The death of Shree Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, leaves an indelible void in the heroes’ landscape of our country. Mr Maharaj was one of our invaluable citizens who was acclaimed in many countries and several continents for his outstanding contribution to the development and progress of Trinidad and Tobago in the spheres of education, culture, journalism, religion, law and politics, among other disciplines.
It must be firmly emphasised that he always possessed a national vision, and was never insular or iconoclastic, contrary to the belief of some people. As someone very closely associated with him for over three decades, I can declare with certainty he never harboured ill will or malice towards any segment of our population. It will be truly disrespectful to call him only a Hindu leader, even though he represented almost 25 per cent of the population. He represented the ideals, ambitions and aspirations of several generations of people over a 40-year period.
His longevity as a strong voice of reason to ensure equality, fairness and participation by all groups in the national discourse will be recorded by history in due course. He laboured tirelessly to ensure Hindus, Baptists and all other groups were not marginalised in any aspect of national life. Leaders from all denominations can attest to his support for them in private and public issues. He was never reluctant to provide support on issues negatively impacting any religious or social group.
He was a master of the “sound bite’’. Those around him used to see a sense of glee when media workers surrounded him expecting a sensational statement. He professed a mastery of a 20-second bombshell. To this day it remains a mystery how no one unravelled his public demeanour with his private personality. He cleverly used apparently harsh statements to attract attention to sensitive issues to force public dialogue.
His evocation of strong emotion never diminished his overall respect and appreciation by the vast majority of the population that admired his frankness and fortrightness.
His achievement of a national award is evidence of his life’s work. The country must carefully note that his acclaim throughout the world was based on achievement and not position. He was a doer.
He was a constitutional hero. Landmark judgments by the Privy Council in the radio license case and the Trinity Cross change of name will shape our jurisprudence for many years in the future. He changed the status quo and the divine hegemony which some sought to preserve in spite of being downright and patently unfair. This country never before had a leader who persevered, unfazed in spite of his home being bombed and shot at.
Those who worked with him over the years admired his sense of fair play. He never wanted the Hindu community to receive more than its appropriate share of national resources. He only expressed an opinion when injustice was absolutely glaring.
History will record the contribution of Shree Satnarayan Maharaj as an outstanding citizen of this soil in our post independence era. His lifetime achievements will resonate for countless years is the future as scholars and citizens alike access, examine and analyse his extraordinary contribution to the land of his birth which he cherished until his death at a very advanced age. God bless his soul munificently.