Caribbean and South American Hindus in growth and decline

If you ask me how Hindus originally from the Caribbean and South America are doing here in Canada I would have to answer we are doing quite well, all things considered. If I ask you residents of the Caribbean and South America how the Hindus are doing you would have no choice but to answer quite badly, all things considered.

Caribbean and South American Hindus in growth and decline
Photo : Ramdath Jagessar

If you ask me how Hindus originally from the Caribbean and South America are doing here in Canada I would have to answer we are doing quite well, all things considered.

If I ask you residents of the Caribbean and South America how the Hindus are doing you would have no choice but to answer quite badly, all things considered.

If this is true, and let’s explore that right now, how has this come about and what are the reasons for this good and bad karma respectively.

First, let’s lay out the facts.

Hindus in Canada were 497, 200 by the 2011 census, have been growing steadily in number and influence and security since 1971 when they were .05% of the population to 2011 when we reached 1.45%. Caribbean and South American origin Hindus, mostly from Guyana and Trinidad, are around 200,000 of the total Hindus and are also growing as the larger group. I count 60,000 of the estimated 150, 000 Trini-Canadians as Hindus and 140,000 of the estimated 225,000 Guyanese-Canadians as Hindus.

Our Hindus and Hindus in general are quite well respected in Canada even by the other religions and missionary converters are not a serious threat. We are doing reasonably well in the economy, in education and in social terms. We have no political enemies, no ethnic groups see us as enemies, no criminals are targeting us, and we have personal security undreamed of by our cousins in the old countries. In short, we can claim good standing in this country, and a guaranteed future into this 21st century. We have our problems of course, but nothing to scream about.

When we look at our Hindu bhai and bahen in the Caribbean and South America we have to conclude they don’t have any of the plus factors I mentioned in the previous paragraph, except perhaps doing reasonably well in the economy and education.  In the islands from Grenada up to Jamaica the Caribbean Hindus have taken the fast road to extinction and in two or three more generations will be gone. Most have converted to Christianity, intermarried with the Africans, know little or nothing about Hindu culture or traditions and are one or two percent of their nations and declining fast.

In Guyana and Trinidad Hindus are beset with enemies of religion and politics and crime, their numbers are in sharp decline all around, their future is bleak and not at all guaranteed as they take the slow road to extinction.  In Suriname the actual numbers of Hindus show an increase but this is offset by the fact that at least 150,000 of the 200,000 Hindus in the Netherlands are exiles from Suriname and 150,000 remain in Suriname. Half the Surinamese Hindus have fled the country, and that must say something huge about Hinduism there, just as the fact of exile Guyanese Hindus abroad are probably double the number of 270,000 remaining in the home country.

I don’t need to belabour the recent history of Hindus and Indians in Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname where Indians have been comprehensively beaten politically by the Africans/mixed race people, and where a state of permanent African hegemony is the future. Indians, and the Hindus among them, are in a new lifetime indentureship to the triumphant blacks. The majority of the Indians have fled from Guyana and Suriname and one third of the Indians from Trinidad, sadly most of them being the cream of the crop.

We all know of the unrelenting hostility and hatred from all quarters that has been the diet of Hindus particularly in Guyana and Trinidad and the other Caribbean nations (I can’t speak for Suriname).  We all know of the racial targeting by criminals mostly of the African group, the job and economic discrimination, the scorn and contempt shown by the Christians, the social and cultural blows rained on Hindus over the long decades.

The result is clear if we take Trinidad as the sample example. When Hindus first came to Trinidad in 1845 they were roughly 88% of the Indian population but that number has steadily declined until in the year 2000 they were just 56.19% of the Indian population.  Today in 2019 the Trinidad Hindus are probably close to the danger mark of 50% of the Indians with an accelerating bell curve going downwards. Hindus are also steadily declining as a portion of the total Trinidad population, for example dropping from 22.5% in the year 2000 to 18.2% in 2011, a fall of 4.3% in 11 years. The future is not good, the future is not guaranteed.  There’s a similar picture for Guyana if anybody cares to do a little internet research.

But there must be some reason or reasons why Guyana and Trinidad Hinduism have taken such a fall that does not apply to Hinduism in Canada, where we didn’t always have it easy. We had our hard times too as a tiny minority group not well understood or appreciated.

One of them in Canada has to be the absence of aggressive Christian missionaries relentlessly targeting Hindus as they have done in the Caribbean and South America. The Christian missionaries here in Canada are so mild and water-washed that we shoo them away easily. They can’t locate us by the jhanda in front our houses as they do in Trinidad and Guyana: we don’t have them telltale flags in Canada.  Their crusades are not a big draw, and neither are their radio and television shows or their lunatic roadside preachers.  The Christian churches themselves are terribly weakened, their vast cathedrals running close to empty, young people ignoring them, scandals left and right, all except the Pentecostals staggering like Octoberfest beer drunks.  Come to think of it, they are like the Trinidad and Guyana Hindus, soaking up blows with no light ahead in the tunnel.

In Trinidad and Guyana, however, the Hindus biggest problem seems to be the massive loss of members (which I estimate at 10% per annum for Trinidad!), and a problem which they have done exactly nothing to counter.  I’ve been told there are no more Hindu villages in Trinidad, because pretty much every one now has a Pentecostal church filled to the rafters with former Hindus. Vans fan out every Sunday morning to pick up the happy Hindu kids for Sunday school, and others fan out every Saturday letting out charged up missionaries seeking homes with Hindu jhanda in front, to talk about God to welcoming and receptive Hindus. The Christians are doing their work well, the Hindus are not. In business terms, any company losing 10% of their customers annually is headed straight for receivership and eventually bankruptcy and closure. The Hindu business is toast, burnt toast. I’m not hearing of any signs of serious recovery, no signs of reclaiming old customers or finding new ones outside the Hindu base, and if such signs exist that I have missed, let me have them quick quick!   

Trinidad and Guyana Hindus seem to have no answer for their political capture. They have no answer to the criminal ethnic targeting, to the racial kidnapping, to the ever-present job discrimination, to the attempts to impose a failing and disgusting creole culture and racial intermarriage on them. And they can’t migrate either, as no country where they would like to go to is now accepting mass migration. 

They just don’t have solutions to these massive problems, and even more paradoxical, they don’t want to hear the opinions of the Caribbean/South American Hindu diaspora either or the advice of anybody else. They claim to be dealing with their problems when they obviously are NOT doing so. They get very angry when we Canadian Hindus say anything critical about their situation, so we have learned to keep our lips buttoned up. I expect a kickback to this column in the vein of: you think you is Naipaul? If you can’t come up with some answers stick your analysis where the sun don’t shine!

But I persevere. We don’t have those massive problems in Canada, including the hole in the dyke critical one of rampant missionary conversion. And we don’t have the personal and property security threats either. I know quite a few Caribbean Hindus but I can’t think of any whose house has been burgled, whose car has been stolen or hijacked, who has been robbed at gunpoint, whose house has burglar proofing all round and fenced yard with bad dogs roaming around 24-7. The police here are not jokers without vehicles and secret agendas to protect their criminal kith and kin. When we call them they come in minutes and really try to do their job politely and impartially.  It may not be the same for the Africans and the native Indians in Canada but that is not our problem to solve.

A greater problem for us Hindus in Canada is the powerful Western/America youth culture with its dominating music and internet /social media juggernauts taking hold of our young people.  The older ones, especially those who came here as adults and didn’t go to school here, are not so affected as the children and grandchildren. We do have an issue of transmission of Hindu culture to the youth, and most temples find young people are scarce for regular services. This, however, is a comparable problem for all the religious and ethnic groups here in Canada.

So in conclusion, what can I say to those who will say I haven’t provided any answers or even hints at solutions for Caribbean and South American Hindus at home? They are quite correct of course. But I haven’t lived in Trinidad for 30 years now and I can’t claim to know the real situation on the ground. If you on the ground can’t provide some decent answers after a lifetime of experience, do you expect me to find some after a 30 year absence? It’s enough for me to tell that you have big problems that we don’t have in Canada and that Caribbean and South American Hindus at home better buck up if you want to survive the next few generations.