Police Heavy-handedness Shows No Understanding of Hinduism

A reader writes: Ram Naumi (Ram Navmi) is the celebration of Lord Rama's birthday. He is one the leading Hindu deities, an avatar of Vishnu the Protector.

Until this year, celebrations have been organized by local communities and various religious groups but it has come to light that for this year next week's Ram Naumi celebration is only allowed if these groups register with the orthodox Hindu organization, the Sanatan Dharma Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji (SDPS)  is an unprecedented action inFiji's history!

It is quite a remarkable turn of events. Not all Hindus belong to the Sanatan denomination. Many Fiji Hindus belong to other denominations such as Arya Samaj, the Sai Baba movement, Kabir Panthis, and numerous other groups. Hindu Indo-Fijians also belong to cultural groups such as Gujerati and South Indian organizations which do not necessarily regard the Sanatan organisation as their lead organization.

To draw a parallel with Christian denominations, the changed requirement for 2011, would mean that all Christian denominations will need to register with the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma to celebrate a Christian festival (Easter or Christmas).

Interfaith Search Fiji (the ecumenical organization that seeks to promote religions dialogue and understanding) has strongly and correctly objected to this change as interference in the freedom to worship.

The attempt to privilege the Sanatan organization over all other denominations is political interference in Hindu religious practice in Fiji.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Ed. Comment. The term 'denomination' does not quite fit. SDPS is an umbrella organization, not a church. This link  to their website explains all. Hindus, unlike Christians,  may, and often do, simultaneously follow the teachings of several paths to God, and non-Hindus in Fiji have never been able to fully understand this.  Thus, at the 1996 census over one-fifth  of Hindus were classified as Other Hindu, compared with a mere 4% of Other Christians. The high figure was due partly to people following several teachings, and also because many census enumerators were insufficiently informed to classify them otherwise. (See my Fiji: An Encyclopaedic Atlas, section 11 on Fiji's Religions.)

The police —and by extension the Government— is similarly insufficiently informed. The police requirement is unacceptable not only because it impacts on religious freedom; it also displays a level of ignorance, intolerance and heavy-handedness that runs counter to the spirit of  government's stated intentions for a better Fiji.  Government needs a broader and more representative group of advisers.

One last point: The Public Emergency Regulations need to be applied with good sense.  Since when have Hindus been a threat to law and order in Fiji?


Anonymous said…
A simpler solution would be to remove the PER full stop. This was promised by the PM almost a year ago now. The only condition he put on this was the media decree had to be in place so he could still control it. His reps even promised this to the united nations.

Liar, Liar, Liar....why should we beleive 2014 ?
wipsin said…
Anyone remember the former top cop who wasted millions of dollars on his brothers Christian crusade. this sounds a bit like a hangover from that time.

By the way under the new 'fair' and 'transparent' Fiji that gentlemen was rewarded with a cosy overseas posting while members of his police go to jail for 2.5years for corruption of $300 odd dollars.

PS - and so they should go to jail but why not some fairness. Why does the PM not practice what he preaches. He gets his brother in law off and allows him to serve no time in jail. He then lets one of his men get rewarded when he should have been charged by FICAC.
vaniff said…
I wonder whether this strong-handedness is there because of the influence of Diwan Chand Maharaj, (of Quality Print)who is not only the President of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji but, also an "insider" and a "good man" of Bainimarma's regime.s This is abuse of power and abuse of freedom to worship. I am shocked to see this has happened in Fiji.

The other new requirement of Sanatan is stopping grog (kava) drinking in religious functions. This has been part of our culture and system since the arrival of girmitiyas. This is a good recipe to kill religion.
Thakur Ranjit Singh said…
It has now been confirmed by Radio Tarana in Auckland, through an audio recording from the General Secretary of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, Mr Vijendra Prakash that there was NO such requirement or directive from any authority about any restrictions on celebrating Ram Naumi. He said that there were no restrictions on celebrating Ram Naumi but police permission may be required for large gatherings. He did not define what "large gathering' meant. But he reiterated that there was NO RESTRICTIONS OR CONDITIONS on celebrating Ram Naumi. He attributed the misinformation to mischief makers, who were fellow Hindus who were trying to tarnish the good name of Sanatan in Fiji.
Hope this clarifies this matter for time-being and Croz may wish to get back to his source of information to obtain documentary proof if any restrictions were placed. Otherwise we should believe what has been clarified by Vijendra Prakash of Sanatan in Fiji.
As a former Executive of Sanatan Sabha in Fiji I can vouch for the principles of freedom of religion promoted by Sanatan in Fiji and I cannot believe they would ever go ahead to place any such restrictions.
[A copy of Radio Tarana audio file (in Hindi) was provided to Croz Walsh]
pasifika said…
Mischief making and rumour mongering are popular pastimes of certain groups of people in Fiji. The phenomenon should be properly researched by some students in the three local universities

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