"Crorepathy" Fr. Jegath Gasper Raj main link for Tigers in India
The Sri Lankan Catholic Church, the Catholic Radio Veritas based in Phillipines, the Tamil Catholic hierachy and its priests have been the main links of the global network of the Church to protect, promote, provide succor and cover to the internationally banned Tamil Tigers. Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj is somewht different. This catholic priest comes from the diocese of Kottar, Tamil Nadu. He has made a name for himself and become a "crorepathy’ ( Rs. 10 million is one crore) with plenty of political pull in Tamil Nadu politics to back the Tamil Tigers. He has learned the art of mixing politics with music to raise funds for the Tamil Tigers. In his music, politics and fund raising he has managed successfully to exploit the suffering of the Tamils in Sri Lanka to collect millions for the Tamil Tigers.
Tamil Tigers and the Church consider Fr. Gaspar Raj as their latest pop priest. ‘It is a story of rags to riches and from obscurity to political connections and fame," said an Indian commentator.
Political observers state that Fr. Gaspar Raj was responsible for bringing the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to come closer once again to the Tamil Tigers, banned in India.
Fr.Gaspar Raj sudden rise to prominence began when he joined the Tamil language broadcasting division of Veritas Radio broadcasting to Asia. This radio runs program in Bahasa (Indonesia), Mandarin, Bengali, Sinhala, Burmese, Tamil, Filipino, Telugu, Hindi, Urdu, Kachin, Vietnamese and Karen languages.
For sometime the Tamil Tigers left him alone but renewed their connections in recent months. He is now seen as the conduit through which millions of Indian rupees flow into the hands of the movers and shakers of the Tamil Nadu and Indian politics in general.
Father Gaspar Raj is the founder of the Tamil Maiyam, a non-profit organization. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi is the coordinator. Joinlty they organized the “Chennai Sangamam” (a cultural extravaganza) in the city which has drawn flak for its Tamil Tiger links.
The Jaya TV, (which has AIADMK chief Jayalalitha's patronage), which is opposed to the Tamil Tigers, telecast a 30-minute program on 04 March focusing on Fr Gaspar Raj sharing the platform with Nachimuthu Socrates, one of the senior fund-raisers for the Tigers.
The TV program highlighted that Socrates was among the eight arrested by the US Federal agents in August last year. American authorities have accused him of plotting to buy surface-to-air missiles for the Tamil Tiger rebels by bribing the US State Department officials. One of objectives was to bribe US officials to get the banned Tamil Tigers struck off the list of US terrorist organizations.
The program had also raised uncomfortable questions about Father Raj playing an important role in the state-sponsored Chennai Sangamam. The channel also questioned the ‘Government Order’ that had given Kanimozhi access to unlimited funds for her cultural programs.
Does Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj was born into a low-middle class Catholic family in Nagarkovil, located in Tamil Nadu, India. He was in the early days a parish priest in a remote village in the Kanniyakumari district.
Later he joined ‘Radio Veritas’ as director of the Tamil service, roughly during 1995 -2001. He began working for Radio Veritas on a monthly salary of US $200.00. His accumulated assets have earned him the title of a ‘Crorepathy’ today.
As stated earlier, he shot into the limelight through Radio Veritas. It is a non-stock, non-profit organization tasked to "proclaim the message of God's love to the peoples of Asia. RVA is committed to proclaim the message of God's love to the people of Asia by producing human development and Catholic evangelization programs, in cooperation with recognized production centers and transmitting these programs via short-wave and related means of electronic media.
This station is also used by the Church to promote its brand of politics. The Sri Lankan government has earlier protested against it bias in promoting Tamil Tiger politics. Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj was with the Tamil section of the Veritas radio, broadcasting a half hour slots daily in the morning as well as in the evening. As this radio is a shortwave broadcast, many in Tamil Nadu do not listen to this radio broadcast. The radios in many houses in Tamil Nadu do not have the shortwave.
But Sri Lankans have direct access through shortwave radio connections. Veritas also had direct access to Jaffna through the Catholic Church. The Tamil Catholic priests in Jaffna who had the privilege of moving freely in war zones of Jaffna fed Radio Veritas with pro-Tiger versions of events. Veritas used to receive the news reports from the Jaffna Bishop’s House for broadcast. The news carried in the Veritas Tamil service usually lasts for about 5 minutes but it had a powerful impact on the Sri Lankan Tamils.
The censorship imposed by the Sri Lankan government also helped the Tamil service of Radio Veritas to gain a considerable following in Jaffna. It was at the height of the ethnic conflict that Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj became the Director of the Veritas Tamil service.
He began his career at Veritas by announcing that he is not for the Tamil Tigers but subsequently he shifted his stance under pressure from the Tamil Diaspora flooding him with letters and e-mails. He was also impressed by the impact Veritas had on the Sri Lankan Tamils. Once he realized this he came out openly supporting the Tamil Tigers. His new political line made him a popular public personality. During this time, Fr. Chandirakanthan, leading Tamil Tiger propagandists from the Jaffna University visited Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj at Veritas in Philippines. They became good friends. This also led him to establish close contacts with Tiger leaders. He has told all this at public meetings.
In the meantime Fr. Chandirakanthan left for Canada and settled down there. This gave an opportunity for Fr. Gaspar Raj to establish relationship with the Tamil Diaspora in Europe, North America and Australasian countries.
Tigers decided to make use of Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj for collection of funds as he was an able orator. He was also a colorful figure with his unusual (Cossack) dress for a Catholic clergyman.
Seeing his potential Tigers arranged visits for him in several European capitals. He was invited to collect funds for the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, banned in some countries as the arm of the Tiger fund collections.
In the meantime, he arranged the rebroadcast of the Veritas Tamil programs in the then popular TRT Tamil Alai Radio, and used it to build a formidable link between himself and the Tamil Diaspora.
During this time the Tigers were running their own Radio IBC in Europe. Fr. Gaspar Raj announced that Veritas radio as well as the TRT Radio would jointly run programs for the collection of funds for the welfare of the Eelam Tamil orphans. Tigers have never engaged outsiders to collect funds from the Tamil Diaspora or welcomed welfare schemes put to them by others. When the Tiger leaders in Paris vehemently opposed this move of Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj, he was forced to contact Tiger leaders in Vanni for the approval for his proposal to collect funds appealing through the airwaves.
Even S.S. Kuhanathan, who continuously resisted the Paris, based LTTE leaders, joined hands with Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj in the hope that he might be able to establish contacts with the Tiger leaders in the Vanni.
Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj and Kuhanathan appeared in the TRT Television and appealed through TRT Radio to raise funds for the Tamil orphans in the Vanni. TRT, however, was very cautious about raising funds with Fr. Gaspar Raj and insisted that he collects his funds in a separate bank account as this appeal for funds had nothing to do with the TRT organization. Then Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj opened up a bank account in his name in Credit du Nord bank in Paris and channeled the funds into that bank account.
It is estimated that Fr. Gaspar Raj's appeal led to a collection of nearly a million of dollars. According to a source in the Paris, his Paris bank account alone collected a little over US$ 600,000. However the appeal for funds continued in TRT TV and Radio urging Tamil Diaspora to send in their donations not only to Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj’s the bank account in Paris but also to his bank account in Manila.
Later it transpired, according to TRT Radio and TV broadcasts, that the moneys sent to Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj’s Paris Bank account was subsequently transferred to his Manila bank account.
So far Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj has neither disclosed the total amount of money he received on behalf of the Tamil Orphans in Vanni nor announced how much he has paid out of the total collection to the Tamil orphans and to whom he has given that money.
In the meantime, TRT Radio and TV stations were acquired by the Tigers and at the same time Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj left Veritas Radio and went back to reside permanently in Tamil Nadu .
In another appeal launched in Canada on 14 January 2001, through radio stations in Toronto, Canada, it is reported that he collected around US $ 500,000.00. All these funds were raised selling the plight of the Tamils orphans to the Tamil Diaspora in Canada. With his oratorical skills he was successful in convincing the Tamils in the Diaspora to part with their money for Tamil orphans. He spent most of his last three years at Veritas overseas campaigning for funds.
After settling down in Tamil Nadu India he launched Tamil Maiyam in 2002. He is the Managing Director. It is located in the St. Thomas Building, Santhome Communications Centre in Mylapore, Chennai 600 004. Tamil Maiyam is a ‘80-G tax- exempted charitable organization.
Tamil Maiyam was founded in Chennai, India, in July 2002 by Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj and his friends as a non-profit organization to promote Tamil arts, literature and culture with special emphasis on Research, Creative productions and Publications. It also claimed that it aimed to bring the fruits of modern science to the ordinary Tamils and create a platform for Tamils living in various parts of the world to interact and work together for the betterment of Tamil language and Tamil society.
The Board of Trustees are: Rev. Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj Managing Trustee, Tamil Maiyam, Fr. Lourdu Anandam, Ms. Akhila Srinivasan, Mr. K. Pandia Rajan, Mr. Jerard, Mr. Joseph Enok, Ms. Latha Pandiarajan Ms. Kanimozhi-, Mr. Arun Veerappan and Fr. Vincent Chinnadurai.
Subsequently he launched Goodwill Communications Limited (GCL) to produce and provide program for the Tamil television industry. The company was formally launched at a function which was chaired by writer Sujatha. Fr Jegath Gaspar Raj, the chairman and managing director of Tamil Maiyam, is also the managing director of GCL. Throgh these insitutions and with the funds collected in the name of the Tamil orphans he has managed to buy his way into the political establishment in Tamil Nadu.
One of Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj's project was to present a musical rendition of the Tamil literary classic, Thiruvasakam
Thiruvasakam, a collection of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva couched in heart-tugging phrases in ancient Tamil by the 7th century poet Saint Manickavasagar, is believed to provide a spiritual experience to those who recite it. Dismayed by the neglect of such rich Indian literature, Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj, a theologian and Founder-Chairman of Tamil Maiyam, decided to do something about it and the result was this project
Thiruvasakam conveys the supreme love for Siva in an obvious rhythm of words, with pleasing sound. It is contained profound statements on love. The verses are in simple style and are easily readable and sung by the very common people and at the same time the thought contents in them are understandable only by scholars of Siva Sitthanta doctrine, and most particularly by the religious experiences.
Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj approached Ilayaraja, the maestro in music, and he in turn seized the opportunity. The music was recorded partly in India (Chennai and Mumbai) and partly at the over 100-year-old Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Hungary.
The album has six songs including a unique 18-minute composition that alternates between Tamil and English lyrics, sung in choral style.
Thiruvasakam has the voices of Ilayaraja, his daughter Bavatharini and Benny Diggs. Over 300 musicians, including 140 instrumentalists and 60 chorus singers were involved in making this album.
It is said that Ilayaraja has not taken any remuneration to produce the album, but holds 50 per cent of its rights. The other 50 per cent is with Tamil Maiyam.
The total cost of the project is Rs 1.4 crore, of which 70 per cent funding has come through high cost debt. A total of Rs 1.1 crore has been spent on production.
Unfortunately Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj failed financially in this Thiruvasakam project.
‘Thiruvasakam’ by maestro Ilayaraaja, the first ever Indian Symphonic Oratorio was launched for sale on June 30, 2005 at the Music Academy, Chennai, according to Tamil Maiyam.
The funds for this project were raised by the Tamil Maiyam. The total cost of the production is Rs.110 Lakhs of which Rs.35 Lakhs came in as donations and Rs.75 lakhs as borrowings from individuals and banks. Tamil Maiyam is non-profit 80-G exempted charitable organization. TIS-Foundation USA played a crucial role in mobilizing funds.
The album was presented to the president of India Dr.Abdul kalam on June 17, 2005 at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan by Ilayaraaja accompanied by the Tamil Maiyam team. Dr. Abdul Kalam listened to the Oratorio song in the presence of Ilayaraaja and complimented it as ‘Great, a real contribution to the Indian music and culture’.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh received Ilayaraaja along with Vaiko and the Tamil Maiyam team on June 18 in New Delhi. While complementing the ‘Thiruvasakam’ effort he unde4rlined the fact that culture is the core strength of our land.
Ilayaraja and the delegation also met with the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani respectively and presented the album.
In a press release issued by the Tamil Maiyam, Fr. Gaspar Raj says that this is the first music that transmits eastern music seamlessly into a western Symphonic singing.
In the meantime one Dr. Vee has disputed Fr. Gaspar Raj false Symphony claims.
Fr. Gaspar Raj started his Thiruvasakam project with the title ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony’ for soliciting funds. In US was titled ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony USA’.
The official web page for the US activities of Thiruvasakam in Symphony. [index.html/www.tis-usa.com].
Rev.Fr. Gaspar Raj’s Tamil Maiyam website home page also projected his project as ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony’.
All newspapers including “The Hindu” [June 6, 2005] praised this project as ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony’.
But Ilayaraja explained in his interview to “Ananda Vikatan’, a Tamil language weekly, that he did not render Thiruvasakam in symphony and clarified that he had employed the musical form Oratorio in the Thiruvasakam project. Misled by unethical marketing many innocent buyers still believe that Thiruvasakam is now rendered in symphonic music. .
It is an accepted norm in music that vocal renditions are not a part of symphonic music. A Symphony is purely a composition for instruments, and very rarely voices are added as in the case of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy) in the fourth movement. In some of Mahler’s Symphonies voices are added.
Western Music does not have a musical form called ‘symphonic oratorio’. Symphony and Oratorio are two different musical forms.
After Ilayaraja’s interview clarifying that he did not render Thiruvasakam in Symphony, Rev.Fr.Jegat Gaspar Raj changed the label of his music in his Thiruvasakam project from ‘Symphony’ to ‘Symphonic Oratorio’.
While announcing a project “Mozart meets India”, Tamil Maiyam founder Rev.Fr.Jegath Gaspar Raj had called his Thiruvasakam project as "Thiruvasagam - Symphonic Oratorio" [18 March 2006 News Update Service, The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle 19 March 2006].
Rev.Fr.Gaspar Raj producer of the Thiruvasakam project had misled music students of India that Symphonic Oratorio was a Western Musical form and Ilayaraja had used that form to render Thiruvasakam. Being a Catholic priest with a background in Western music, he should have known that Western music does not have a musical form called ‘symphonic oratorio’.
As a producer Fr.Jegat Gaspar Raj failed to do proper ground work for his project, misled Ilayaraja to undertake this miguided project and misused Ilayaraja’s musical fame to gather funds and market this product cheating innocent buyers most of whom bought this product believing it to be ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony’.
It is unfortunate that the Indian President, Prime Minister and other VIPs had become victims by felicitating this project, a black mark in the history of Indian music. Dr. Vee wrote an email letter “Subject: India's First Symphony?” on August 20, 2006 to the Members of Parliament, protesting against the error of the President and Prime Minister in felicitating “Mozart meets India” as a symphony.
The defects are related to the confusion in the musical forms employed, music interval, wrong choice of vocalist and musical aesthetics.
Rev.Fr.Jegat Gaspar Raj’s Thiruvasakam music project involved two different kinds of music, Western Classical and Carnatic. Western Classical and Carnatic music have different kinds of music intervals.
In Western music, keyboard and fretted instruments follow equal temperament. Violinists and vocalists unaccompanied by equal temperament instruments in Western Music may follow just intonation. The intervals of Carnatic music will be different from these. Hence any music project involving Western Classical music and Carnatic music must take into account these differences and work out a compromise. Then the musicians must be trained in this scheme. Recording must start after completing these formalities. Ilayaraja’s Thiruvasakam does not appear to have followed these procedures. Brochures accompanying such projects must explain these procedures. A computer based objective investigation will bring out all these shortcomings, a valuable project for music research students.
The next shortcoming in this project is the employment of Ilayaraja’s voice, which suits well for folk and film music. [eg.’Thenpandi Seemaiyele’ in ‘Nayakan’]. But his voice will not be suitable for classical music like Carnatic music.
For spiritual chanting of Thiruvasakam, voice of experienced Othuvars [a special category of persons trained in chanting Saivite devotional text] will be good. For musical rendering of Thiruvasakam, voices of well-trained and experienced Carnatic vocalists will be good. The voice of Ilayaraja does not belong to either category.
Also this project failed to follow the traditional musical way of handling the Tamil words in Thiruvasakam. Instead of conceding these defects in his project, Rev.Fr.Jegath Gaspar Raj had blamed the Tamil lyrics of Thiruvasakam for the failure of his product. [Asian News Service- Chennai, March 20, 2006; 18 March 2006 News Update Service; The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle 19 March 2006].
This means he had proceeded with his project without realizing the music potential of the Tamil lyrics of Thiruvasakam and hence had used Ilayaraja’s voice for singing the Tamil lyrics thereby damaging the music richness. Without realising his mistakes, Rev.Fr.Jegath Gaspar Raj had blamed the Tamil lyrics of Thiruvasakam for the failure of his project.
Apart from these, there are problems related to finer aspects of musical aesthetics of Western Classical Music and Carnatic music in such projects.
Rev.Fr. Gaspar Raj had recently announced a new project called ‘Mozart meets India’. He had claimed that it would be India’s first symphony. [Indo-Asian News Service - Chennai, March 20, 2006, New Indian Express, 19-3-2006]. He had not revealed who would be its composer. He had called it as ‘orchestral symphony’.
His previous project also started with the title ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony ‘. Rev.Fr. Gaspar Raj supported Ilayaraja’s claim of composing India’s first symphony in 1993.
After misusing the words symphony and ‘symphonic oratorio’, Fr.Gaspar Raj started misusing ‘Mozart’ in his current project ‘Mozart meets India’. He said: “The compositions do not directly correspond or relate to the creations of Mozart. The title is more allegoric as we consider Mozart the greatest composer of symphonies.”(The Hindu- Aug 2,2006). Also he had identified it as “a global symphonic soundtrack based on six Carnatic ragas, Kapi, Sindhubhairavi, Panthuvarali, Sankarabharanam, Bilahari and Hamsanandhi," (The Hindu- Aug 2,2006). Is the above mentioned word ‘symphonic’ “more allegoric” as it may not ‘not directly correspond or relate to’ the six Carnatic ragas? From the above, there can be only two possible conclusions. Either Rev. Fr. Jegat Gasper Raj does not know what is symphony, or he just misuses the words ‘symphony’ and ‘Mozart’ to get funds and market his product, unaware of the damages to the aesthetics of the music field and especially to music education in the process.
Unfortunately for Fr. Gasper Raj, Thiruvasagam did not attract the Sri Lankan Diasporas attention and subsequently it was financially a debacle.
He was heard lamenting that if he could have made Tamil music maestro Ilayaraaja to direct and sing Tigers songs he could have reaped a few crores as profit.
When he failed to win the support of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora he tried to win over the support of the Brahmins, but he again failed miserably. When he was openly supporting the LTTE he criticized Thuklak editor Cho Ramasamy as well as N.Ram of The Hindu. But when he returned later to win over the support of the Brahmins he failed to win over his erstwhile adversaries.
In the meantime, when DMK under the leadership of M. Karunanidhi, managed to win back the power in the last elections, Fr. Gaspar Raj moved fast to win the favour of the new Tamil Nadu regime. He won by using Ms. Kanimozhi one of the Board of Trustees and coordinator of the Tamil Maiyam .
Ms. Kanimozhi is the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and the leader of the ruling party DMK.
She is also poet and also run `Karuthu', an organization run by her and Karthi Chidambaram, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's son, to espouse freedom of speech, and expression of views. It is said that Karuthu is a non-political organization. Karuthu does not have an opinion on its own; nor does it reflect collective opinion. This is a forum for people to express their opinions in a decent manner. Karuthu is not constrained in any manner by religion, caste, and creed; nor is it shy of any subject. Politics, philosophy, contemporary understanding of history, social issues and all matters may be discussed here. One may also take a contrary view. The only requirement is that there should not be any personal attack.
This was the time LTTE wanted to make thei presence felt in India again. Tamil Tigers were getting disenchanted with Vaiko – V,Gopalasamy, the leader of the Marumalarchchi Dravida Munnetra Kalgam (MDMK).
LTTE leadership, after a lapse of a long period of time, contacted Fr. Gaspar Raj who in turn proved himself as an indispensable person by organizing the meeting of the TNA parliamentary group with the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and on the following day the meeting of TNA MPs with Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.
Political sources claim that millions of Indian rupees changed hands from the Tiger coffers for the arrangement of these meetings.
- Asian Tribune -