Bringing people together is necessary to effect social change. All the great social transformation that took place happened after mass mobilization of the people. The best example I can offer in Trinidad and Tobago is the 1937 Labour Uprising in south Trinidad. It was not a few but thousands of workers that joined the picket line. Leaders such as T U B Butler and A C Rienzi were thrown up to lead the people.
There were confrontations with the police as attempts were made to arrest the leaders and suppress the will of the people. This led to violent outbursts from the people resulting in the burning to death of PC Charlie King when he attempted to arrest Butler.
Arising from this social uprising was the Moyne Commission which, after listening to the grievances of the people, made several recommendations, one being universal adult suffrage and another being workers’ right to belong to a trade union.
Another mass mobilization-within the Indian community-was the strong protest against the literacy test to disqualify Indians from voting in the 1946 general elections for internal self-government. This sinister move by the Creole society to disenfranchise the Indians on the ground that they could not read and write in the English Language met with resistance from AC Rienzi who mobilized Indian masses against this injustice. The Governor, fearing social unrest, used his powers to give way for all citizens 21 years and over to vote.
Another significant event, this time in the Hindu community, was the birth of the Maha Sabha in 1952 that united the Sanatanist Hindus to win approval from the State to open and manage schools. Given the Muslims and other minor Hindu sects- APS and KPA – were already granted permission to build and operate schools, the Sanatanist Hindus buried their differences and united two major organizations to form the Maha Sabha. This was quite an achievement as the majority of Hindus were given an opportunity to study in a Hindu school which resulted in a decline in attendance at the Presbyterian schools. This was well played out in Tunapuna when the doors of the Tunapuna Hindu School were opened resulting in a mass exodus of Hindu children from the nearby Presbyterian school on Cochrane Street.
Hindus had buried their petty differences to come together for the greater welfare of the community. In more recent times, Divali Nagar, pioneered by the NCIC, had the cooperation and full participation of several groups, mandirs and individuals, all working for the greater welfare of the community.
In 1995 when the Patrick Manning granted May 30 a public holiday it was because he had no other choice. The mobilization of the national community was already achieved with the coming together of IRRA-Indian Revival and Reform Association led by the indomitable Ramdath Jagessar, the Indian Review Committee, the Hindu Seva Sangh and the Sanatan Dhrma Maha Sabha and its numerous mandirs scattered across the country.
When the original Temple in the Sea at Waterloo built by the Sadhu was dilapidated there were several individuals making promises to have it rebuilt, the Hindu Seva Sangh, very quietly mobilized the communities of Waterloo, Orange Valley, Brickfield in a massive cultural program to commemorate Indian Arrival Day. It was at that first commemoration that the Sangh laid the foundation stone for the installation of a statue of Seedass Sadhu. Incorporating the support of the family of Seedass Sadhu and the Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation, a sculptor was identified and the monument was built and installed the following year by President Noor Hasanali.
The herculean task of the Sadhu and the hardships and persecution he suffered by the colonial State including the serving of a jail term in his efforts to construct a mandir, touched the hearts of the people. Resources were mobilized from both the private sector and the government and the temple was rebuilt. Today, the Temple in the Sea stands majestically at the Waterloo Bay on the western shoreline of central Trinidad and remains a leading tourist destination.
The indigenous people of the Caribbean failed to unite in large numbers. Constantly fighting and failing to hone their skills and advance their civilization, they fell prey to the conquistadors. Individuals survive; conglomerates prosper. Infighting and quarrels are a feature of the lower class and the lumpen elements. No hierarchy in the family and community, every man, woman and child arrogate unto themselves the right to lead and if they don’ t have their way they form their own organization with their brother, sister, wife, son, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and their dogs and cats.
As education increases in our community, and we no longer dependent on the family business for an income, there is no reason to stay together. In such an environment, life becomes simplified as the individual ego takes over but nothing significant is achieved. With this attitude empty rhetoric becomes the modus operandi. Survival takes precedence as insecurity increases with the decline of group values and responsibilities.
The result is failure and blame game. Instead of engaging in meaningful work, conniving and plotting become the order of the day. With limited success under one’s belt, frustration steps in as the goal becomes elusive with Yamraj knocking on the door. HARI OM TAT SAT.