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Hindus in Trinidad politics come under fire

The Hindus in Trinidad's politics are a tragic story, says a former senator.

india Updated: Apr 23, 2007 12:11 IST

Members of the Hindu community, making up 26 per cent of Trinidad & Tobago's 1.3 million population, have come out openly against what they call the "weak leadership" of the group in the country's politics.

According to Suren Capildeo, a cousin of Nobel Laureate Sir VS Naipaul, the Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago's politics are a tragic story. "I do not want to inflict more on you.

The Hindu in politics is a tragedy," Capildeo said, speaking at the National Council of Indian Culture's (NCIC) third induction ceremony for its Hall of Pioneers here.

"It is a story of betrayal after betrayal. It is a story of gross incompetence and total selfishness. It is a story of weak leadership and political stupidity. For some of us, it is a never-ending story and political stupidity," Capildeo, a former senator and attorney-at-law, told a select gathering of 300 people.

Most of the Hindus in this Caribbean nation are of Indian descent. There are over 300 Hindu temples, besides several schools and religious and cultural groups.

"How much more humiliation can the Hindu society take?" Capildeo asked. "Every time you look at the news, our leaders are either leaving court or entering court."

Referring to earlier and the present Hindu participation in politics, he said: "From Roodal, Teelucksingh, Abidh, Ranjit Kumar, Ashford and Mitra Sinanan, Simboonath and Rudranath Capildeo, Subhas and Basdeo Panday (the latter being the first and only Indo-Trinidadian to hold the post of prime minister from 1995 to 2001), the story is the same. Only some infinitely worse than the others."

"The dhoti and kurta on the political stage of Trinidad entrenched the ethnic-religious voting pattern of the island from 1946, when adult suffrage was introduced, until today.

And like I say, unless there is honest constitutional reform, it will continue well into the future," Capildeo said.

He said the Hindu was the whipping boy first to the imperial British and then to "the quintessential Afro-Saxon jacket and tie, knife and fork Oxford graduate, Dr Eric Williams", the country's first prime minister from independence in 1962 to his sudden demise in March 1981.

Capildeo said that in the current maelstrom of embarrassing unnatural political relationships and blatant political intellectual dishonesty, the Hindu has found himself in a vortex of his own making.

"And what he (the Hindu) thinks is the most profound question being asked in the Hindu political world, but in reality, it is the most asinine.

It is not a question about political principle or policy or philosophy, nothing about the quality of our lives, not a query about the future of generations to come but a parrot like squawking, or if you prefer, a crude bleating particularly on talk shows," he said.

The leadership of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) here has also agreed with the views of Capildeo.

"His (Capildeo's) analysis was right," SDMS secretary Satnarayan Maharaj said.

"The sight of these people in and out of court was a letdown for the Hindu community. The behaviour on the part of some Hindu politicians has caused some concern. It is better that we did not take part in politics."

Referring to the indentureship period in which workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India came to the Caribbean to work in the sugar plantations, he said, "All our grandfathers worked in the canefields. They died young and left us a good name as a people who worked honestly.

"Somehow, things have gone wrong. Now, some people look at all Indians as cheats. We have lost this good name as hard workers," he said.