Dear Editor: Pundit Maharaj’s race-baiting comments provoke memories of Hulsie Bhaggan

“[…] As at June 1993, police reports revealed that there were 13 rapes in Central Trinidad. Five of the 13 rapes had been committed by East Indian men, and one of the seven women raped by masked men was of African descent.

“[…] Forward to 2023, a religious leader of all people, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss is proving to be just as divisive and reckless as the former parliamentarian (Hulsie Bhaggan)…”

The following Letter to the Editor on Pundit Satyanand Maharaj’s claim that East Indians are being targetted by “miscreants from the East/West corridor” was submitted to Wired868 by Roger Mohammed of Oropune Gardens:

Pundit Satyanand Maharaj is the spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss.

It was Junot Diaz, a Dominican-American writer, who said: “Stereotypes are sensual, cultural weapons. That’s the way we attack people.”

In 1993, then member of Parliament, Hulsie Bhaggan made an outlandish and dangerous claim, when she said that men of African descent were terrorising and raping women of East Indian descent in Central Trinidad.

She organized her Chaguanas constituents to march against crime and allegedly encouraged them to form vigilante groups to exterminate African men who were targeting the homes of East Indians.

According to Gordon Rohlehr (2010) Bhaggan was able to do what none of the victims could: identify the rapists and determine their motives.

Former Chaguanas MP Hulsie Bhaggan.
(Copyright Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection)

In Rohlehr’s article Deconstructing “The Equaliser”: Beyond a Balance of Terror, he wrote: “As at June 1993, police reports revealed that there were thirteen rapes in Central Trinidad. Five of the thirteen rapes had been committed by East Indian men, and one of the seven women raped by masked men was of African descent.”

The identity of the other rapists were apparently unknown.

Without providing a shred of evidence, Ms. Bhaggan sought to stereotype men of African descent, incite racial hatred and appeal to the basic instincts of some of her constituents in Central Trinidad. To this day, Ms Bhaggan has never apologized to the nation for her deeds!

Forward to 2023, a religious leader of all people, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss is proving to be just as divisive and reckless as the former parliamentarian.

Image: A satirical take on racist profiling.

The cleric stated publicly at a recently held meeting in Aranguez that “urban youth” and “miscreants from the East/West corridor” were targeting people of East Indian descent and committing crimes against them in the Aranguez community.

Just like Bhaggan, pundit Maharaj has not been able to provide any proof of his race-baiting claims!

In the bizarre case of Ms Bhaggan, she actually did get some support as constituents formed themselves into vigilante groups which was short-lived. On the other hand, those who knew better saw her for exactly who she was—including her then political leader, Basdeo Panday who described her as a loose cannon!

Pundit Maharaj’s statements, just like Bhaggan’s, have been condemned by the United National Congress (UNC).

An anti-racism poster.

Further to this, the International Religious Organization (IRO), the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC), the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM), the Aranguez Community Council, and even a male resident of the Aranguez community who was present at that meeting in Aranguez all distanced themselves from the pundit’s inflammatory sentiments.

If all of these major organizations have not found favour with pundit Maharaj’s comments and the goodly clergyman has decided to double down on his views, then I will leave it up to the public as to what they should think of him.

The same way in which Hulsie Bhaggan has never apologized, I don’t foresee an expression of regret coming from pundit Maharaj.

Pundit Satyanand Maharaj (right) and DYCTT president Ramesh Persad-Maharaj.

During this very dark period in our nation’s history where crime is spiralling out of control, the last thing one would expect from a spiritual leader is to be stereotyping individuals and inciting racial hatred which could only lead to one outcome—for the two major races in the country to be attacking each other.

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One comment

  1. “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time”. It is quite apparent that there are many in this society whose biases allow them to easily compartmentalize and are even happy to compromise on issues related to crime and criminality, when it suits their purpose. My question is, why are only the dysfunctions of those that are allegedly involved in home invasions/robberies etc capture the attention of the goodly pundit? Why isn’t the same level of disgust assigned to those who steal/car jack persons cars which eventually end up being sold in the used car industry etc or corrupt gov’t officials who selfishly raid the country’s finances for their personal gain? This makes It hard to believe that those like the ‘goodly religious man’ are serious about the issue of crime at all and it is nothing more than naked attempts at further politicizing crime and at the same time attempting to fuel social discord among the various ethnic groups in the population.

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