Thursday, October 22, 2015



Thakur Ranjit Singh

The welcome sign to Nasilai Village. Some 131 years ago, the forebears of the villagers came to rescue of and gave shelter and hospitality to survivors of the Syria (Girmit Ship) Tragedy. 

As the formal ceremony commenced in vakatunoloa (community meeting hall) at Nasilai Village on an overcast morning on 14 October, 2015 at Nakelo, (Rewa) Fiji, the high tide was lapping on the shores some meters away from the meeting house. And the muffled lapping was audible inside. The sea was calm, and the high tide was receding.

History of Nasilai Village explained by this large billboard at the entrance to the Village

However this was not the case some 131 years ago, on a stormy night when the raging waves on the Nasilai Reef claimed 59 lives through sinking of the Girmit ship, Syria, which was carrying Indian indentured labourers to Fiji. Then, the forebears of this current Nasilai villagers came to the rescue of the survivors and gave them shelter and displayed human love, compassion, hospitality and understanding of the universal language of love, even without understanding each other’s language. 

The Chief of Nasilai Village Chief Daunakelo, receiving the Tabua, and responding to the presentation by the delegation, under the watchful eye of NZ National List MP, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

On the day of our visit, the ride to the village reminded us of a wedding procession, with convey of government and high commission vehicles, including our bus. You drive through roads snaking through green vegetation past Nausori Airport, Naselai, Visama, Nakelo and thence to Nasilai Village through narrow, dusty and winding road. At the end of the road, very near to the sea there is a sign. It says: “Welcome to Nasilai Village.” Over a century ago, there was no road and no sign, but the “welcoming” gesture, character and trait of the village seems to have always been alive and bequeathed to successive generations.

This year’s (2015) theme for Girmit Foundation Commemoration in Auckland was the sinking of ship Syria on the Nasilai reef on May 11, 1884. The Founding President of Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ, Pundit Devakar Prasad had a dream to thank the villagers, but unfortunately passed away. A delegation from NZ traveled to Fiji to fulfill that dream of a thanksgiving trip. Without the villagers’ valuable, timely help and the traditional ITaukei culture of compassion, the loss of lives would have been much higher. Unfortunately, Fijian history has not resonated with such acts of compassion and sacrifice where our two communities stood by and for each other, in good times and in bad ones.

Indeed, there is enormous reservoir of love, affection and goodwill between the two races, which needs to be revealed and cherished. Had it not been for the divide and rule technique of the colonists, (adopted by some ethno-nationalist politicians), there would have been better race relations in Fiji, as was displayed through human language of compassion on that fateful and eventful night over a century ago.

A Very Symbolic Gesture: Gratitude after over 13 decades to the descendants of the village which showed compassion and humanity to people in need. A bond was forged with the delegation from NZ, which promised to have the bond of friendship nurtured and facilitate developments and other assistance by other agencies, including NZ and Indian High Commissions. Secretary/Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, Thakur Ranjit Singh shaking hand of gratitude with Chief Daunakelo of Nasilai Village, in the shadows of Girmit Banner.
Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was the Chief Guest in that Girmit Commemoration on May 17, 2015 in Auckland. The President of the Foundation, Master Shiu Charan commended Nasilai villagers for their timely assistance and hospitality. Unfortunately due to doctor’s advice, he could not travel to Fiji and was deputised by Sardar Harnam Singh Golian.

Now, to fulfil our undertaking of honouring the villagers, a delegation from Fiji Girmit Foundation ventured on this pilgrimage. It included Trustee/Head of Delegation, Sardar Harnam Singh Golian, with a team of 8 from New Zealand. It also included New Zealand’s National Member of Parliament, Kanwal Singh Bakshi. In Fiji, the delegation was joined by NZ High Commissioner, Mark Ramsden, official of Indian High Commission and other local community leaders and media. 

Presentation of Plaque to Chief Daunakelo (extreme left) by the Head of Delegation and Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation-New Zealand, Sardar Harnam Singh Golian (with glasses in front) Others in the picture are members of delegation from New Zealand (from left) Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Viren Lal, Vijay Prasad (back, partly obscured) and Trustee and Treasurer Krish Naidu.

Gifts of food items, sporting goods and stationery were presented and very warmly received by the villagers in their meeting house. We were honoured with the traditional welcoming yagona (kava) ceremony followed by presentation of Tabua, (whale’s teeth) gifts and a commemorative plaque. There was networking and Talanoa session in which the delegate promised to maintain ongoing relations with the village and facilitate development through New Zealand and Indian High Commissions and other agencies on an ongoing basis for the wellbeing of the village.

It was an emotional event where praises were made to the forebears of the villagers for their compassionate, humanitarian and courageous act of rescue and hospitality. It was especially emotional for the great-granddaughter of one of the survivors of Syria tragedy, Mrs Padma Charan, who, with her son Vinesh, has made that special trip from New Zealand as part of the delegation. Her great grandfather, Thakur Kuldip Singh was a survivor of that fateful ship that met a fateful landing.

Jiko Rasoqosoqo, Acting Chief of Protocol at Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (left, sitting) with Mrs Padma Wati Charan, wife of Master Shiu Charan, President of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ. Mr Charan could not join the delegation on the advice of doctors, but was present in spirit. Mrs Charan's great grandfather, Thakur Kuldip Singh from Rajasthan, India was on board the Syria that sank, but he survived and was taken care of by the villagers. It was a nostalgic moment for Padma to be present in the village whose forebears helped her great grandfather.

In general discussion, the villagers cited the immediate need for repairs to their meeting house, addition of a toilet block and completion of a Syria monument that was reportedly undertaken earlier by Indian High Commission. The villagers were thankful to be remembered, and they commented that others had visited before, but forgotten them. They were assured by Sardar Golian that they will not be forgotten, ‘We will work with other agencies to make sure that assistance is given where required, and we will make further visits in future.” he told the Chief Daunakelo. The NZ High Commissioner, also assured them of assistance.

The delegation was treated to a very tasty, healthy and mouth-watering, lunch, which was enjoyed by the delegation and a large media contingent who covered the event. The food appeared to have been very lovingly prepared, and that added to its taste. The event was well-publicised in Fiji media which helped in bringing awareness about Girmit and the inter-ethnic compassion that existed so early in Fiji’s history.

On our way, we visited Nasamila District School. This was facilitated by Ministry of Education. Once again the usual hospitality was displayed by the school teachers and students. It caters for four nearby villages, including Nasilai. The visitors were thrilled by the show of respect, and performance of cultural programmes. We presented the school with some sporting goods and stationery, and promised to extend development through educational aid agencies in New Zealand. Our eyes welled up when the Nasamila Cultural Group of students sang the ever haunting and melodious farewell song-Isa Lei.

The delegation was overwhelmed by show of respect and welcome at Nasamila District School, where children from Nasilai Village attend, apart from other three nearby villages. The delegation promised assistance to the school, and ongoing contact will be maintained to facilitate this. The school children said "good-bye" to  the visitors, with an emotional Isa Lei song. It appears hospitality to visitors in that neighborhood has been bequeathed by their forebears to the current generations.
As we departed Nasilai, one thing was certain. The love, compassion and hospitality that was displayed to the Indian Girmitiyas some 131 years ago was evident and inherited by the descendants of those villagers with a big heart. And the ITaukei hospitality so well-known worldwide again won the day. It was certain that it was not our last trip-there was some bond that was pulling us to come back to Nasilai Village. 

The Nasilai Light house and splashes of waves on the reef, taken by Sony Zoom camera from Nasilai Village (by Thakur Ranjit Singh).You can see the waves splashing on the reef. If the Captain of the ship was doing his job properly, disaster could have been averted. By 7pm on the fateful night, there was a full moon and had a lookout been posted on the masthead, disaster could have been averted as the breakers would have been visible from a long distance. But this was not done, and disaster happened due to human weakness, inexperience and negligence. By the time they saw the reef it was too late - the ship hit the reef and started disintegrating at 8.30pm.
It appears the whispered legends about spirit of those drowned Indian labourers at Nasilai reef are urging us to comeback. And by God, we will come back. In addition to development of the village and the school, we may also bring some priest or pundit (may be FIJI PUNDIT should be enough) to appease those wondering souls still seeking salvation.

[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a founding Trustee and Secretary of Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand which came on the thanksgiving trip to Nasilai Village on 14 October, 2015. He was a member of the delegation and communications link between Fiji Government and the Foundation. He is a community worker, a media commentator and scholar, and runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT at, also on Facebook "FIJI PUNDIT"]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I have a Dream: A Thanksgiving Pilgrimage to Syria Wreck in Fiji

The deathbed-Syria Wreck -What is left of Syria at Naselai Reef at Nakelo on Naselai reef in Tailevu, Fiji.

As a delegation from Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand is headed for Naselai Village on a thanksgiving trip on Wednesday 14 October, 2015, we cannot forget the historical events leading to this trip. Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was the Chief Guest in Girmit Commemoration on May 17, 2015 in Auckland, with the theme of Syria Wreck. On a fateful night of 11 May, 1884, villagers of Naselai Village risked their own lives and courageously provided valuable and timely assistance, comfort and hospitality in saving many Indian lives.

Now, to honour the villagers, a delegation from Fiji Girmit Foundation, led by President/Trustee Master Shiu Charan, Secretary/Trustee, Thakur Ranjit Singh, Trustee Sardar Harnam Singh Golian and Krishal Naidu, with members Viren Lal and Vijendra Prasad, among others, are visiting Naselai Village and Naselai Reef on a thanksgiving pilgrimage. New Zealand National Party List MP, Kanwaljeet Bakshi is also part of the delegation. They will perform a sevu sevu ceremony, gift a plaque of thanks and initiate a project with ongoing assistance to the village school. Let us, for a moment, go in “flashback” historical mode.

This was the original ship- Leonidas, which brought first Indian Girmitiyas to Fiji on 14 May, 1879. Syria was a similar sailing ship which perished on Naselai Reef on 11 May, 1884.

Let us dust some pages of history for a better perspective to this incident. It was a fateful, eventful and a night full of tragedies in 1884, where a raging sea proved once more that in front of the force of nature, human beings are mere mortals.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The night the Syria ran aground ; Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand to go on a Pilgrimage to Naselai

This article is adopted from The Fiji Times of 28 May, 2013 by Avinesh Gopal, It is the intention of FIJI PUNDIT to create awareness in this history that is increasingly covered by dust. We wish to wipe away that dust, in advance of a delegation from Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand, making a thanksgiving trip to Naselai Village on 14 October, 2015. The delegation from New Zealand is led by its Trustee and President, Master Shiu Charan, Secretary, Thakur Ranjit Singh, and Trustees Harnam Singh Golian and Krishal Naidu, among a delegation comprising some ten from Auckland. The other non-travelling Trustee is author of Tears in Paradise, Rajendra Prasad.. Here is the first of the articles in the series leading to Naselai Thanksgiving Trip to Fiji on 14 October, 2015. The article below is to rekindle, rejuvenate, reclaim, and reconnect Indo-Fijian History, from The Fiji Times:]

The night the Syria ran aground - The Fiji Times 28th May 2013
(by Avinesh Gopal)

THEY died about a century ago but their spirits reportedly roam near their death spot.
And whenever they are seen, they say something which the iTaukei population of the area is not too familiar with.

Sometimes, their cries can also be heard from their "deathbed" — the sunken ship Syria — part of which is lying on Nasilai Reef off Nasilai Village in Nakelo, Tailevu.
It is the story of indentured labourers who were brought to Fiji from India when the ship met her fate on the night of May 11, 1884, claiming 59 lives.

Among those who died were women and children, including some babies.
The Syria was a 1010 tonne iron sailing ship with a length of 63.3 metres, breadth of 10.39 metres and depth of 6.33 metres.

Named after the Syria River in Karnataka in India and launched in 1868, she was primarily used for the transportation of Indian indentured labourers to the British colonies.
Details of some of the ship's voyages available on the free encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, revealed that people died on board during trips to Trinidad, with the last trip to Fiji claiming most lives but in a different way.

The Syria left Calcutta in India on March 13, 1884 with 497 passengers in search of a better life in Fiji, like their fellow countrymen who first arrived here on May 14, 1879.
Records reveal that the ship had a crew of 43, of which 33 were lascars (Indians who were in Fiji before the first indentured labourers arrived here).
According to Wikipedia, the ship's journey was uneventful except that the route through the Indian Ocean and travelling south of Australia to utilise the prevailing winds took only 58 days, which was two weeks less than expected.

The theme of this year's Girmit Commemoration in Auckland on 17 May, 2015 was Syria Tragedy, where Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was the Chief Guest. The Foundation had pledged to visit  Naselai Village on a Pilgrimage trip, and honour the villagers with a plaque. This trip from a New Zealand delegation, at the guidance of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be on 14 October, 2015.

On sighting Kadavu at 9am on May 11, 1884, the captain failed to allow for the strong winds and currents and consequently, the ship was closer to Nasilai Reef than the captain believed, it states.
By 7pm, there was a full moon and had a lookout been posted on the masthead, disaster could have been averted as the breakers would have been visible from a long distance.
At 8:15pm, the ship was about half a mile from the reef when the breakers were sighted and despite the captain's desperate measures to turn her, the Syria ran aground at 8:30pm.
Wikipedia states that five of the six lifeboats were destroyed by heavy seas and four crew members went to look for assistance in the sixth lifeboat.

It states that the four crew members reached Nasilai Village at dawn but their inability to communicate with the natives resulted in them being taken to Levuka instead of Suva.
"On reaching Levuka at 5pm, a rescue party was organised and they reached the stricken ship at 9pm," the online encyclopedia states.

"Dr William MacGregor, the chief medical officer and acting colonial secretary, took charge of the rescue operations on the morning of Tuesday 13 May."
It is reported that when the first rescue boats reached the scene, the majority of the passengers were in the water on the reef, making it as far towards the land as they could.
But a considerable number was still in the wrecked vessel, mainly women and children, as the ship lay on her port side with everything thrown about in the breakers.
The encyclopedia states that the survivors were carried by boats and canoes to Nasilai Village, with the last rescue boat reaching the village at 8pm.

Some reports suggest that the captain of the Syria and the surgeon superintendent denied any knowledge of alcohol on board but the following day, several lascars were found drunk, some too drunk to save themselves.

Records from the Fiji Museum reveal that lascars were the first Indians to arrive in Fiji, at least 70 years before the arrival of the first group of indentured labourers and they even worked on the ships that brought Indians to Fiji.
According to The Wreck of the Syria, 1884 published on, the Fiji Marine Board met from June 4 to 17 that year and closely examined the crew, especially the captain and the first mate, and sought expert opinion of those familiar with Fiji waters.
The publication says the marine board found the captain severely wanting in the exercise of his duties and suspended his certificate for nine months.

The first mate was reprimanded for not having 'volunteered that interest in the navigation of that ship which might reasonably be expected from him', but no firm action was taken, it says.
Furthermore, the publication says that only one member of the crew, Second Mate Walter George Johnson was singled out for praise for doing his utmost for saving lives.
However, the villagers of Nasilai have a different version of the rescue efforts, as told to them by their ancestors and carried down the generations.
The chiefs and elders reportedly had their dinner and were relaxing on the night of May 11, 1884 when they heard people crying and yelling.

Although the shipwreck is about 500 metres away from the village, the villagers heard the noise because of the large number of people who were on board the ill-fated ship.
Story has it that the chief called all the villagers and told them to take canoes out to sea and check where the cries were coming from.

Jonetani Tawake Delai, an elder of the Methodist Church in Nasilai Village and a former soldier, said the villagers took two big canoes out to sea to check.
"When they reached the reef, they saw the ship broken and people scattered all over on the reef and in the water," Mr Delai said.

"The water was also yellowish and our ancestors didn't know whether it was from the curry powder, spices or something else that was on the ship.
"From the stories passed down the generations, we know that our ancestors started picking up the survivors and putting them in the canoes.
"Since the natives were very big people at that time, they picked two, three and even four people at once and put them in the canoes."

Mr Delai said the survivors from the wrecked ship were taken to Nasilai Village by his ancestors and the neighbouring villages were notified about the incident.
He said the dead bodies were washed on the beach at Nasilai the next day.
"Our ancestors went and buried the dead on the beach. They buried two or three people in one grave and the graves were marked with rocks from the reef.
"From what we know, those who died in the incident and were washed ashore on our village were accorded Christian funerals by our ancestors."

Mr Delai said the authorities at that time were notified about the survivors, who were taken away from the village, saying "and that was it".
"Our ancestors rescued the surviving passengers of the Syria because they were human beings, even though new faces.

"If an animal is struggling in the water, people with a good heart will try and rescue it. In the case of the Syria, they were human beings so our ancestors were obliged to help them.
"Even the dead were given a proper burial by our ancestors and the site of the wreck is something that we treasure because it has stories of what our ancestors did for people on the ship."
Mr Delai said Nasilai Village also had a treasured possession from the ship, something that was brought by their ancestors from the wreck.

He said Nasilai villagers and people from outside fish near the reef and the lighthouse, which is about 100 metres away from the shipwreck.

Story has it that what a person may experience when fishing alone near the reef may not be experienced in the presence of other fishermen in the area.
But the experience in the lighthouse is said to be the same, irrespective of you being there alone or with other people.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Rishi Shankar: A tribute from Indo-Fijian community in Auckland

The Indo Fijian community was saddened to know about the passing away of an old pillar of Indo Fijian community in Auckland, Lawyer Rishi Shankar. 

He hailed from a small hilly, dusty village in Lautoka, between Ba and Lautoka- in Qalitu, (Vitogo) Lautoka. He joined Fiji Police Force in 1950s and rose to the position of Police Prosecutor, working under the guidance of former Police Commissioner, P.U Raman. While still at police force, he did his law degree in New Zealand, and returned to head the Police Training School in Nasese, Suva. Upon retirement, he went into private law practice, in partnership with a prominent Ba lawyer, G. P. Shankar, and later opened his own office in Nadi.

Rishi Shankar: A well-liked community person, very friendly, likable and generous.
He later went into politics and was a National Federation Party (NFP) candidate in the ill-fated Bavadra Government of 1987. As the Lady Luck would be on his side, for some reason, he was not present in the fateful day, and fateful time in Fiji Parliament, when Sitiveni Rabuka committed treason at 10am, which we call the original 1987 coup.  He later flew to New Zealand and informed the government here about situation in Fiji. Since then, he has settled in Mt Wellington, Auckland and operated his law firm.

Rishi Shankar – an individual with a Golden Luck, Golden Heart and Golden Smile, is no more, but his memories will linger with us. A close friend of Rishi Shankar, Master Shiu Charan pays tribute to his friend. 
Shankar had Golden Luck, because for some reason, he was not present in Fiji Parliament when Rabuka executed the original coup, hence he was able to travel to NZ and seek support for a movement against the coup. He had Golden Heart because he was very compassionate about helping religious and social organisations. He had a Golden Smile, as he was so dear, and pleasant to all, with a very contagious friendly disposition.
Shankar’s relative, family friend and political colleague, Master Shiu Charan, who provided the information on him, was really saddened with the departure of his another friend. This was so soon after passing away of another NFP and religious and social colleague, Pundit Devakar Prasad, within a period of less than six months.

“I am really saddened by the passing away of my dear friend who has always been a friendly individual, with a very pleasant disposition. He has been such a nice and well-liked person from his days in the police force where he was popular with colleagues and friends, and still so, until his death” Master Shiu Charan said. He added that Shankar was also a community oriented person who always has a soft spot for religious and community organisations.
Rishi Shankar (extreme left) sharing meal with Dr Shamshud Deal Sahu Khan (centre) and Nek Mohammed,  at Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ's Girmit Day at Skipton Hall, Auckland in May, 2014

In his capacity as a Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust and as President and Trustee of Fiji Girmit Foundation, Master Shiu Charan paid tribute to generosity of Shankar. “He was one of the first there donors who kicked off Ram Mandir’s fundraising campaign on 30 October, 2014 with a big donation. He has also been in the forefront to commemorate the memories of his forebear Girmitiyas in our successive Girmit Remembrance Day. He gave moral and financial support to community organisations.” said Charan.

Trustees of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust and Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand join with other Indo Fijians and well-wishers to pray for the family and salvation and peace for his soul. He will be dearly missed by all in the community. May his soul rest in peace.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT. He is also a Trustee and Secretary of Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, where Shankar was an active supporter]

Friday, August 14, 2015

Indian Media Watch reports on Indian Newslink

In response to Auckland invaded by shady Indian witchdoctors and palm readers, a recent meeting of Concerned Community Group against this vice in Auckland  was informed that that a formal complaint would be lodged with Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) against a newspaper that gave much “oxygen” to this blaze of deceit, fraud and social irresponsibility.

Below is an excerpt of that complaint, and the first action by the recently launched Indian Media Watch - New Zealand:

I, as the principal of Indian Media Watch, lodge this complaint to ASA against the Auckland Indian newspaper Indian Newslink, its Publisher and Managing Director, Jacob Mannothra and its Editor and General Manager, Venkat Raman for violating the Basic Principles of the Advertising Code of Ethics vis-à-vis items 3 and 4 which read:

Indian Media Watch of New Zealand,  has made its first complaint  to the complaints committee of  Advertising Standard Authority (ASA). It is against the Auckland based Indian newspaper, Indian Newslink for violating some Basic Principles of the Advertising Code of Ethics.
3) No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer. And
4) All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

In addition to above, rule 2 further amplifies above:

Truthful Presentation which says that: Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge

The misleading advertisements, named after deities, with religious photos to con the religious-minded people who are made to believe these frauds possess some divine powers

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Indian Media Watchdog initiated in Auckland

As the populations of Indians and Indo-Fijians in particular and People of Indian Origin in general increase in New Zealand, so does news-selling and Indian entertainment business. This is more so marked in Auckland where we now have three 24- hour radio stations, one of them being an FM station, a free - to-air 24 hour TV station, a weekly, and some fortnightly Indian newspapers, with some blog sites. People generally open businesses with the prime objective of making money, so the news-selling radio, newspapers and TV are there to make money – that is the prime objective. Being anything else is beyond their understanding, as money and revenue overrides any other obligations.
Indian Media in Auckland will now be placed under scrutiny by Indian Media Watch body.

While public has been treating such news-selling business as media, the so-called Indian media have much more to do to take the position of what we call the Fourth Estate –media as the fourth pillar of democracy. But the question is, has so called Indian media in Auckland stood up to this respectability and high-elevation?

Recent events in Auckland within the Indian community gave rise for the necessity for Indian Media to be placed under scrutiny. Indian Media Watch aims to do exactly that.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Witch Doctors: Why Indo-Fijians seem “gullible” to their deceit?

A meeting by Concerned Community Group was held at Mt Roskill Village, Auckland on 1 August, 2015, to further the crusade against fake witch doctors from India. The meeting was well attended by representatives of the community and a good contingent of main stream media hardly seen in any ethnic issues. These included TV 3, Newstalk ZB (Mediaworks), Fairfax (Stuff) and NZME which owns NZ Herald. The only Indian media which cared to attend was Radio Tarana.

When the local media gave "oxygen" to fraud perpetuated by  con-men Gurus from India. Indian Newslink seemed to have most advertisement from these so-called Astrologers, giving the name of deities to their fraud.. In this advertisement, the centre is advertised as "Bhadra Kalimatha." It even claims to  give lucky lotto numbers.
Thakur Ranjit Singh who is also a Trustee and Secretary of Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand, and a principal of the Fifth Estate blog, FIJI PUNDIT, explained the phenomenon of Indo Fijian ‘gullibility’. He gave an overview on the claims that Indo-Fijians appear to be ‘gullible” and easy prey to those posing as Priests, Sages, Witch Doctors and Gurus.

The reason lies in our upbringing which is deeply rooted in history. Indo-Fijians in Fiji are people of Indian origin, but very distinct from Indians from the mainland India. We have one common distinct language and have a culture and tradition somewhat different for the better, in many respects because of a century apart. Torn away from India over 136 years ago as Indentures labourers, and disowned by Bharat Mata (Mother India) to some extent, the indentured labourers suffered terribly at the hands of the colonist who ran an axis of evil comprising Britain, Australia and Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR). You can get an insight into this through Rajendra Prasad’s book on sacrifices and suffering of Indians in indenture, “Tears in Paradise” They are a distinct breed of people, molded from people from all sections of India when we were thrown into the same pot of Indenture or Girmit.

One needs to understand and appreciate that these simple village illiterate folks went through baptism of fire in very difficult Fiji Girmit environment. They sought salvage in the religious scriptures, mostly Ramayan. Hence the successive generations of Indo-Fijians were brought up, heavily influenced by religious teaching and tradition, with deep belief in God and miracles. One very important aspect of this was the version of Ramayan, which amply promoted caste system, male chauvinism and superiority of Brahmins to a state that it infringes with human rights policies of modern India today.
The Indentured Laborer from India suffered a great deal under the British and Australians and sought salvage in religion, and hence successive generations had great belief in God and messengers of God manifested by Gurus and Sages. In turn, such fox in lamb's clothing betrayed their people 
But that aside, Tulsidas’s Ramayan’s teachings always gave great deal of importance and reverence to Pundits, Rishis, Swamis and Gurus, who always happened to be Brahmins. When growing up, it was hammered in our minds that any disrespect for a Brahmin/sage/pundit is equivalent to worst of crimes - “gau hatya” –killing of a cow. It was preached that never mind how lowly educated, lacking in character or evil a Brahmin was, he was worthy of worship or Poojniaye. At the same time, a person of lower caste, despite the best of human qualities was never considered worthy of surpassing the worst of Brahmins. That was the level of reverence paid to Brahmins/Sage/Gurus. We grew up singing “sadhu sant koh bandgi, Brahmin koh parnaam.” It means Saadhus, sages and saints were worthy of worship, and salutation to Brahmins. It is silent on how the other mortals of lower caste are to be treated. Hence our reverence to anything remotely resembling Brahmins, more so those from India. And the one, accidentally born in Ayodha or Mathura/Vrindaban - birth place of Lord Ram and Krishn respectively, were revered more than others, almost a Godman.

It has also been a common practice in Fiji to have many so-called Mandirs, (temples) where some people could claim to have shadows of Gods, especially Mata or female deity on them and used powers to “heal” people. Such temples thrived in Ba, an area I come from, and I have personally being a victim of this trickery and false belief. There were also small time witchdoctors fooling the people and benefiting from ignorance of people and their gullibility, rooted in belief in miracles. But not much money changed hands in Fiji, while there were small gains, like karia murga and daru (black rooster and whisky).

Our heritage in Fiji is based on the teachings of Ramayan which strengthened the belief of people in the sainthood of Brahmins who were considered  worthy of worship. Such teaching made our people gullible as they trusted people of God, who in turn looted them.

Some Indo Fijians even prayed to souls or spirit of indigenous Fijians, known as “Taukei” and claim to foretell things by means that included looking in grog basin or tanoa. That is where I joked why not any such witch doctor could locate the missing MH370 in a grog basin. These things and belief in supernatural powers were practised openly in Fiji and has been cause of great deal of enmity between feuding families, and continues now –in Fiji and overseas. My own family and village has numerous tales like these, and I am sure many others have tales to tell about such deceit and trickery. Such practices seemed to have become part of our culture, and tradition.

They say, old habits die hard, and hence we Indo-Fijians have been in quicksand of tunt ghunt (loosely translated as hogwash and bullshit) for generations. My loose way of expressing truth has created tension with some Brahmins and friends. This was when I posted on Facebook that even if a dog shits in shape of a snake, some people will run to it to pray the Snake God. Our belief in anything that remotely resembles any miracle or deity were considered holy, whether a cow with three eyes, a person claiming to be Hanuman (Monkey God) , a mushroom growing in shape of a snake, or other accidents of biology. And this was through our upbringing and teaching of Hinduism that God resides in all His creation, hence our praying of idols. This was covered in my earlier posting of Lord Shiv statue in Auckland, and explains the rationale of praying to statues.

Activities of Witch doctors from India rose to such an extent that complaints could no longer go unheeded, when a community leader Pratima Nand (right) took a crusade to fight this fraud. A meeting was held in Auckland, assisted by Thakur Ranjit Singh (left). A Facebook page, titled 'Guru Busters" has been opened and people with complaints are urged to name and shame those indulging in fraudulent activities in robbing innocent people.
When these people migrate to First World Developed countries like Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, they do not discard this excess luggage of these crude village habits at the airport. They bring it to their adopted countries and always seek opportunities to revive them. In some cases, special trips are arranged for such ‘Ojhas’ or witchdoctors from Fiji for free overseas holidays to “see and solve” the problems of their devotees.

With this also goes the notion of “Gurumukh” or having a mentor or teacher, which was more relevant when we did not have modern teaching facilities in India during time of Ram and Krishna. It has been preached that one cannot find salvation without a Guru, and no offerings or “daan” are acceptable without having a Guru. And this has become a lucrative business for some “professional” Gurus from India roaming Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia for “fat lambs” especially from vulnerable Indo-Fijian Hindus, brainwashed in this ancient requirement. I am told about cases in USA and even in New Zealand where some Gurus have special recruiting agents to “seek” lucrative Indo-Fijians as their chela or disciples, as these people from India know our weakness and vulnerability in having undying faith in Pundits and Gurus from the land of Ram and Krishna. But they forget that my children and theirs have learnt and will learn from their parents, universities, and there is Guru Google Baba – no need for those from India for next generation of Indo-Fijians.

Fiji Girmitiyas: ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times. They suffered a great deal and all people from many parts of India blended into one Indo-Fijian culture, steeped in religious beliefs based on Ramayan. It is such religious upbringing that led to their belief in miracles, extra-ordinary powers and reverence for Brahmans and people of God represented by Gurus, sages and saints.

Now to Auckland Gurus/witchdoctors, who know the art of fooling, luring and “seducing” Indo- Fijians. They give their evil deed the name of Hindu deities: Ram, Bhadra Kali, Durga, Sai, Hanuman etc astrology/palm reading etc. And most Indian media give “oxygen” to these fraud through misleading advertisements.

And lo and behold, Indo-Fijians bite the hook, line and sinker. Jai bolo beimaan ki.. hail the swindlers. And that is the reasons why such Gurus and con men have Indo-Fijians as their major “clients”- we are indeed very vulnerable.

It is the way we are –being gullible and seemingly simpleton is our heritage.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a community leader based in Auckland, who runs his blog site FIJI PUNDIT that tells the tales that other media fails to tell].

Thursday, July 23, 2015

D.A.V. College Ba Reunion in Vancouver: A stroll down the memory lane

A group of D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji students organised and met in Burnaby Canada in April, 2015. This small meeting developed into formation of country – branches with an international focus. The next Reunion is schedule for Auckland in 2017. A Historical 2015 DAV, Ba Reunion in Vancouver brought back old memories, and thoughts of those no longer around.

On a crispy and slightly chilly evening of 4 April, 2015 in Vancouver, as I walked into Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Edmonds Street Burnaby, I expectantly hoped to be met by a throbbing crowd of old mates from D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji. After all it was the first overseas D.A.V Reunion.

The welcome banner at D.A.V. College Ba Reunion in Barnaby, Canada at Royal Palace Banquet Hall
However the excitement was short-lived, as there were strange faces, and I got relief when a few old D.A.V friends, who we already knew and had earlier met, greeted us. I was accompanied by my wife Shashi Kala, who also happened to be from DAV where I met her.

D.A.V College in Ba in 1970s was a very conservative school. It was so with equally conservative strict teachers who were imported from India, who ensured boy-girl relationship was frowned upon, and any relationship, even talking was seen suspiciously, and considered a sin, despite the religion teaching the virtues of love. This was to such an extent that, I think in 1972, even our compounds were divided into two sections which were sexually segregated, for a short-while. Despite these strict rules and nonsensical restrictions by “Mohabbat ke Dushman ‘ (Enemies of love), love affairs flourished, love-letters changed hands and there were at least there couples from the class of 1970s who were instituted in the Lovers Hall of Fame – but that later.

The Class of 1970s- a group-shot of students from 1970-1975
Now, to Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Burnaby – most were strange faces-people I hardly knew from DAV. And I met a few from D.A. V., but from the Suva school. The reason is that most, I would say over 80% were not from DAV, Ba as the organisers had coincided the event with Arya Samaj presentation night for Vancouver. And that is what really took over 80% of the time. All that I was able to sneak out was some half an hour.

Friday, July 17, 2015

We are changing our look and feel!

Oops, sorry friends, we are under repair and look forward to your patience and understanding

Fiji Pundit has been running for some 3 years, and has gone a bit rusty and in need of a makeup

Therefore,we think its about time we give this site a bit of a spic and span polish!

We are re-doing our site to make all the posts standard and easier to read for all including our mobile users.. We started up small and are having heavier traffic, hence we need to look good.
We are under repair, and construction as well. We apologize for any disruption and inconvenience

As such, please bear with us while we change the templates and the post contents to bring them all into line with our new look.

We thank you for your patience and support!

Fiji Pundit!
17 July, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Justice System: A casualty at Crime Forum in Auckland

The murder of Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar and subsequent court case raises many questions that need answers, but there are no takers. Nobody appears to be interested or prepared to take responsibility. The family feels as that they have been made the victims twice over, with the loss of the loved one, plus a questioning and wanting justice system.

When NZ’s questionable Justice System becomes a casualty at Crime Forum in Henderson, Auckland

Waitakere in general and Henderson in particular is a casualty of the utopia, Auckland Super-City, where we got ignored by the system. You would not read anything about this in any NZ media. An ethnic reporter from NZ Herald was given the script of a speech, but none ethnic events of the past forums saw the light of day. Thankfully, Hindi Freeview 36 channel, Apna TV covered this, while the other Indian cum Hindi media do not seem to be interested.

Anyway, why should they? It was only an ethnic Indian dairy owner who got killed. If it was a celebrated White Man or relative of some politician or Councillor, then there would have been a media frenzy to cover the aftermath of the event. But, sadly, for most media, it is a no-story. That is why, thank God for social media for filling in the vacuum. So here we go - how FIJI PUNDIT fills this news-emptiness in this neglected part of former Waitakere City - the wild - west that we call HENDERSON.

Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) Forum heard that justice indeed appears to be blind where the victims have to pay for the crimes they did not commit -twice, while the criminals go free.
Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) initially held a crime forum in Henderson on 3 July, 2014, subsequent to murder of dairy-owner, Arun Kumar, and a spate of other deaths and serious crime in Henderson. We heard major stakeholders, including Waipareira Trust, Minister of Social Development, politicians, community and the police. They promised that things would be done to address the issues. To gauge progress, WEB decided to revisit the crime issue a year after the event and this was held on 8 July, 2015 at Auckland Council Chambers in Henderson.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fiji Flag Flying High in Canada!

Fiji Flag Flying High in A remote Canadian Mountain Town – thanks to a proud son of Fiji
Wherever Indo-Fijians are settled around the world, they are exemplary migrants –hard workers and easily able to integrate with the local communities and add colour to cultural landscape of the country. They are recognized as a distinct breed of Indians, very distinct from those from India. While we are well versed and experienced in forming religious groupings, our district soccer clubs or national bodies, we also have a greater need to integrate with migrants from other communities. 

We are doing that well with multiracial organizations, Ethic Boards or other organizations embracing the world population of migrants in New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada, among others. These people in the Indo-Fijian Diaspora do not only fly the flag of multiculturalism, but also of their respective countries. This is one such story for such an individual.

He is Raymond Raj (known in Fiji as Ramendra Singh) and left his home in Rarawai, Golflinks, Ba, Fiji some four decades ago. But that passion for Fiji still exists. And no, he is not settled in any bustling Canadian City, but is settled in a sleepy, little-known and remote small British Columbian Aluminum town of KITIMAT, which is nearer to Alaskan border than Vancouver. Here is that human-interest story of that unsung hero- a proud Fijian Canadian-RAYMOND RAJ

The proud son of Fiji and a grandson of Girmitiya Bansi, RAYMOND RAJ, raising Fiji flag tens of thousands kilometers from a small Fiji in huge Canada on flag-raising ceremony at Heritage Park in Kitimat.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Indian Kiwis question our justice system - AGAIN!!

Arun Kumar, Sai Krishna Naidu, Navtej Singh and Hasmat Bhai Patel: What is common here? These are Indians or people of Indian origin who were killed by non-Indians and killers of all received very questionable sentences – what the White men say, slap over the wrist with a wet bus ticket. With deafening silence from the community, what is there to say there will not be repeat of this scenario - AGAIN!

Where is the Indian media? We cannot blame the mainstream media to show much interest in this, as it has not yet colored enough to include our people- it is still very White. With a deafening silence from our Indian community leaders and representatives, we indeed are a voiceless community. Heard anything from anybody by now? FIJI PUNDIT attempts to fill that vacuum.

ARUN KUMAR - He was murdered in his store by two youths who failed to receive due sentence for their crimes -thanks to a wanting justice system and less than competent prosecution, and a very competent defense.
Initially I penned this article some seven (7) years ago upon death of yet another shopkeeper, Sai Krishna Naidu in 2008, and questionable sentencing in Navtej Singh murder case where only one was convicted of murder, and other accomplices were treated as petty thieves. Recent murder, sentencing and diminished charges and one acquittal in case of Arun Kumar, prompts me to revisit what I raised in 2008. It appears nobody gives a two hoots about another Indian or ethnic death. It seems our community has no voice, as we haven’t heard anything from our media, representatives or community leaders until now –so many lapdogs, no watchdog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Big murderers lurking as small kids: Another Indian murder- 7 years ago

Big murderers lurking as small kids: Another Indian murder- 7 years ago

Thakur Ranjit Singh

No, this is not about the killing of Arun Kumar in Henderson-it is about a similar Indian killing some 7 years ago: The murder of Sai Krishna Naidu in Clendon, Manurewa in 2008. Have things improved? Have the authorities learnt their lesson? I wonder where that murderer, 16 year old then, Tiare Towihi Nathan is – NOW. He would be a 23 old adult now, is he still mad or was that a fake?

The judge ruled that Nathan was criminally insane at the time he committed the offence", and accordingly found him not guilty of murder. He made an order that Nathan be detained in hospital as a special patient, saying he required care for a long time. It would be up to medical experts to decide when he would be freed.

I wonder whether our MP Kanwaljeet Bakshi can use the resources of his office to find out under Official Information Act – WHERE IS THIS MURDERER WHO WAS RULED INSANE IN 2008. Is he really insane, or enjoying life? How about the family of Sai Naidu - the only child of his parents. And how about the verdict of the latest murder of Arun Kumar of Henderson? This will be covered in a FIJI PUNDIT article later.

A blockbuster Hindi movie, appropriately titled "Andhaa Kanoon" which translates to a blind law and justice, which seems to prevail for Indian communities in Auckland., through murders and subsequent sentences

Is the justice system in NZ unfair to the ethnic non- Anglo Saxon families? If, say John Key’s or Andrew Little’s relatives would have been killed this way, would we still have had the lackadaisical attitude of prosecution? Would the justice system remain as questioning and wanting?

Let us go in flashback mode to 2008

A father’s dream of seeing his son graduate and a mother’s dream of dressing her only son as a groom was snuffed out cruelly on the early afternoon of Friday 25 January, 2008.

On that fateful day, Hari Raj Naidu and his wife left their Finlayson Superette in Clendon, Manukau, Auckland only for a short while in the care of their 22 year old son Saishwar Krishna Naidu, an electronic student attending Manukau Institute of Technology.   
Indeed, justice seems to have a blindfold, as a community feels short-changed by delivery of some of its rulings
At around 1.30 pm, in walked a shabbily dressed 16 year old Maori kid- , Tiare Towihi Nathan who directly walked inside the counter and attacked Sai Krishna repeatedly with a small knife without any provocation. Despite the efforts of the Ambulance staff he passed away on the scene. In the meantime, the assailant, who appeared not at all remorseful of his hideous and animalistic crime was caught, bashed and handed over to the police by some people who came over to help after the commotion.

When I visited the bereaved Hari Raj Naidu’s residence at his Pelargonium Terrace home in Manukau Heights in 2008, he was too distraught to talk while his wife was still reeling from the shock of losing her baby son. All Mr Naidu could relate was that the heaviest burden for any father is to give shoulder to the coffin box of his teenage son, when the nature intended the roles to be reversed. For Hindus, it is the son who is expected to light their parent’s pyre and perform their final rites. With a few strokes of a knife in the hands of an unruly youth, this right has been snatched from Naidu and his wife.

“In this country criminals and lawbreakers, with the help of so called human rights advocates gain more rights than us hard working law abiding citizens. We are at the receiving end of government’s handout mentality to bludgers who survive on taxpayer benefits and cause havoc in our communities.” said one neighbour.

Anger and disappointment was obvious on the faces of people who had gathered at Naidu’s home to console the family. One angry relative said that it was time for government to review its welfare system and stop fattening the criminal elements. One Indo Fijian migrant quipped that he came from troubled Fiji for security but Auckland was turning out to be worse than the worst streets of Suva.

The anger amongst Indian and Indo Fijian community is expected to materialise in some form of action. Community leaders have expressed concerns at the deteriorating law and order situation, failure of our welfare state and some legislation that unilaterally stripped parents from their parenting rights that appear to have contributed to increasing crime in youths and juveniles. Have religion and community support failed us? Why crime is rife around areas with huge churches and Marae?

But it was too late for Sai Naidu who obviously was a victim of poor parenting and upbringing of a juvenile thug that reflected on the society that we live in.

Sai Naidu was cremated at Manukau Memorial Gardens which saw one of the largest gatherings of mourners in the recent past. The hall, the foyer and the corridors were fully packed and people were some four deep around the hall.
Giyannedra Prasad, former Fiji Parliamentarian, a community leader and a classmate of the victims father, delivered a moving eulogy during the funeral service of Sai Krishna Naidu in January, 2008.
Giyannendra Prasad, Auckland lawyer, former Fiji Labour Member of Parliament and former Deputy Speaker, who himself was a victim of George Speight’s detention, delivered a moving eulogy. Prasad attended school with Naidu Senior in Fiji and expressed his utter sadness and dismay at situation of migrants who came to NZ in search of peace and law and order. He echoed the sentiments that people from Fiji moved over here with high hopes, but become victims of senseless, cruel and callous crimes that take away their dreams with sudden loss of their loved ones. He expressed the fear of Indian community Dairy owners who must be thinking, who is next. It appears the anger of the community has transformed into a sense of helplessness and frustration at the inability of the authorities to provide the security for which the migrants chose New Zealand as their new home.

I spoke to prominent Indian Community leaders who called for some form of concerted effort to address the problem of unbridled crime in Auckland. The Indian Community was prepared to take lead in this matter and was prepared to work in cooperation and consultation with the authorities to address the issue as a community problem.

Should this eventuate, it would appear that Sai Naidu’s death would not have been in vain and that is some consolation that Indo Fijian community and the fearful shop owners can have from this tragedy.

PROLOGUE: Indian community did meet some seven years ago, and as happens, unless some mover and shaker is a victim, nobody gives a damn. And same happened, while Indians continued getting killed.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator and community worker, using his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT, to raise issues which the mainstream and side stream media ignores or fails to highlight. This is one such instance]


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Clevedon Shiv Statue: Non-Hindus need to appreciate the reasons behind idol-worship

The Clevedon Shiv Statue: Non-Hindus need to appreciate the reasons behind idol-worship

Thakur Ranjit Singh

The mainstream media in New Zealand still does not reflect the population make up in its newsrooms, hence still remains White. News on Hinduism makes it to media when they sell, hence it has to be in controversy, like this story in papers and TV. If good things are done, they rarely get mentioned.

Mainstream media in NZ hardly has any Indian or Hindus in their newsrooms - and Hinduism is the second largest religion in NZ. Hence Kiwis remain ignorant about their neighbors. They do not have any journalists who can inform about diversity, and on aspects of Hinduism they know so little about.

There are many reasons why a devout Hindu worships idols- it is the best way of communicating with his Gods and seeking their blessings. Religion is a matter of faith. The paths to God are many, and many are the ways one can reach him.
Hinduism not only preaches about peace and harmony among the societies in the world, but also propagates a truth that somehow the whole world has to live together like a family.

The advantage of being a part-time bus driver is that you get to see places free that other common mortals in Auckland rarely get an opportunity to see – and that, for free. Many places in Auckland, like Shakespeare Park, Parakai Pools, Waiwera Pools, Hunua Falls, Woodhill Forest, Ambury Regional Park, Waitakere Ranges, Narrow Neck Beach, Mellons Bay, Spookers, Bethells Beach, Muriwai Beach, Whagaparoa Railways, Goat Island-Omaha Marae, Paradise Ice Skating, Olive Farm-Bombay, to name a few, are places you get to visit and see free. And the advantage of driving Party Bus is that you get to see other extras. That, some other time. But now to a more divine story.

The nearest residence hidden and covered by vegetation, and the statue does not seem to be out of place on a lifestyle block where owners have acres and acres of land in a rural setting
Some two weeks ago, when I got a job to go to McNicol Rd, Clevedon, a bell started ringing – almost like a ghanti (bell) in a Shiv temple, as this had something to do with that. This is because, Clevedon, a rural settlement, with life-style blocks (lot of land) on the outskirts of Papakura has been in the news recently where a supposedly offensive large statue has been casting dark shadows on a neighbour’s property, and  was causing a bit of stir in this predominantly White rural community.

Lo and behold, when I searched the map, I found out that my school ball pick up point was some 15 minutes out away from Papakura town centre, on Papakura - Clevedon Rd. And ten minutes out of Papakura on the same route was junction of Creightons Road where that statue was. Hence armed with my amateur camera, I headed early for my job to this rural part of Auckland to make a visit to this house with the statue – another free trip.

Just about 200-300 metres from junction of Papakura –Clevedon Road, into Creightons Rd is this statue which has been in news for the wrong reasons- a complaint from a neighbour that it is imposing on them.

Ravi Chand -the Indo-Fijian dentist, and owner of the property where the statue is erected. He told NZ Herald that it has been a desire to have the statue of his loved deity at his residence, and it is all about faith. FIJI PUNDIT believes it is his right to have it at his place, as an expression of Hindu faith. And anybody who has faith in the deity and the statue are free to worship it.[NZ Herald photo]
According to NZ Herald, a neighbour, Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was "bizarre" and "offensive". However, I found nothing bizarre or offensive, as this was in a rural environment with lifestyle blocks of hectares of vacant sprawling land, with tall trees, farming and storage sheds. If you did not look out for it, you could drive past the property-owner, Ravin Chand’s house on Creightons Road. You could drive past without noticing this, as tall trees adequately hide and camouflage it and it does not feature as anything bizarre. Mr Watts’s boundary may be 10m away from Chand’s property, as reported by NZ Herald, but I did not notice any dwelling nearby that may have been affected by the statue.

I wonder, had Chand had been an Anglo-Saxon (European) instead of a brown Indo-Fijian who lived in Watts’s neighbourhood and erected King George the Sixth’s statue of that size, whether Watts would have STILL seen it as bizarre, or saluted it with respect? Watts has to realise that the demographic landscape of Auckland has changed and he needs to appreciate that he is no longer living in an All- White and All-Christian neighbourhood, hence he needs to embrace diversity. And with this change comes the actual change in landscape that happened in his neighbourhood.

Nobody can question Ravi Chand’s right to erect whatever he wants in his premises, and also the right of people who choose to worship the statue. While people of other faiths may class this as an act of a heathen, people need to appreciate the concept of idol worship, and take their head out of sand, and be informed and enlightened.

Idol worship is a simple way of expressing ones faith, love and devotion to God. Hindus do not worship idol in vain. It is just a symbol, a form with which the mind can be connected and concentrated upon. Idol or statue is a way to acknowledge the omnipresence (sarwa-vyapak-present everywhere), omniscience (sarwa-gyaniantar-yami-all knowledge) and omnipotence (sarwa-shaktimaan-all powerful) of God. If God is omnipresent, then everything in the universe, including the idol/statue one worships is filled with His energy and presence. Everything in the universe becomes equally sacred and worthy of worshipping. (No wonder Hindus in India name their lakes, rivers and mountains as Gods). More than anything, an idol aids in concentration. More than any abstract (mental, theoretical) concept, an image or a symbol (yantra) is the best aid to concentrate and control one’s mind and attention. By keeping the mind concentrated on a particular image, the mind can be stabilised.

Silhouette of the Statue against a setting sun on a wintry evening of June, 2015

There are many reasons why a devout Hindu worships idols. These reasons may not satisfy the intellectual curiosity of a well-educated scholar, but for a deeply religious Hindu, it is the best way of communicating with his Gods and seeking their blessings. Religion is a matter of faith. The paths to God are many, and many are the ways one can reach him.

Therefore, a Catholic neighbour of Ravi Chand may view the statue as something bizarre and imposing on him while Chand and other Hindus see it as a symbol of faith. While the neighbour’s religion may look down on Chand’s religion and belief, Hinduism believes in the motto of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means the world is a big family, and all religions are small creeks flowing into a big river which flows into the ocean. If Watts ever decides to erect some Christian religious symbol, he can be assured that his Hindu neighbor will not run down to media to cause a frenzy and a storm in a teacup. This is because our religion not only preaches about peace and harmony among the societies in the world, but also propagates a truth that somehow the whole world has to live together like a family. This is the reason why Hindus think that any power in the world, big or small cannot have its own way, disregarding others. This is because of the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the world in one family.

Hope some in rural Clevedon in outskirts of Auckland (some 40km from CBD) can appreciate this.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is blogger at blog sites FIJI PUNDIT and KIWI PUNDIT. He is scholar in Communications studies with honours from AUT. He is also a media commentator, and fills the vacuum in information that the mainstream and side stream media either fail to tell or are incapable of doing so. This article was one in that spirit. Unfortunately, you will never read this in the mainstream media, because NZ hardly has any Indian or Hindus in their newsrooms-and Hinduism is the second largest religion in NZ. Hence Kiwis remain ignorant about their neighbors]