Indo-Caribbean diaspora will miss Iconic Hindu Leaders from India & US: Dr. Vishnu Bisram Ashok Singhal, an iconic Hindu Leader, who has deep admiration for Indo-Guyanese and other Indo-Caribbean people has passed on. Singhal-ji, held in great esteem by Hindus worldwide, was felicitated at the Indo-Caribbean Surya Narayan Mandir in Jamaica, New York, mid September. He was also honored by Guaynese at other temples in recent years. He died Tuesday at a hospital in Gurgaon, India. Pandit Ram Hardowar paid tribute to Singhal-ji. The great Indian intellectuals Ravi Dev and Swami Aksharnanda know him well and hosted him in Guyana. Singhal, 89, served for 20 years as the International President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that was founded by a Trinidadian Member of Parliament during the 1960s when he visited and lived in India.
The VHP has branches in several countries including Trinidad and the US where many Guyanese are members and followers. Singhal, who partook in India’s freedom struggle as a youth, often visited Guyanese and Trini Temples during his visits in the greater New York area. He also visited the Caribbean several times. In his various appearances at Indo-Caribbean gatherings in America, he showered glowing tributes on Indo-Caribbean people for holding on to their (Indian) culture some 175 years after leaving India. He spoke at the Surya Narayan Mandir just before returning to New Delhi where he makes his home. He visited Guyana and Trinidad several years ago. He has been lobbying the Indian government to commit resources for culture and education to the large Indian diaspora. He interacted at length with Indo-Caribbean community leaders.
He praised the Hindu and Indian community leaders in New York and the diaspora for their service to the community and for maintaining close relations with the land of their fore-parents. Tributes to the great leader poured in from around the globe including from Guyanese pandits in New York. Ashok Singhal was called a ‘Raj Purush’ (statesman) by Guyanese Hindu community leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described his death as “a deep personal loss”. Modi said Singhal was an institution centered on serving the nation and the Indian diaspora although he was not a politician. Singhal lived the life of a Bachelor committed to seva (serving others). Another Indian national, Narain Kataria, who showered accolades on Indo-Caribbeans for holding on to their culture also passed away recently. Kataria-ji was 85. He was an institution in the Asian Indian community. He offered support and encouragement to Guyanese in the struggle against the dictatorship. He attended several events organized by Guyanese.
He was among a small working group of Indian nationals who collaborated closely on various projects with Indo-Guyanese in Queens where he made his home. He would lead a large team of participants at the annual Phagwah celebrations held in Richmond Hill and at other events organized by Indo-Caribbeans. Like Singhal, Kataria was effusive in his praises to Guyanese for Indian cultural retention. He was a regular reader of Indo-Caribbean weeklies in New York including Caribbean New Yorker and Guyana Times.
He saluted the great work of Indo-Caribbean community leaders, journalists and intellectuals including Pt. Hardowar, Dr. Somdath Mohabir, Dharamdat Sukhai, Patanjali Rambrich, Ravi Dev, Vishnu Bisram, among others. Kataria was founder of the Indian American Intellectuals Forum. He was also a relentless organizer on India related activities and a regular participant at the annual Diwali celebrations at South Street Seaport and the India Day parade. He was the guiding hand behind several organizations and events, including the International annual Hindu Unity Day held in Queens over the last 20 years at which Guyanese were active participants.
Many Guyanese and other Indo-Caribbean people attended his funeral service in Long Island last week. Both Indian leaders will be sorely missed by the Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean communities in America and the Caribbean.
Source: Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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