Friday, January 30, 2015

Sanatan Fiji needs to be cleansed and rejuvenated - with a new leader

When a limping and wounded Sanatan Sabha in Fiji needs to be rejuvenated and strengthened: With a new President

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Shri Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji (Sanatan Fiji), the largest home-grown Hindu organisation in Fiji has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Many Sanatanis (Hindus) have been disillusioned by the activities of this once proud organisation, which has been a matter of shame, rather pride for many of its followers. It needs to be “cleaned’ up and new executives elected to bring in some semblance of respectability, reverence and pride once it carried.

It is hoped the Easter Convention this year will make some crucial changes, remove all deadwoods and add life to the organisation. It needs to be fully “fumigated." The dereliction of its duties has created a vacuum and this has been filled by a nationalist Hindu political/religious organisation from India by some past disgruntled former members of Sanatan. If it starts operating the way it does in India, then it will spell bad news for Hindus in Fiji. More on this in the next article on FIJI PUNDIT
Dr Biman Prasad did not mince his words in pinpointing to the weaknesses in Sanatan Fiji. Concerned Sanatanis need to heed his caution and change Sanatan to bring back some semblance of respectability to a body that was a pride of the past generation. FIJI PUNDIT suggest a change in leadership, to be led by Ashok Balgoving as the most capable Sanatani to add credibility to Sanatan Fiji
Dr. Biman Prasad said a mouthful when speaking about Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji (hereafter referred to as “Sanatan Fiji”), during its 2013 convention. Dr. Biman Chand Prasad is a politician. He is leader of the National Federation Party and Shadow Minister for Finance, Planning and Statistics and Chairman of the Fijian Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. When he said this, he was a Professor at University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji:
I had the opportunity to sit through the opening ceremony of the convention at the Shreedhar Maharaj College, in Nausori. A school named after a great Sanatani, moral and ethical community and religious leader and a businessman, the late Mr. Shreedhar Maharaj. The opening ceremony had a total of approximately 300 people….In fact, more people are usually present during individual Ramayan Mandali gatherings around the country and in temples than the numbers present at the annual convention…..”
Dr Prasad raised grave concern about the caliber, or lack of it, of Sanatan Fiji’s current leadership:

The current leadership of the Sabha has put the whole organization to disrepute. One has to only compare ethical and professional leadership standards shown by other religious and cultural organizations in Fiji with what the Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha is able to put up. It then does not take long to understand why so many Sanatani’s have been put off by the current leadership. ..

Dr Prasad specifically spoke about the top position, the Presidency of Sanatan Fiji:
“… a man who is currently before the court ….. has been elected National President. If he was a person with principles, he should have stood aside and let one of the senior Vice Presidents e.g. Mr. Ashok Balgovind to act as President until his court case is resolved.”

Ashok Balgovind, (centre) who should take over the Presidency of Sanatan Fiji as its most-senior, respectable, clean and professional administrator to bring  order and sense to Sanatan Fiji. Seen here with his daughter on left, Doctor Priti Balgovind, and wife on Sister Shobha Balgovind. The whole family has been of service to the community in their respective professions and personal capacity as respectable member of Sanatan Community. Sanatan Fiji needs a clean person with a mana to add credibility to it. Ashok Balgovind fulfills that role.

The whole issue boils down to the weaknesses and dereliction at successive Sanatan Committees, which have let the room wide open for another organisation to fill the vacuum, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has taken full advantage of lapse in leadership capability of Sanatan Fiji. [Read in the next article the need for caution with VHP in Fiji in FIJI PUNDIT -]

Has Sanatan been jinxed?
For some years now, Sanatan has been trying very hard to make an impact, but as has been usual with Indo-Fijian community, the internal bickering, a wanting leadership, a non-democratic constitution and tendency of people to accept mediocrity and inefficiency seem to add to the problem.

The biggest issue that I see , as a former Executive of a Sanatan Fiji Branch, is the undemocratic Constitution which passes the power of election, and hence, decision-making to Branch Executives (read Presidents) and top executives and influential people in the organisation. The delegates and rank and file members have little say. That is exactly what happened when the past national president appeared to have supported a lawyer who was under cloud and pending court case, and bypassed a more popular, clean and conscientious person, Ashok Balgovind, who would have added credibility, respectability and professionalism to the organisation. I personally know this as I had worked under him as the Secretary of Nasinu Branch over a decade ago, and we held a very successful and houseful convention in early 2000. I am aware of Balgovind’s professionalism, calibre and no-nonsense administration style, which is very urgently needed rescue Sanatan Fiji from its sad affairs.

I tend to agree with Dr Biman Prasad’s solution to the issue:
“The trustees of the organization must act now and ask all the national officials to stand aside until an independent investigation is carried out on all the activities of the Sabha, its elections, its finances, processes and procedures…”

In my visit to Ba earlier last month, I happened to meet a very senior official of Sanatan Fiji, who himself felt powerless and ashamed with the affairs of Sanatan Fiji. He wished some heads to roll during the coming convention in Easter, I think, in Ba.

By a copy of this blog article to Indo-Fijian Hindus in Indo-Fijian Diaspora around the world, concerned Sanatanis overseas are requested to add credibility and respectability to the memories of their Girmitiyas, and put life and respectability back into Sanatan Fiji. This can be done through their input, affiliation with this parent organization and through financial help and other resources whereby Sanatan can become a modern organization for coming generation. They can help strengthen Sanatan branches in their respective district, as they show support for their soccer teams.

Past Executives of Nasinu Branch, from left a younger Thakur Ranjit Singh (Auckland) who was Secretary of Nasinu branch for some years in 2000. Hemant Vimal Sharma  (middle-in Melbourne) has been past Secretary of Nasinu and National Vice-President of Sanatan Fiji, while Ashok Balgovind (extreme right) is President of Nasinu Branch and National Vice President of Sanatan Fiji for over a decade. He now deserves to take over as President of Sanatan Fiji to clean it up. The past people with a soft-spot for Sanatan Fiji in overseas countries would be prepared to add life and respectability back to Sanatan once it comes under a credible leadership. Ashok Balgovind is one such person.

Sanatan Fiji needs a paradigm shift, to promote service to humanity and stop all the bickering and too ritualistic and fundamental new-found religious rituals from India that does little for the living beings. It needs to be seen to be drifting away from Godman or Swamis parachuting from India and need to promote the home-grown version of commonsense religion and service to humanity. There has to be a concerted effort to empower women and youths. There has to be lesser attention and priority to sports, especially bickering soccer unless and until they are able to kick out the dead wood, have a workable and democratic constitution and pass the power back to delegates, rise profile, gain credibility and stop top officials from manipulating  the procedures for their narrow interests.

Most importantly, if this is not done, then a home-grown Sanatanis will lose power and support to an imported Hindu-organization from India, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been causing controversy within India for its strong stance on promotion of Hindutva as compared to secularism enshrined in India and Fiji’s Constitution respectively. Fiji has to exercise caution in giving rise to a fundamentalist nationalist Hindu organization to be transplanted into Fiji where Hindus or Hinduism seem to have no external danger, if we have any, they are within. This is so soon after it has gained some semblance of stability after a fundamentalist and conservative Methodist Church has been brought in line to stay out of politics and promote goodwill amongst all people. Hindus in Fiji need to exercise caution. While some of the activities of VHP are commendable in empowering youth and leadership activities, we need to be careful of their underlying objectives which may be in conflict with Fiji’s situation where all the other religious and ethnic organizations are rooted in history, not transplanted from another socio-economic and political environment.

Dr Biman Prasad summed his concerns about Sanatan Fiji very well:
If the largest Hindu organization in Fiji begins to put its leadership into the hands of a person who is currently before the court, and allows it to be run by unconstitutional, unethical and unclear means, it is unlikely to serve its members effectively.

That is more the reason why sensible members of the Sanatani community, both in Fiji and overseas, need to pitch in together and sort out the reason for disgracing and humiliation of this once respectable organization. Sanatan Fiji needed to be a fruit-bearing tree, from the seed germinated from the tears, sweat, sufferings, sacrifices and blood of our Girmitiyas. They should not allow a foreign tree, alien to local environment and history, to be transplanted from overseas into a peaceful secular Fiji where all religions co-existed peacefully for over a century.

Please help us serve and strengthen the existing home-grown tree, rather than a foreign transplant imposed on us and eating away the food of the home-grown one.

Please Sanatanis, wake up, and add respectability to memories of your Girmitiya forbears, help rejuvenate and strengthen Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, AND START BY SUPPORTING AND STRENGTHENING YOUR LOCAL BRANCH IN FIJI.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former Executive of a Branch of Sanatan Sabha in Fiji, is a blogger and a media commentator who believes in the adage: FOR EVIL TO TRIUMPH, IT ONLY TAKES GOOD PEOPLE TO DO NOTHING.]

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