“Crorepathy” Fr. Jegath Gasper Raj main link for Tigers in India

source:? Asian Tribune

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.?


Fr.  Jegath Gaspar RajFr. Jegath Gaspar Raj

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 –

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