Vol. 10 - No. 1




Malay Mishra


Sat Maharaj

Maha Sabha Urges Indian Envoy to Stay out of Local Issues


Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Satnarayan Maharaj is accusing Indian High Commissioner to T&T, His Excellency Malay Mishra, of attempting to destabilise the Hindu community of T&T and dictate the pace of the group. Maharaj, 79, who has been SDMS head since 1977, has dispatched a strongly-worded letter to the India Foreign Office accusing Mishra of continued intervention by way of “intrusive and divisive actions” into the affairs of the Hindu community in T&T. The letter has also been copied to T&T Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan. Maharaj also withdrew the SDMS’s invitation to Mishra to attend yesterday’s Baal Vikaas finals. The issue stems over the use of four lots of land at Signal Hill which the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is willing to lease to the SDMS for construction of a Hindu temple and cremation site. Mishra’s office was closed yesterday and efforts to contact him for comment failed.

But a source close to the Commissioner said it was an “extremely sensitive” matter and if Maharaj’s complaint was seriously entertained by the Indian Government it could cost the Commissioner his posting. According to the letter, the SDMS has been engaged in a 20-year-long quest to secure land in Tobago to build a temple and a cremation site for Hindu use. The effort eventually bore fruit with the decision by the THA to deed four lots of land at Signal Hill to the SDMS to display murtis indicating the Hindu presence in the island. However, Maharaj stated, he was “shocked and amazed” to learn Mishra had a meeting in Tobago on Wednesday, making a case for residents of the island, in general, to lobby the THA to have a community centre at the site, rather than the proposed and agreed-upon temple and cremation undertaking.

“...despite the fact that the Hindu community has no place of worship on the island while the Islamic and Christian communities each has houses of worship. “This is the latest in a series of intrusive and divisive actions taken by this High Commissioner among the local Indian population which are inimical to the interests of the community,” the letter states. “The SDMS views this intervention into domestic affairs of the local Indian community by the Indian High Commissioner as improper and as such we seek your immediate intervention in this matter,” Maharaj wrote. The letter, which was copied to Mishra and directed to his 6 Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain office, was described as “an official letter of complaint” against the High Commissioner “for his conduct in our country.”

In an interview at the Baal Vikaas Festival final at the SDMS headquarters in St Augustine yesterday, Maharaj said the SDMS separates the secular from the religious and does not allow politicians to interfere in its affairs. He suggested Mishra should be concentrating on building the Indian Cultural Centre, land for which was made available by the T&T Government 25 years ago, bordering the Butler Highway, close to the Priority Bus Route. Rambachan told the Sunday Guardian he could not comment as he is yet to receive a copy of the letter.

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