Sat Maharaj and Martin Luther King

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 26, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOne radio host called my comparison of Sat Maharaj with Martin Luther King “sacrilegious” while a caller to another radio station wondered what had happened to Professor Cudjoe since 2011. “I had admired Professor Cudjoe but now I don’t know what has gone wrong with him. Imagine his comparing Sat to Martin Luther King.” These were some of the condemnations that arose from my remarks about Satnarayan Maharaj.

What were the offending words?

“Sat Maharaj is dead, long live his spirit. Some people have likened Sat Maharaj to Mahatma Gandhi. I prefer to compare him to Dr. Martin Luther King whose major contribution was to make the United States a more perfect union. Martin Luther King found a fragmented nation when he started his civil rights struggle for African Americans in the 1950s.

“Trinidad and Tobago was also a broken society in the 1950s. It was prone to leaving Indo-Trinbagonians out of the national discussion which was a point of contention between Dr. Eric Williams and Dr. Rudranath Capildeo during our Independence discussion at Marlborough House in London in 1960.

“Dr. Williams did his part by inscribing minority rights into our constitution. However, it was left to Sat Maharaj and others of his persuasion to keep up the fight for minority rights even though that minority is now a majority.

“Like Dr. King, Sat will go down in our history as one of the major architects in helping to perfect our union and to make ours a fairer society.”

A majority of my African brothers and sisters felt I have offended to the highest heavens. “Sat, that racist, cannot be compared with Dr. King, that angel of civil rights struggles in the United States.”

When King picked up his mantle in the 1950s, he was continuing a struggle for the equality of black people they started when they arrived in America. When America won its freedom from Great Britain in 1775, its Declaration of Independence began with the brave words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Black people were left out of such a promise. They were kept as slaves until 1863 when a vicious Civil War was fought to maintain the union and which allowed them the possibility of sharing in the American dream. Many gallant black people fought for their liberation, including such luminous figures as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Malcolm X.

King continued that struggle for freedom. When he stood at the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” he made it clear that when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation it was “a great beacon of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.”

He continued: “When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men-yes, black men as well as white-would be granted the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the promise of happiness.”

When Bhadase Sagan Maraj entered the Trinidad scene in the 1950s, the colonial government was treating Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians with contempt and condescension. The SDMS noted: “Right up to the middle of the 20th century, East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago, though comprising 40 percent of the population, were treated as second-class citizens by the then colonial government” (Master & Servant: Bhadase Sagan Maraj)

Sat wrote: “We, as Hindus, are duty-bound to show our everlasting gratitude to the man [Bhadase Maraj] who brought light and literacy when there was only darkness and neglect, and was responsible in no small measure for releasing East Indians, and Hindus in particular, from the crippling bonds of ignorance and poverty.”

Sat saw his role as continuing the fight to uplift of his people, particularly the Hindus, which he did for fifty long years.

Many white people saw King as a racist. His fellow ministers, even when he was in a Birmingham jail, did not understand why he went to Alabama to fight for Afro-American freedom. He reminded them: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In 1964 he made it clear that his duty was to remove the scourge of inferiority which many blacks in the South felt about themselves (“Why We Can’t Wait”).

King was not accepted by the whites who saw him as a rabble rouser while black people saw him as a courageous leader who had fought for their freedom. King died in 1968. In 2000 Utah became the last state to recognize MLK day by name and South Carolina the final state to make it a paid holiday.

Afro-Trinidadians wear a banner that says that the Indo-Trinbagonians are racists while we are free from every taint of racism. In our hours of quiet reflection we may want to ask why we are so resistant to giving Sat his due while Indo-Trinbagonians honor and respect his memory and what he did for them.

Sat and MLK fought for the rights of “their” people and, as a result, made their respective nations live up to the dreams of their nations’ founders: creating a place where every creed and race finds an equal place.”

This is the one thing that Sat and King have in common.

8 thoughts on “Sat Maharaj and Martin Luther King”

  1. Sat wrote: “We, as Hindus, are duty-bound to show our everlasting gratitude to the man [Bhadase Maraj] who brought light and literacy when there was only darkness and neglect, and was responsible in no small measure for releasing East Indians, and Hindus in particular, from the crippling bonds of ignorance and poverty“…

    I was educated at Primary school level in one of the schools Badase built. I owe a dept of gratitude for his vision that continued under the SDMS. My family primary level education was on my father side SDMS and on my mother side Presbyterian school. Whilst SDMS started in 1952, the Presbyterians started in 1845.

    These two denominations produced some of the most brilliant minds in education, if you have a doctor, lawyer, teacher etc, and they are indian chances are they were educated in one of these two denominations school. It was said of Badase if he said he would build six schools the sceptics doubted him but he delivered.

    The value of a primary level education is so very important in human development. An educated critical thinker is a plus to society. Without casting aspersions, I have known people from Guyana many of them were denied education. And their low level of understanding and high level of ignorance is a direct result of such denial. An education causes you to rise out of poverty and so much more…..

  2. Sick Minds are like Birds of the same feather, they tend to go along to get along.Over the Years,with Mr Sat Maharaj’ Leadership of the SDMS, we saw major transformation of His People, what about your people Mr Cujoe, who was at the Forefront? Mr Sat Maharaj and Mr Badase before, Captured the Cultural minds of his People, what have you done for yours Mr Cujoe? all the past Black leaders mentioned gave their All to uplift the Demonic conditions of the newly set free, enslaved Africans, while Dr MLK was seeking INCLUSION, can we say the same for Mr Sat Maharaj? Necessity is the product of Society, as an Ethnic group, He made sure that His people was given a different Education,where his Peoples Culture is clearly mixed with the Dough for both Roti and Sada.Leaders of Mr Sat Maharaj’ caliber don’t come overnite, the conditions that Created Mr Sat Maharaj, are the very same cloth that created you Mr Cujoe,the stitches was carved totally different.The Presbyterians did and continue to do their part in christianizing,the SDMS have crystalized their journey Culturally and that is A+, can you say or Write the same Mr Cujoe?. Just recently, Elijah Cummings a US representative from Baltimore was called out by Mr Trump, the Westrn part of his constituency is, and continue to be a SLUM, the embarrassment incured by the “DONALD” took him to his GRAVE, Mr Maharaj, love him or not, spoke on the behalf of his People,not for the others that make up the Trinidad Landscape,the term for that is DIVISION in all of its aspects, Can We Honestly build a Nation on this Foundation? Mr Cujoe, your statements tend to be very mis-leading, MLK holiday is a Federal Holiday not National,Ferderal and Gov’t workers are taken care of, you Mr Cujoe, in your capacity, will benefit, not the daily or hourly paid, please clear this up.As we speak some US states have started to walk back on the Holiday and street naming.The LUO People of Kenya gave us a much beautiful Proverb, ” IT IS BY PERSISTENCE THAT THE TERMITES BUILD THEIR NESTS” yes, the SDMS with Mr Maharaj as their Leader have persisted, have it been one-sided? the Answer is in the Affirmative.Mr Sat Maharaj have given the African Man/Woman in Trinidad, the TEMPLATE of how to be , is He to be termed MLK? there will only be one Mahatma, MLK, SAT, the lessons to be learnt is forever continuous.”WHEN LIGHT MIXED WITH DARKNESS,IT MADE THE DARKNESS SHINE.WHEN DARKNESS MIXED WITH LIGHT,IT DIMMED THE LIGHT AND BECOMES NEITHER LIGHT NOR DARKNESS,BUT RATHER GLOOM”,This is the Trinidad you enjoy Mr Cujoe,Western Education is the cause.

    1. BC the man dead and gone and you behaving like a wajang. Did he take anything from you? Did tell you mother to take another man? As Dr.Cudjoe said agree or disagree he stood for his convictions. His schools produced more President’s medal winner than any other. That is what is being celebrated.

  3. oh dear what are some people to do now, no more sat the racist boogeyman to whine and bitch about.

  4. Selwyn Cudjoe continues on his opportunistic, copycat twisting of reality to further his own ends as he compares Sat Maharaj to Martin Luther King. I say copycat because he is obviously copying those in America who compare Trump to Martin Luther King. In January of this year, “Vice President Mike Pence—with a straight face—appeared on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday to compare Trump to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday will be celebrated on Monday as a national holiday.” Pence, referring to Dr. King said, “He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union. That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do: Come to the table in the spirit of good faith.” So Cudjoe is copying this piece of reality twisting as he compares Sat Maharaj to Martin Luther King.

    Fighting for the advancement of your people solely is not what Dr. King was about, he was about fighting for the advancement of humanity. To quote Dr. King, “God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.” That is why he saw himself as fighting against racism, extreme materialism and militarism. Again to quote Dr. King, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” His struggle for the civil rights of black Americans was a part of that struggle for the advancement of the “freedom of the whole human race”. If we are speaking about the advancement of your race as opposed to humanity, then Sat Maharaj is more comparable to Trump than Martin Luther King. There are many who considered themselves to be fighting for the advancement of their race or people solely. The list of notorious figures in history is replete with that kind. Let us not mutilate truth by comparing them to Martin Luther King.

    1. Birdie, I share you views on this matter. Sometimes I won der what the NEAP organization would have been if Dr. Cudjoe was still the organization’s leader. If there is something admirable about Sat Maharaj, is the single-mindedness of his focus on advancing the cause of hinduism and by extension advancement of the Indian above any other consideration. He fought for Indianism, whether that meant placating the rest of society was not important as long as he got what he wanted for his people. That was NOT what Dr. King fought and gave his life for. He gave his life for the upliftment of humanity, what better way to approach that than to start where it was most needed – life in the black communities of America. While it is generally portrayed that black people were the beneficiaries of his work, the true beneficiary is the white woman. As a mean to enforce civil rights in the work place and public life, the white woman were classed as ‘minorities’ in order to advance their standings in the economic and social elements of American society.

      The crowning aspect of the efforts of Martin Luther King was the advancement of life for the white woman, minorities, war and peace, practices in the workplace and human development.
      I fail to see how Sat’s fight for the Indian can be comparable with that of Martin Luther King. Dr. Cudjoe is an academic and sees life through lenses that are imaginative that may not be conversant with reality. If his vision of advancement for the black man was grounded in reality he could have attained a greater success. It is an insult to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King to casually compare his life to that of Sat Maharaj. Even on his dying bed, Sat was unrepentant about the licensing of Louis Lee Sing’s I95.5 radio licensing instead of his ethnic Jagrati licensing. I95.5 services the public as a whole while Jagrati was intended to only serve the hindu population. Where is the comparison Dr. Cudjoe?

      We are not all lettered in terms of our formal education but many of us have the capacity to analyze and accept the meaning of the written word when it is meant to convert our inner understandings. If we have to honor Sat, it should be for his fight for his people and his people only. That would have been a more honest evaluation. To extended his life beyond that is pushing the button of understanding too far.

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