[Desecrate …… to violate the sanctity of; to treat disrespectfully, irreverently, or outrageously]
On Friday, April 8, 2022, some two hundred mourners gathered for the last rites of their loved one at the Kaashi Dhaam cremation site at Ruimzeight, West Coast Demerara, Guyana. They arrived 15 minutes later than scheduled, and Mr Gary Hinds, an official of the Guyana Ministry of Health, stopped the cremation until it pleased him to allow the pandit to start the final rites, or antyeshti samskara, for the deceased.
Mr Hinds will face the backlash in the cosmic world, and one looks forward to an earthly backlash from his superiors. Karma never fails.
An eyewitness, the revered Swami Aksharananda (Swamiji), renowned Hindu scholar and Principal of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan in Guyana, expressed his shock and disapproval of how things unfolded. What unfolded was tantamount to a desecration of the dead at the point of the final rites for the human remains.
Swamiji noted that the hearse bearing the last remains of the deceased arrived at the cremation site some 15 minutes later than planned, angering the officer of the Ministry of Health, Mr Gary Hinds, who stopped the cremation from proceeding. Swamiji tried reasoning, but Mr Hinds was unmoved. Mr Hinds eventually felt some compassion [note the tone of sarcasm here] and allowed the cremation to occur at 2:55 pm. Such was the power of Mr Hinds. Imagine the psychological trauma to the family.
When Swamiji spoke with Mr Hinds on the issue, Mr Hinds told him that the family’s late arrival had “wasted” his time, and that he was prepared to “waste” more time to “teach the family a lesson”, and that this would give him “personal satisfaction.”
The shocked Swamiji contacted the regional health official, who assured him that Mr Hinds was acting outside of his remit, and this would be investigated.
Swamiji approached the family to encourage them to proceed with the final rites. Still, they were so traumatised and afraid of further desecration of their dead that they preferred to wait for Mr Hinds’s permission to proceed. They were vulnerable.
Mr Hinds allowed the cremation to start at 2.55pm, having punished the family to his satisfaction. Instead of being in the appropriate frame of mind to perform the final rites for their loved one, and bid a respectful goodbye, here were the mourners, standing in fear before a bit of mortal, who was wielding the power of the enslaver through his office at the Ministry of Health. This must never be forgotten!!!
But when you appreciate the contempt with which Hindus and their dharma continue to be held in the Caribbean, you might better understand why such bullies continue to exist. The religions of the enslaved Africans and the Hindus were banned and demonised by their Christian slave owners. Many people were forced to abandon their ancestral religions and dharma and wear Fanon’s white mask on their black and brown skins. Alas! That white mask is fixed on many and their successive generations in the postcolonial world like the Caribbean.
It is essential to ask: Why would any human being function as Mr Hinds did? Perhaps human beings are motivated by:
* Confidence that there would be no official backlash or punishment.
* A lack of self-esteem, so they can feel big and powerful.
* A psychological disorder.
* A search for compensation for some littleness in body, mind, and spirit; and
* Perhaps, just perhaps, such human beings may be expressing plain contempt and hatred for people who are different from them.
In 2015, Antigua charged and deported three Hindus for committing the crime of practising Hindu rituals deemed “obeah” (a religious practice criminalised in the Caribbean, though some countries have since been decriminalising such laws). Hindus have fought long battles to practise their dharma. Is Mr Hinds guilty of Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha? Aggression is one stage of Hinduphobia/Hindudvesha. I shall address the latter next week.