Always ready for community service, Dr Agar

By Neena Badhwar

There are always a few social volunteers who underpin a community. Their personal lives are pushed in the background as they live and breathe community values. Among them, there are again fewer, who remain humble, egoless and single-minded towards the broader needs of the society. Such miniscule number of people is always in demand. Dr Nihal Agar is one of them.

Dr Agar is the founding member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) since its inception in 1990 and remained at its helm until 2005. He, then, founded Ekal Foundation Australia in 2007, and after it was established on a firm footing, left, but was head-hunted to join the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA) in 2010. He cannot remain not to be doing something for the community.

Nihal Agar came to Australia in 1967 to the University of New England on a post-doctoral Fellowship. While working there for 33 years he retired as a Professor and Head of the Department of Physiology in 2009. For a while in the 1990s he spent three-years in Sydney on a short stint.

Says Dr Agar, “After Dr Bala retired from HCA, the committee wanted me to join the organization. Now I have already done three years but the members insist that I do another term and here I am still working. I am really enjoying the work as we have a very dedicated and talented team of volunteers who do it all.

“HCA is a Hindu organization which acts as an umbrella body of all the Hindu associations and temples in Australia, representing Hindus not just from India but Hindus from all over the world who have settled here. HCA represents Hindu cause and answers any queries to do with Hindus and Hinduism in Australia with government bodies ”“ state and federal. It also represents Hindus at Interfaith meetings. I wanted to do something for the society and I am happy I got to work at the HCA.

“When I joined HCA in 2009, it was primarily a NSW organization, but now we have taken it forward and made it an umbrella of more than 30 member organizations all over Australia,” Dr Agar says.

There are approximately 300,000 Hindus in Australia, according to Census 2011. He said that although HCA had yet not reached all of them, they were striving to represent all the Hindus as it was one of the fastest growing religions in Australia.

“In the last three years we have achieved a lot and NSW is playing the lead role. Now we are working to create chapters in various states as already we have on our executive people from different states.

“We have had a meeting of member organizations to discuss how we can move forward with HCA’s work and outline short and long term strategies for HCA in networking, involving Hindu youth to further our work, to help solve any visa issues to do with priests. We are currently working on a project to ask for cemeteries to set aside a special place for conducting last rites and rituals such as Asthi Visarjan in a river or water as every Hindu’s last wish is to disperse their ashes in a river after cremation,” Dr Agar says.

Talking about challenges, he says, “We need more volunteers since the Hindu population is growing, as is the work, and we need more people to join us and help us in our endeavours.”

Other works that HCA is involved in is ”˜Organ Donation Program’ where Sanjeev Bhakhri has done a lot of hard work.

Nihal Agar is pleased that this year’s Diwali Mela at Olympic Park was quite successful and also a pre Diwali event organized at Martin Place with the help of some very good young volunteers.

“We run a one-hour radio program ”˜Mangalam’ on Sundays from 1-2pm at 2000 FM for which we need more broadcasters. Currently, the HCA has around 20 people in the executive who work selflessly, among them Kanti Jinna in Canberra who liaises with the Government on all religious issues and we have Dr Raja Jairaman who represents us at Interfaith meetings and religious education,” he says.

Following on with recent protests for hurting Muslim sentiments, TIDU asked how would HCA handle any sensitive or derogatory remarks about Hindus in Australia.

Says Dr Agar, “We, at HCA, try writing to them, and fortunately, people take it positively and try to rectify things. Like a true Hindu we negotiate peacefully the sensitive issues and it works very well for us. We find that the Government is very understanding and is willing to readdress issues if things have been hurtful to the Hindu sentiments.”

About the future direction that the HCA is working towards, he says, setting up of a Hindu Education & Cultural Centre in Sydney, a central place for activities to do with Hindus and Hindu education, is our biggest priority.

HCA is always helping the community through our role in the ”˜Ministerial Consultative Committee’ regarding any issues to do with Hindus in Australia. “We have played active role during the Indian student problem and in any other issues which come to our attention. As I said, we need more volunteers who are experts in various fields to help HCA achieve its aims.

“Besides this work, my heart lies in Ekal Foundation. Being the founding member I know that it is a wonderful organization trying to take education to remote rural areas in India and now it is sponsoring 500 Ekal schools,” he says.

He concludes with a famous verse (chaupai) from Ramayan ”“ ”˜Jahan sumat wahan sampati nana, jahan kumati wahan vipati vidana’ ”“ where there’s unity there’s prosperity and where there’s disunity there’s problem.

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