Indian Diaspora remains a powerful force in world history
Photo : Paras Ramoutar
In Russia, there are celebrations marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution at St. Petersburg in March 2018. This observation coincided with the end of Indian indentureship in the British colonies in 1917 to 2017.
In Trinidad and Tobago, there were no such observances either by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, when considering that the Indian diaspora has played, and continues to play an integral—very integral—role in the socio-economic and political development of this country.
This remains so, not withstanding the fact that the Emancipation Committee and other relevant and irrelevant Black organizations, celebrate their Emancipation Day (August 1) annually with millions of dollars from the state coffers.
This is yet another stance of political and social discrimination of the 44 per cent of this country’s populations. No public holiday, not even a one-time one, as it was done to the Chinese and in 2017 for the First Peoples.
My great-grand father boarded the S.S. Rhine at the age of three years, along with other siblings and relatives, which left the Port of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on July 6, 1888 and landed at Port-of-Spain on October 2, 1888. He and thousands of others were quarantined at Chachachare, Gulf of Paria for a short period. As he grew older, he was sent to work on the Esperanza Estate, Gran Couva.
My great- grandfather’s name was Gajadhar Ramoutar. He came from the district of Shahabad in the State of Haryana. The village of Shahabad is about 100 miles north of New Delhi, and the identical village is Kawpura.
Can you imagine Trinidad and Tobago without the approximately 146,519 East Indians who came during the period 1845 to 1917? There would have been no doubles with coconut chutney. No anchar. No pholourie. No roti with chana and potato, or chicken. No chutney music. No dhantal. No kind of East Indian cuisine which today are mouth-watering and in demand all over the world. No saris, no Hindu weddings or yagnas.
The East Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago remains a success story with cinematic precision as it has been able, despite several odds—racial, religious, cultural and sociological—to remain a force to reckon with. East Indians have held noteworthy positions in politics, economics, professions and business. The East Indian diaspora gave the country its first woman and Hindu Prime Minister, in the person of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, first East Indian Governor of the Central Bank, Winston Dookeran, first East Indian President in the person of the late Noor Hassanali, and the story continues.
On this very historic moment in world history, the Dr Keith Rowley has refused to award notable members of the East Indian diaspora with any honour or accolade. What a tragedy in the continued development and amalgamation in our society! This remains a very scornful act in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
And in March 1917, the world stood in wonder as the British Parliament passed the India Defence Act which was an official declaration to abolish East Indian migration. This came about because of the urgings and protests of several personages like Mahatma Gandhi. And the question still rages in the minds of historians and sociologists and researchers- would it have continued had it not been for Gandhi’s timely intervention?
Against this background, the “Global Indian Diaspora Charting New Frontiers Conference,” was held in Trinidad and Tobago to mark the Centennial of the Abolition of Indian Indentureship on March 17, 2017 at Divali Nagar, Endeavour, Chaguanas and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha’s Headquarters, St. Augustine.
This country formed part of the league of 31 countries stretching the globe where the Indian diaspora is located as it was proposed to be, “a major historical, cultural and sociological project aimed at enhancing the cultural and social and economic stock and innate capacities of those who came from India between 1845 and 1917”.
Several national and international dignitaries addressed the conference, including Trinidad and Tobago’s former Prime Minister and now Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar; former Governor General of New Zealand, Sir Anand Satyanand; Shri Dnyaneshwar M.Mulay, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, India, among several others. One of the highlights of the conference was the unveiling of a plaque by the Mayor of Chaguanas, Gopaul Boodhan.
Several similar activities was undertaken in India(Uttar Pradesh, Chennai, Lucknow, Patna, Bihar, Kolkata), USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, St.Vincent, Grenada, St.Lucia, Guadeloupe and Martinique, among other countries until March 2018.