I WRITE to condemn the Alliance For Change (AFC) for its religious insensitivity in calling for the convening of parliament on the eve of Diwali, the most significant celebration for Hindus in Guyana and one in which almost every Guyanese enjoys through participation in the motorcades, concerts and meals (delicacies).
Hindus in Guyana were fuming with rage that my very good friends Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan and Veerasammy Rammaya and other MPs and executives of AFC have the audacity to sign on to the party’s demand that parliament meet on the eve of Diwali. At the West Coast motorcade and various other Diwali related events where I was present and in the mandirs on Sunday morning, it was a subject of discussion – like myself, they cannot understand how the AFC, a party that should have been different from the others, could display such gross disrespect for Hindus on insisting that parliament meet on October 22 (today) when Hindus are in the midst of celebrating their festival which is followed by a public holiday in recognition of the importance of the religious event. Worse yet, they feel Moses, Khemraj, Rammaya, all of whom come from Hindu families, and have Hindu neighbours, should know better than to seek the convening of parliament on such an auspicious occasion for Hindus. These gentlemen are my friends but I cannot let them off the hook by not criticising their insensitivity towards Hindus. It shows they don’t even know their own culture. How could these men allow themselves to be led astray to disrespect the entire Hindu population? Here it is that non-Hindus and non-Indians could appreciate Diwali, but the AFC MPs can’t show any respect for the festival. Openness and tolerance of others’ faith must begin at the very top of any organisation. When Hindus themselves don’t understand their practices and traditions, they open themselves to humiliation and become the laughing stock of others. Hindus, in fact all Guyanese, are disappointed in the AFC for its religious insensitivity. A public apology is needed. Diwali is an eternally sacred Hindu event of great spiritual significance in the Rig Vedic Adivasi Puranic culture of Hinduism and Hindus. Recognition of the SHAKTI (invulnerable divine powers) of Maha Lakshmi Devi, the Divine Mother, is of paramount importance to Hindus in Guyana. I expect my friend Moses, for whom I have great regard and consistently extolled his virtues, and by extension he being mindful of DIWALI being a national festival with spiritual, religious and temporal features in respect of which any form of disrespect or violation will redound to the discredit of the country and the nation. DIWALI is a legacy of our illustrious indentured immigrant ancestors and should be seen and duly respected as such. Calling for reconvening parliament on Diwali eve is very disrespectful – it is no different than reconvening parliament on Christmas Eve or the eve of Eid. Diwali is not a one day event. It is observed over a five-day period and it really comes to an end on the sixth day with Goberdhan puja, the day after official observance of Diwali. It is for this reason that parliament goes into recess in many societies (India, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal, Durban, Guadeloupe, etc.) with large numbers of Hindus – they don’t wish to appear insensitive to Hindus. Even in the United States, Congress is in recess, as is Canada and Britain. In neighbouring Trinidad and Suriname, parliament has been in recess for the festival. But in Guyana, it appears it is okay for the AFC to disrespect Hindus. It is also noted that while Diwali is officially celebrated as a holiday on October 22, the day before and after Diwali are very auspicious, when all Hindus engage in fasting and performing pujas. Also, this year, because of the eclipse and the position of the moon, some experts have claimed that Diwali is on October 22 while others claim it is on October 23. Because of the interpretation, and to please Goddess Lakshmi, many Hindus are observing the festival with celebrations on both nights and some mandirs in NY are having special pujas on both evenings. At any rate, it has been the custom in Guyana that diyas are lit in front of homes of Hindus on the eve of Diwali and businesses close up early on that day to facilitate rituals. Parliamentary business cannot and should not be conducted on that day as it is inauspicious for Hindus. AFC should seriously think of attending cultural sensitivity courses to learn about the religious practices of the various faiths in Guyana. The party leadership needs training in religious sensitivity. They have to be trained to follow the practices of peers in India, Durban, Mauritius, Fiji, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, etc., all of which show their respect for the Indian population.