blog | werkgroep caraïbische letteren

Celebrate ‘Indian arrival’ or ‘Indian deliverance’? (3 en slot)

[de onderstaande passage werd niet opgenomen in het artikel van prof. Chaman Lal in The Guardian dat we hier eerder overnamen]

by Chaman Lal

In fact the day to celebrate in these countries is 1st January uniformly as ‘Deliverance Day’, but what they celebrate is not their deliverance, but their semi slavery status. And by pomp of word ‘Arrival’, they unwittingly give signs of the colonial mindset, as only colonialists had this pleasure of celebrating arrival in colonies, like that of Columbus, Vasco de Gama kind of Spanish colonialists, who became instruments of future colonial conquers in the world of Africa, Asia and smaller countries of Latin/South America, Caribbean! Indians by their arrivals in these countries had got only sufferings for themselves and prosperity for their masters, like ex black slaves suffered.

Another sad part of this whole anti slavery and anti indentured system movements and freedom from these, is that the integration between East (wrong term, given by colonialists) Indians and Blacks have not taken place at the level, it was desirable. Blacks and Indians both communities were brought to these far off countries by colonial masters. Technically they were free to go back to their root countries after their emancipation/deliverance, some Indians returned to their bitter experiences back home, where rather than being welcomed, they were treated with much contempt and misbehaviour due to caste system and orthodox beliefs of crossing impure ‘kala pani’(black waters of the sea) , so many had to get back to their indentured countries. Blacks had a more tragic past; their connection to their roots was completely lost due to centuries’ gap in between. Blacks even lost the memory of the place from where they came! Under the circumstances both communities became the naturalised citizens of these countries along with small communities of natives like Amerindians and in the process they all became nationals of new nations after freedom from colonialism. It would have been natural for these nationals to merge and mingle with each other through inter racial marriages, bringing into existence the new community of mixed race communities, which did not happen. Such was the cultural resistance to such efforts that first feature film- Wan Pipel (One People) by Pim de la Parra, made in Suriname in 1976, brings this reality into focus. In the film Hindi speaking Indian descent girl Rubia dares to fall in love with black Surinamese Roy, she is out casted and harassed by her family, while Roy, who was in love with Dutch white girl in Holland, while studying, and was supposed to go back to Holland to complete his studies; as he came only to see her dying mother, decides to stay back with Rubia. Roy’s father is as opposed to this relation, as are Rubia’s family. After more than three decades of this film, conditions have not changed much. Even the East Indian descent actress, who played this role, was harassed in Suriname and had to shift to Holland! In Trinidad & Tobago, there is a black statue in Siparia town Catholic church, which is claimed as ‘Divina Pastora’ by Catholics and they believe the statue coming from neighbouring Venezuela, but Hindus claim here it to be ‘Siparee ki Mai’, a folk image, which later day Hindu religious fundamentalists distorted it to as ‘Durga’ or ‘Kali’! Chinese Buddhists claim it to be Chinese girl statue, while some believe in the myth of Kampuchean priests bringing it from Kampuchea! The good part of it is that though the statue is part of a Church, Hindus visit the statue for worship or offerings on every Friday, with happy arrangements with Church, though some sectarian trends among Hindus in Trinidad try to whip up ‘Temple’ phenomenon here, like that in ‘Ayodhya-Babri Masjid’ dispute in India. But they cannot whip up hysteria like India in Trinidad & Tobago, as many Christian and Muslims priests and commoners are of Indian descent and they generally live in harmony here. In fact the Siparia formula can be very useful for resolving Babri Masjid site dispute as well, where Hindus with faith in Lord Rama, can be allowed to visit the site once in a week, like in Siparia church site with mutual trust among both Hindu and Muslim faiths. Hindus and Christians of East Indian descent claim Jahazy revolt of 1884 in Trinidad, as part of Indian tradition and not just Muslim revolt, it is called ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ of Trinidad here, though the numbers of killings in state attack were nowhere near Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, where on 13th April, 1919, hundreds of people were shot dead by the notorious General Dyer’s forces, while attending a peaceful protest meeting.

Interesting part of indentured labour immigration to different countries is that in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Fiji; large number of people went from east Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, though some from Bengal and south India also went. In South Africa and East Africa, more people from Gujarat and Punjab and South India went. Later in the early twentieth century, Punjabis went as free labour to USA, Canada and UK. While only Mauritius has been able to preserve its Indian demographic and cultural structure, most of the other countries of the Indian Diaspora are now getting mixed and mingled with other Diasporas in terms of language use. Mauritius is still able to preserve Indian languages—Bhojpuri, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Urdu, where a full fledged department of Indian languages functions in the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, as part of University of Mauritius to teach these languages, apart from Sanskrit. South Indian temples exist as much as other temples in Mauritius and Fiji. Fiji and Suriname are able to preserve Hindi as a common language of all people of Indian descent, but other countries have mostly lost the existence of Indian languages in public life and these may be just surviving in some homes and some religious gatherings. Though large number of Indian indentured labourers returned to India after completion of their term, but more than that stayed back and now after three generations are more, they have become most prosperous in these countries.

The celebration of Indian Arrival day started in these countries, after Indian descent people became prosperous and started sharing political power as part of ruling classes. Mauritius, from the very beginning had Indian descent people in political power. After Shiv Sagar Ramgoolam, Dr. Anerood Jugannath and Dr. Naveen Chander Ramgoolam(son of Shiv Sagar Ramgoolam) are sharing power, though being in different parties. In Trinidad & Tobago, after Basdeo Pandey remained Prime Minister in 1997 period, now Kamla Prasad Bissesar of Indian descent is Prime Minister since 2010. In Guyana Dr. Cheddi Jagan , a Marxist of Indian descent had been most popular leader of the country, remaining Prime Minister and President for many years. Bharat Jagdeo of Indian descent, from Cheddi Jagan’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is President of the country since last almost a dozen years and his successor is likely to be again of Indian descent, Donald Ramoutar of the same party, when the elections are held this November. In Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhary from Rohtak background family was the fourth Prime Minister of the country for short period. Suriname also had Indian descent Presidents of the country like Fred Ramdutt Misier during 1982-88 and Ramsewak Shankar during 1988-90. Jules Ajodhia had been Vice President during 1991 and 2000-2005, while Pretaap Radhakishun remained Vice President during 1996-2000, Ramdin Sarjue remained Vice President during 2005-2010. Surinamese Vice President is equal to Prime Minister’s position and chairs the Cabinet meetings; the post was created after the abolition of Prime Minister’s post in 1987. Pretaap Radhakaishun remained Prime Minister of Suriname, the only Indian descent person to hold the post, for a brief period during 1986-87. However it was in Jaggernath Lachmon, a former speaker of National Assembly or Parliament with 50 members, Suriname had a strong leader of Indian descent people, whose statue finds a pride place in Independent square of Paramaribo, capital of Suriname. New Zealand had its Governor General Anand Satyanand from Indo-Fijian background. There have been ministers in many countries from Indian descent people in South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Tanzania, Zambia etc.

Since Indian descent people after becoming prosperous and part of ruling classes, holding political power, it has created a sense of suspicion in other communities in these countries, particularly when this event of Indian arrival is not marked as sombre event and celebrated with certain sobriety, with remembrance of the past sufferings gone through by Indian indentured labour in these place, a century or more ago. At most of the places the event is celebrated with pomp and show, like a happy festival, which is supported by Indian Government official as part of their official diplomatic duties in many ways. When Africans celebrate Emancipation day, they bring into focus the horrible days of slavery through films, exhibitions, lectures, songs and make it an event to remember their ancestors for their sacrifices for the prosperity of present generation; but Indian arrival day rarely focuses upon the sufferings gone through by their ancestors, except in some seminar papers; sadly present generation does not have much knowledge about these suffering of their ancestors, they are too much engrossed in the pleasures of consumerism brought by the prosperity.

It is only after Emancipation and freedom from colonial yoke, that some of the Africans have prospered, but not all. So are with Indian descent people in these countries, some or little more of them, than Africans have prospered in these countries, but only after Deliverance and not before. So Indian descent people in these countries need to learn from history and review their days of celebrations. It is 1st January as ‘Deliverance day, which should be celebrated in all these countries, like ‘Emancipation day’. Arrival day may be marked, like a day of penitence, by way of fasting, in memory of sufferings of those ancestors, who suffered during their Indentured labour bondage period!

[from The Guardian, 23-10-2011]

[voor de deel 1 klik hier, voor deel 2 klik hier]

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