Ban on religious charms at Trinidad school upsets Hindus

March 16th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port-of-Spain, March 16 (IANS) A ban on Hindu students wearing a ‘raksha’ (religious charm) after the festival of Shivaratri at a school in Trinidad has upset the Hindu community in the Caribbean nation. Students of the Cunupia High School in Central Trinidad were recently told by security guards to remove the raksha tied to their wrists, causing much consternation among them.

Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) said in an interview that he was “most distressed when an official of the Cunupia High School ordered Hindu students to remove rakshas from their wrists earlier this week”.

He said the action was “an insult to members of the Hindu community”.

Maharaj added: “School officials should take the time to become aware of the cultural practices of their students and make allowances.”

Teachers of the school, however, were sympathetic towards the children and their religious freedom.

Hindu activist and religious thinker Surujrattan Rambachan, who is also mayor of Chaguanas town, said that teachers wrote to him, complaining about the harassment to scores of Hindu students, and sought his intervention.

In their complaint, teachers wrote: “To our horror, on entry to school…we were stopped by a number of Hindu students who were abhorred at the fact that they were not being permitted into the school premises as they were wearing raksha.”

The letter said that following investigations it was found that maintenance, training and security (MTS) guards “were forcing children to cut off their raksha and in one instance, a girl had to tear the raksha off her hand, which resulted in her hand being bruised”.

The teachers felt the students’ fundamental rights were violated. There has been no official explanation or apology from the ministry of education so far.

The nearly 500,000-strong Indian diaspora comprises 40 percent of the Trinidad and Tobago’s population.

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