Socio-cultural organisations

The same standard is required of leaders of socio-cultural organisations as of the politicians, one of self-respect and dignityIn the wake of a routine election at the Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation that saw the replacement of the outgoing incumbent Somduth Dulthumun by a new president Rajendrah Ramdhean, the former suddenly was thrust into the limelight if we are to go by the press and social media coverage that he has received. He must himself be stunned that he has become a star malgré lui.

Nevertheless, it must be conceded that he has held office for longer than any Prime Minister of Mauritius at one stretch, having been the president of one of the largest socio-cultural organizations of this country during five mandates totalling fifteen years. Like him or not – or like it or not – this amounts to a feat for which he deserves at least some credit.

In the same vein, one must also commend the stand taken by the incoming president in reply to questions put to him in an interview in the Weekend newspaper. He made it very clear 1) that he was not going to criticise his predecessor for what the latter has done or not done in the course of his mandates; 2) that Somduth Dulthumun had been elected all the five times by due process which he, Rajendrah Ramdhean, had also adhered to, in respecting the successive election results; 3) that over the course of these past years he had continued to work with Somduth Dulthumun in his position as Number 2 in the Executive Committee of the MSTDF; 4) that he will continue to work and collaborate with Somduth Dulthumun for the future of the organisation, and although their approaches differed, there was convergence in their goals for the organisation.

Although this will not gladden the hearts of those who were hoping to see them at daggers drawn, the strong signal that has been sent is that whatever happens at the MSTDF and other similar organisations is an internal matter, and that those who show a pathological or unhealthy interest will be left à leur faim. It would be better for them to use their energies to explore the goings-on in their own – sectarian – organisations. The MSTDF can look after itself.

Some historical context is necessary to get a balanced perspective on issues raised in the unusual media frenzy which was far from being disinterested.

In the British colonial times, the government was giving a subsidy to the Christian churches, which were mainly Catholic and Protestant. Representations began to be made against this discriminatory practice and the struggle gathered momentum; finally the government agreed to end this injustice by extending the subsidy to non-Christian denominations. That is how the MSTDF saw the light of day, with the idea that through this centralized body the subsidies would be channelled to the various temples, a practice that has continued to this day.

One major contention that has been flagged in these discussions about socio-cultural organisations is the presence of politicians at functions that are held by these organisations, and the fact that they are invited to speak and often use these occasions as political platforms through their speeches. Granted that this is often the case, and this paper has systematically condemned this practice over the years. This seems in particular to be a weakness, if not a disease, of Hindu politicians. The least that can be said is that they must inject some self-respect and dignity into themselves and refrain from making themselves so cheap.

The reason is very simple, and as clear as the light of day. For one, when will they realize that no amount of speechifying at Ganga Talao and elsewhere will automatically make them win at the next election? For come the time, the constituency they take for granted as a ‘fixed deposit’ votes intelligently and not blindly – and they will do it again in future…

By the same token, the leaders of the socio-cultural organisations must pay heed to the constant criticism aimed at them: that they seek personal favours from those in power, and are prone to diverting the funds that are put at the disposal of their organisations. The same standard is required of them as of the politicians, one of self-respect and dignity. All they have to do is to fulfil the responsibility they have struggled to assume in an honourable manner according to the rules – but more importantly, according to Dharma, as a homage to the ideals which led the founding fathers to establish these organisations in the first instance. The rest will follow.

And they must learn from the other, non-Hindu organisations. Why is it that the latter can have leaders in power and in opposition being present at their functions, as well as past leaders, all on one platform, whereas this does not happen with the Hindu organisations? The Hindu leaders must share the blame for this state of affairs, for behaving like enemies towards each other instead of as adversaries. What signal do they send to the younger and future generations by their bigoted attitude? Perhaps they could learn a political lesson here from Rajendrah Ramdhean, who has stated in as many words that Somduth Dulthumun is not his enemy but has only been an adversary during the time of the election.

That is the message that must be retained from the election at the MSTDF. All the other vile commentaries in some papers and on the social media must be dumped where they belong: the dustbin, which is the level at which the so-called debates were being carried out. And which displayed a total ignorance about topics such as caste, which had no bearing whatsoever on the issue at hand. The agenda behind these supposedly ‘intelligent’ deliberations has been clearly exposed, and the leaders of the targeted sociocultural organisations will no doubt have taken note already. They must remain ever vigilant about such divisive attempts.

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