Call for Reparations for Descendants of Victims of indenture

Call for Reparations for Descendants of Victims of indenture

Slavery and indentureship were among the most heinous and inhumane crimes -- human indignity the slaves and indentured suffered during the periods of slavery and indentureship (which has been described as an extended period of slavery -- committed on people in the New World. African nationalists have justifiably led the battle for reparation of descendants of Blacks for African enslavement And these nationalists have been given recognition and support by Caricom governments. In fact, Caricom has established (in 2013) a reparation commission to pursue compensation to be doled out to descendants of the victims of slavery. Caricom funds this body which has a chairman and several members all of whom are compensated and have received stipends for their work and refunds for travel. Community leaders and scholars I have spoken with feel there should also be reparatory justice for the descendants of victims of indenturedship and native genocide. And as such, they feel a similar body as the Caricom African Reparations Commission should be established and funded by Caricom as an issue of fairness and equity to the other ethnic groups living in the Caribbean.

It is argued that Indians, Amerindians, Chinese and Portuguese should follow suit as our African brethren to seek justice for the victims of indentureship and native genocide. It would have been ideal for descendants of slaves to join with descendants of indentured servants and descendants of native genocide to pursue reparative justice from Europeans. But African nationalists and Caricom governments want to pursue their own struggle for compensation for Blacks in the Caribbean. This leaves the victims of indentureship and native genocide to seek their own compensation separately as each group or in unison. Pursuing justice, they must.

The issue or precedence of compensation for victims has been widely established. People or businesses were paid for broken contracts and injustice since the 1800s. The US set aside funds for the native Indians. France demanded reparations from Haiti for breaking away. Europe demanded and received reparations from Germany. Britain doled out funds to businesses for freeing the slaves in 1834. America paid the Japanese. While the plantation owners received compensation for ending slavery and indentureship, the victims did not receive compensation. There was no compensation for crimes related to indentureship, breaking of contracts, cheating of indentured servants, etc. Today, 100 years later, many of the descendants of indentured servants live in institutional poverty, high unemployment, lack of skills, etc. Specific unjust harms have been identified. It is important to make people understand that indentureship was a form of slavery and that it was wrong. It was a system of labor holding people in bondage for a purpose. The goal was to earn money, to make money off of their bodies and abusing them without just compensation. Reparation is to make some meaningful compensation to assist those affected – especially those living in abject poverty and illiteracy, etc.

The wrongs the ancestors of present day descendants of indentured servants suffered were/are largely the cause of their current conditions. These wrongs must be corrected. And this can be done through reparation. A fund should be established to help facilitate the development of the various groups that need a push to uplift themselves. And the European powers cannot cry they have no funds. The economies and wealth of the major European countries were built on the backs of the indentured laborers after the collapse of the sugar estates following the abolition of slavery in 1838. It was the Indian indentured servants who rebuilt the economies of the major European powers post slavery. Sugar and other agro products linked to the indentured servants became the dominant commodities during that period. The Indian indentured became inextricably linked to Europe and the New World in the mid-19th century. The Indians and others were enslaved and robbed of their labor; the productivity of their labor was used to enrich Europe and the colonies themselves as well as their companies that pursued wealth in the colonies. The indentured created capital and wealth for plantation owners to expand their empire and wealth; those who became wealthy in the post slavery did so only because of the labor of the indentured servants. Thus, it is being argued that like the descendants of slaves, the descendants of indentured and genocide also deserve compensation.

The leaders of the various ethnic indentured groups and the natives should decide on the type and amount of compensation they deserve. Cash money is impractical. Instead, as African nationalists are demanding, the groups should seek funds to assist depressed communities among the natives and rural areas. Funds can be sought for training in various skills that can help with economic, social and political upliftment of these countless victims of indentureship and native genocide. Funds can be sought for developing institutions to advance education to eradicate illiteracy as well as to promote health care. Youths can receive STEM and agricultural training for agro industries. Scholarships can be offered to youngsters to acquire skills in the European countries. Reparations are due the descendants of indenture servants and native genocide.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram