The head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Shri Satnarayan Maharaj, popularly know as Sat, had strong links with Guyana visiting several times. He would like to think of himself as the person who helped to restore democracy and end the ban on goods in Guyana during the period of the Desmond Hoyte “dictatorship”.
For those who knew him, Sat was undoubtedly one of the most influential people, and certainly Hindu or Indian figures, of all time. His influence as a champion of Hindus extended around the globe in the Indo-Caribbean diaspora. His platform allowed him to meet with (Indian) leaders from presidents to PMs to ministers of governments when they visited Trinidad or when he visited India.
He was invited several times to India where he met political leaders. No political leader in T&T ignored him. Diplomats in T&T had enormous respect for him. Academics sought him. Leaders from other faiths respected him and in fact prayed for his recovery when he suffered a stroke a week ago. At the heart of his struggle was his passion for his faith and Hindus and his commitment to stand up for justice.
Three days of mourning have been declared for the fallen Hindu leader, aged 88. He led the SDMS since the 1970s. The SDMS, is perhaps by far, the largest religious organisation in T&T, and it runs the most denominational schools exceeding 100 with plans to start a Hindu university as he and I had discussed some years ago.
Sat, is perhaps the most popular and most influential non-political leader in T&T. He has done more for Indians than all the Indian (and non-Indian) political leaders combined in T&T and in Guyana. He made no apologies in standing up for the rights of Hindus and Indians in Guyana and the Caribbean. He did not mince words. He spoke out against what he perceived as racism in Guyana, Trinidad, and other parts of the Caribbean—no other leader had the courage to speak forthrightly as he did. He buttressed his claims with facts. And he successfully challenged government in the courts.
I met Sat countless times in Trinidad since 1980s; I visited the island several times a year since 1981 for academic research and visited his Bomb newspaper office and his SDMS headquarters numerous times to interact with him; The Bomb was amongst the most popular weekly publications during the 1980s through 2000s, and it is still published.
Sat invited me annually to his Indian Arrival Day celebrations that I attended many years. Sat and I also had several exchanges on his radio and TV stations and in his publications (Bomb). He would refer to me as the Guyanese pollster in conversation. On radio or TV or the Bomb, he referred to me formally in name and praised my research work and polling activities.
He was a sharp journalist asking tough pointed questions especially on political matters pertaining to Guyana. Being nice to him did not win favours or soft questions.
His TV programme, Mukhdar has been the most popular programme in T&T. It has been viewed by Indians (Muslims, Hindus, and Christians) and non-Indians because it championed issues that relate to Indians; government also paid heed to it.
Although he and political leaders had several run ins, he was invited to every government-sponsored event relating to Indian or Hindu festivals by Rowley, Kamla, Manning, and or the president. That does not nullify Sat to drop Mukhdar on Rowley and Manning; he also dropped Mukhdar on Kamla and Basdeo Panday, the former PMs.
Sat and I last met a week before Divali at a book launch for his late friend Harry Charran in North Valsayn to which I was invited by the author, Dr Primnath Goopta. Sat was in good spirits and humour and as usual made jokes about my community activism. He reminded me of my continuous struggle, like him, to improve people’s lives in T&T and Guyana without pecuniary rewards and without compassion from selfish politicians.
The late Sat was the Indo-Caribbean fighter with no match in the Caribbean. The Indo-Caribbean diaspora mourns his death, but they also rejoice at the legacy he has left behind, and they are sure he is with the lord (Shri Raam) for his dharma in service to nation. An epic era of a champion of Indian history has come to an end. No doubt, he was a titanic figure in Indian advocacy and Indian history in the Caribbean, and perhaps represents the last of a kind.