Sat still stirring religious intolerance

By Raffique Shah
May 31, 2018

Raffique ShahSat Maharaj can manufacture a controversy in the calmest situation. He knows that the fundamental rule for staying alive in public life, and more importantly looking lively even though you may be half-dead is to get embroiled in “kuchoor”, as Indians would say, and do the most outrageous things to command media attention.

Through the decades that he has been head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat has adopted the image of appearing to be Lord Rama’s representative in this country, a powerful force in religion, education, politics and life in general. He has arrogated unto himself near-divine powers.

Most of all, by manipulating the media with practiced ease, he has commandeered coverage that prime ministers and politicians yearn for, would have their financiers pay big bucks for—and he gets it for free.

Evidence of this is what you are reading now: I am devoting an entire column to this “burrokeet”, which is creole for a Carnival character which portrays a man playing an ass, as Sat does and has done all his life.

Take the latest storm he has stirred, an unholy war over a young Muslim woman being barred from entering the Lakshmi Girls High School wearing a hijab. In a country that is bleeding with crime, counting murders by the hour, robberies by the minute, and rampant lawlessness that straddles race and class lines, you’d think a hijab is the least of our worries.

Not when Sat is involved: after the trainee teacher posted her plight on the Internet, which exposed Sat’s bigotry, he slammed into her—no hijab on my property! His property happens to be a secondary school that is funded by taxpayers of this country, who include Muslims, Hindus, Christians and members of a host of other faiths.

The conflict quickly escalated when prominent persons and organisations added their voices, almost unanimously condemning the Maha Sabha’s stance.

Sat was ready for them, but especially for UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Armed with the Hindu equivalent of a battle club, he went live on the Maha Sabha’s radio and television stations threatening to end her political career by withdrawing the “Hindu vote”. Again, displaying delusions of divinity, he repeatedly vowed that Kamla would “pay a hell of a price” for criticising him. I note that up to the time of writing this, no other member of the Maha Sabha has made any statement or comment on the issue.

Now, the uninformed listening to Sat’s threat to withdraw the Hindu vote from Kamla’s UNC might think that the incumbent Opposition Leader’s “dogs dead”, as Trinis would say, in the next elections. If she does suffer defeat in the local government elections due in 2019, it would not be because of Sat’s perceived power over how Hindus vote.

What are the facts? In 1976, when he was already head of the Maha Sabha, in his second foray into the electoral arena, Sat contested the heavily-Hindu Chaguanas constituency on a DLP ticket. He suffered a humiliating defeat, mustering a mere 480 votes out of 9,000. Five years earlier (1971), when the main opposition parties boycotted the election, and Sat’s Guru and father-in-law Bhadase Maharaj fielded candidates to legitimise it, Bhadase gave Sat the surest of Hindu seats, St Augustine. Sat lost it to the PNM—the only time the PNM won St Augustine.

To further debunk Sat’s spurious claim of the Maha Sabha controlling the Hindu vote, Bhadase, who was the main founder of the religious organisation, also lost his deposit in St Augustine in 1966, polling 943 votes out of 9,400, losing to the DLP’s John Bharath, Vasant’s father. And his death-blow came in 1971 in another Hindu stronghold, Oropouche, where, again, the PNM won for the first and only time.

To crown off Sat’s delusions of divinity, sometime post 2000 (I think), he publicly associated with Patrick Manning and the PNM. He failed to take any Hindu votes with him.

In fact, I argue that there is no such entity as “the Hindu vote”. There is an Indo-Trinidadian vote that comprises Hindus (by far the largest number), Muslims and Christians. While they do not vote as a block, they tend to go with whatever Indian-led party is popular in an election, or where the popular leader takes them.

For example, working backwards, in 2015 and 2010 they will have supported Kamla, hence the People’s Partnership. Before that, Basdeo Panday was “the Man”, from as far back as 1976, and even when he merged with Karl Hudson-Phillips and Ray Robinson to form the NAR in 1986, they went with him. It was the only election in which the mass of Indians voted for an Afro prime minister (Robinson).

When Panday and his crew walked out of the NAR in 1988, most of the Indian supporters went with them.

Bhadase, Sat and the Maha Sabha were there through all of the above. Indeed, they pre-dated those parties and mergers. But at no point did they influence the elections the way Sat suggests.

While he and his colleagues can take credit for the establishment and expansion of Hindu schools, especially secondary schools, that have come a long way in a relatively short time, their impact in the political arena has been unimpressive.

Sat should spend his winter years chalking up some dharma- and karma-points, rather than fulminating like a madman, taxing his ailing ticker, stirring the seeds of religious intolerance and racial disharmony.

9 Responses to “Sat still stirring religious intolerance”


  • I still respect Sat

    Kamla: No malice for Maha Sabha boss

    By Kevon Felmine
    Thursday, May 31, 2018 – guardian.co.tt

    Despite the public castigation she received from Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Sat Maharaj ahead of yesterday’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will attend any SDMS function she is invited to in the future.

    In an interview yesterday at the Cedros Indian Cultural Committee’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations at Manmohansingh Park in Bonasse Village, Persad-Bissessar said despite Maharaj’s comments against her, she still respects him and holds no malice towards him.

    Once a strong supporter of Persad-Bissessar and her United National Congress party, Maharaj, during a TV programme, last week revoked the SDMS’s invitation to Persad-Bissessar to deliver the feature address at its Indian Arrival Day function in Debe yesterday.

    Maharaj’s anger towards Persad-Bissessar was in response to her condemnation of the Maha Sabha school board’s refusal to allow on-the-job-trainee Nafisah Nakhid the opportunity to train at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College because she wore a hijab.

    Persad-Bissessar had urged the school’s board to reconsider its decision and called on Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to move swiftly to resolve the matter.

    She said the matter was not a political but of natural justice, equality and fairness.

    Yesterday, however, Persad-Bissessar seemed unphased by the attack against her by Maharaj.

    “I respect Mr Maharaj for the great work he has done for Trinidad and Tobago through the schools, education, through the Maha Sabha.

    “I think he has done a lot of work for all of us in Trinidad and Tobago and I do respect him for that,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters during the Indian Arrival Day event.

    “As I said earlier, I have no intention for tit for tat with Mr Maharaj because I do respect him. I respect what he has done and I continue to encourage him to do the work that he must do.”

    During the TV programme last Friday, Maharaj also warned that Persad-Bissessar would pay a political price in time to come and called on Hindus to free up their vote in upcoming elections.
    Full Article : guardian.co.tt

  • Sat Maharaj is a charlatan whose power lies in his ability to stir controversy, induce racial warfare, stress religious animosity and most insidiously encourage social strife. Most educated Indians in this country are the product of christian schooling. The catholics, anglicans, presbyterians and seventh day adventists experience in educating our young population stayed clear of identifying with party politics, racial, religious and cultural identity when equipping our young students for their roles in society. While the history of our education systems was powered by christian religious associations, they NEVER used that power to engender social discord.

    Sat Maharaj wants to have it in one and several ways. He wants to be respected as a religious leader, he wants to be a national leader, he wants to be an Indian leader, he wants to have Indian control, he wants to be a spokesman for hinduism, he wants to have a voice in education and also wants to take control of the national dialogues on how we as a country should adhere to his pomposity. Most christian leaders show respect for denominational practices and norms. But Sat uses his notoriety to imbue hate and uneasiness among the population.

    This could never be good for an emerging nation. It is for this reason I am against the mixture of politics and religion. The Prime Minister should refrain from indulging in religious commemorations that accent divisions and sidesteps diversity as a motive.

  • Sat has accommodated black children, Muslims and Christians in the schools the MAHA Sabha has build. But like Panday at times feel to cuss a woman but not any ordinary woman, a woman who has in five short years transformed politics in TNT.

    Let’s face it Sat is a public relations nightmare, he is at times a blunt speaker who engenders division. As for Sat being a racist, Selwyn Cudjoe said he wasn’t, but that narrative does not sit well with Kian who sees race the minute he look in the mirror. Kian might be a little surprise to find one of Sat schools Shiva Boys Penal has won more intercol titles with young black boys leading the attack.

    The issue of the hijab always pit people against each other, not only in TNT but in many parts of the world. Kamla should not have elucidated on the issue rather a simple the court will decide on this matter would have been sufficient. But Kamla is a very strong pro feminist leader. She has stood for women’s issue more than any other leader. Perhaps sensing the hurt of the young lady her maternal instincts had the better of her. Nevertheless, the future of this young lady is very bright, perhaps being groomed for political office in the PNM. She is a highly intelligent young lady…

  • One of our main problems on this island is our inability to face reality and address problems as they occur. Sat has put his foot in his mouth and no effort to sugar coat that can be credible. Those who are quick to defend his behavior are the same ones who have been calling ‘foul’ each time they overstep their bounds for the past one hundred and sixty years. I shall NOT be muted when gregarious public behavior is pronounced and pointed out. Sat Maharaj is a public nuisance and has not become anymore accommodating with age. He is a hateful religious zealot and no amount of calming to his stormy behavior will pacify the hurt he is causing to human relations in this country.

  • Sat’s thinking is dominated by Caste affiliation, Hinduism and race. He is not pro-Indian in his protestations , but simply pro-Hindu.
    He has no choice in his acceptance of non-Hindus in his schools because he is obligated by the laws of T&T in government assisted institutions.
    As Kamla pointed out he has done some good work and Hindu schools are producing some of the top academics in the country, but a singular Hindu agenda and the religious and racial mutterings of Sat have no place in a multicultural society like T&T.

  • The biggest racists in the country are the pnm black nazi cultists who inject vitriol into the black masses.The systemic racism of the pnm is blatant and Sat is fighting back refusing to succumb to racists and afrocentrists.Indians have been discriminated and victimized by the pnm for decades and anytime an Indian fights back it becomes a problem.The public service is populated with pnm agents who may have purposely sent the hijab wearing woman to the Hindu school to create mischief.
    Sat is free to express his opinion concerning Kamla or any politician.If he feels that Kamla is not the right person to take the UNC forward into the next general election then a healthy debate concerning her leadership of the party should start.

  • Lt Shah You may be right about Sat Maharaj. Lets deal with the matter where a young muslim lady is salivating because she will be taking the matter to the courts. This will be a double edge sword for the muslim community/religion who has hard and fast rules as to who can attend any of their mosque and what dress they should wear and ladies must be separated from men. Lets say she wins in the court, as she definitely will. Now anyone can go into a mosque without a head dress and in any section of the mosque. If they are put out of the mosque they will certainly go to the judgement this lady will win in court (discrimination, etc). If it is good for the goose it is good for the gander. you must know this slang Lt shah. Be careful what you are fighting.

  • There is a massive difference between a school which is government assisted and a religious place of worship like a mosque. Part of living in a multicultural/religious society is freedom of religion and all its trappings.
    To AgentX: If in fact this appointment of the Muslim hijab wearing teacher was a set up by PNM government agents, as you put it, then it’s about time that Sat’s religious bigotry is challenged. It has no place in a civilized society.

  • It is refreshing when logic is applied to commentary than to read purely opinionated ones. This matter of refusal by Sat to allow this muslim lady to teach in a hindu school is NOT purely a matter of religion, race, ethnicity or administrative policies. If Sat or his Hindu organization were TOTALLY responsible for the building, maintenance, staffing and remuneration of all expenses, then no one could argue his right to hire, fire and administer the way he pleases.

    Once taxpayers money is involved in any service, institution or efforts to service the public, then one MUST subscribe to regulations to protect and enforce fairness, rule of law, equity and safety as may be applied based on organizational structure.
    In other words, this is simply an issue where Sat has decided that he is his own man and that he is doing what he very well pleases to suit himself. This is the commonality of understanding which most right thinking people have applied to this issue. It is obvious that Sat is saying that this young lady (being muslim) should NOT be part of the staff, if she wears a hijab. The question to ask of Sat here is, what if she wore an orni? Would he have done the same thing? This lady’s only ‘crime’ is to wear a hijab, which in itself ought not to be taken as a disqualifier. It makes the action discriminatory and one might argue religiously persecutional.

    One CANNOT say on one hand they want to be a part of a multi-racial, multi-cultural society and then apply discriminatory practices and expect to be applauded.

Comments are currently closed.