Fiji’s largest Hindu organisation Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha says security has been stepped up at Hindu temples in the wake of four attacks over the last month.
The desecration at the Votualevu Tirath Dham Hindu Temple in Nadi area of Fiji has sent shock waves across the world.
According to reports, desecration was caused on December 16 night, violating this sacred Fiji Hindu place of worship. Damage included pouring paint over the images of deities Ganesha, Hanuman, etc; graffiti/slurs on walls; theft of donation box, sound system and other equipment; rubbish strewn in prayer area; etc.; and was said to be third such act at the temple.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was reportedly disturbing for the hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Fiji Hindu community, who had made lot of contributions to the nation and society, to receive such signals of hatred and anger.
Such incidents should not be acceptable in a country like Fiji which reportedly protects freedom of conscience, belief, and religion; and where communities of diverse faiths frequently come together to develop mutual understanding and respect; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted.
Rajan Zed urged Fijian President Major General Jioji Konusi Konrote, Prime Minister Rear Admiral Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Commissioner of Western Division to visit this Hindu Temple to show solidarity with the Hindu-Fijians, meet the area Hindu community to reassure them and address a public rally in Votualevu condemning the desecration. He also urged them to take the issue seriously and urgently and make sure that such incidents did not happen in the future, in order regain the reportedly falling confidence of the Hindu community.
As an interfaith gesture, Zed also urged Reverend Dr. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua, President of Fiji Methodist Church; leaders of Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Anglican and other Christians denominations; and leaders of Muslim, Sikh, Baha’i and other religious communities and non-believers; and ordinary Fijians to come forward condemning this desecration and expressing solidarity with the nation’s Hindus; who had also made huge contributions to its success, prosperity and growth.
Fijisun.com reported that the Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho has vowed that religious intolerance will not be tolerated and said that “as responsible citizens, we must respect each other’s religion and the Police will do a thorough investigation and we will apprehend the perpetrators. They will be brought to justice.”
Parmen Nath Bharos, 47, is an executive at the Hindu Temple, and he expressed his anguish saying that “when a sound system is robbed we can replace it but when our God statues are found with graffiti and damaged we cannot replace it.”
The organisation’s National Secretary Virendra Lal says they strongly condem any act of religious intolerance.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who visited the place to understand the situation was quoted by the Fiji Sun.com as saying:
This will not be condoned because every Fijian should have the ability to practice their faith without any hindrance and they should feel free to do so particularly in a place of worship.
National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad has already denounced the attack and told the press that after taking a look and the level of the desecration it is clear r that “this was a calculated and deliberate desecration of a place of worship. It does not suggest a random act of vandalism.”
TRANSCRIPT FROM DATELINE PACIFIC
VIRENDRA LAL: This started off during Christmas in Votualevu, Nadi. The temple was broken into and the welded iron donation box was removed, sound system and water blaster was stolen and paint was poured on the idols and swear words were written on the walls of the temple, inciting racial hatred. So far there has been no arrests made but very strong statements have come from the police department itself. The police commissioner has very clearly given stern warnings to the perpetrators and then also a release has been issued by the opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and she wrote also a very strongly worded statement that those who have done this were out of their minds, because Fiji is a secular state and everyone has the right to pray the way they want to and no one has the right to stop anyone or do things like this.
SALLY ROUND: Does it look like these break-ins are the work of the same people?
VL: I really don’t know because if it happened in different places, it may be, it may not be but the look of it .. similar ways has been broken into. There may be one group working on this, it could be like that, I’m not saying that it is like that. We have branches all throughout Fiji and these branches, they run the temples in their areas so we have visited these branches, we have told them, ‘look, we have to be vigilant’ and I’m very pleased to tell you that when I visited Votualevu, the temple which was broken into, security cameras are there, they have hired one security officer as well to look after the place and we’re also telling people not to keep big amounts of money in the temple because that’s what attracts these thieves.
SR: So what other security measures are the temples taking?
VL: Actually people are employing fulltime security guards, we have to install security cameras in some places and where there was no burglar bars, we have asked them to put the burglar bars. Also we are pleading to the police department to take action and try to apprehend the culprits as soon as possible and dish out harsher penalties.
SR: In the past have there been any similar desecration, in generations gone by?
VL: It has and this is not in isolation. This has happened but you know every now and then it pops out from nowhere. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the upcoming elections in Fiji. I don’t really know but for the last two to three years everything has been very quiet. I mean there has been one or two maybe cases in isolation but the trend this year from December to now, four temples within a month, it is a matter of concern and all the relevant stakeholders are doing their part to stop this thing.