar?
Have we forgotten our disgust at the Guanapo Church?
Have we gotten over the insult of Kamla handing over million to churches at Christmas time despite declining oil prices and massive deficit budgets?
Does the separation of Church and State mean anything at any level?
It is unfortunate that these are the messages that Kamla and her Small Goal Side continue to send out. They have had numerous opportunities to help Trinidad and Tobago move beyond polarised, race-fuelled politics; but each time they have been contented to play the race card and pander to their base. This weekend, Sat Maharaj, in front of a rapt audience, called for the capital to be moved from Port of Spain. Of course, Port of Spain is seen as as an urban space. In Trinidad urban space is code for black. In Sat’s world, black is code for…well it isn’t code anymore. In his world black is a bad thing. And power, any kind of power, even administrative power, sitting in any other hands but his own is problematic. One of his arguments, hopelessly flawed, is that Port of Spain has no temples or mosques.
The flaws reside on two levels. Temples and mosques are built where there is a membership. The centre of Port of Spain does not have a significant Hindu population. So no temples were built there. It makes perfect sense. However, there are mosques in the heart of the city, contrary to his claim; because Port of Spain has long been home to a thriving Black Muslim community. But Sat does not acknowledge Black Muslims. Queen Street, close to Piccadilly, if I am not mistaken, is where the mosque is located. The outlying areas of Port of Spain, the town of St James, have mosques and temples. Yet the faithful and the myopic lap this bullshit up. Much the same way they could be seen arguing on Facebook over the weekend for the word “Indian” to be a part of the holiday name. Totally ignoring how exclusive and polarising re-naming a holiday “Indian Arrival Day” can be when you have Chinese and Portuguese who were migrant labourers as well.
The truly sad part of all of this is this holiday, like many other ethno-specific holidays, could have been used to teach the population more about the various groups here. Not just about where they came from, but about what has been achieved and done here. We know so little about ourselves. Instead, the holiday is now used to re-write history inaccurately, pretend that Enslavement and Indenture are one and the same thing; and drive a wedge between Trinbagonians.
In all of this, I hope the pimps are handsomely rewarded. It would be a shame to be on the losing end twice.