The East Indian Indentured Immigrants have redefined and shaped the history and cultural ethos of Guyana with their resourcefulness and sacrifices to establish a progressive and democratic society for the benefit of all Guyanese. Many unsung East Indian heroes were martyred to challenge the abominable treatment and inhumane conditions that were synonymous with the slave-like conditions that characterized the oppressive abuse that was meted by the colonial plantation owners to the “coolies”, as they were ‘demeaningly’ called.
These indentured (coolies) immigrants, notwithstanding, persevered and found the courage and resolve to refute and challenge the unfair and punitive labor practices and discriminations of their colonial masters to become one of the foundational pillars of the present-day robust Guyanese society. They forged bonds of integrated kinship with all the races and working-class citizens of Guyana and became an integral link in the demands for Independence. Indeed! no doubt, the East Indians’ arrival in Guyana has redefined the landscape with the synthesis of a homogenous and forward-thinking society. Today, Guyanese are a proud people, of which, the offsprings of the Indentured Immigrants are one the cornerstones of this great nation.
A May 2, 2022 letter signed by several hundred persons to Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali requested that the government consider that “May 5th be designated as “Indian Arrival Day”, to mark and commemorate this undeniable momentous and significant historical event that has paved the way for the birth of a dynamic and distinctive society. “It is a long-overdue acknowledgment to recognize the tremendous contributions of people of Indian origin to the unique history, vibrant culture, and economic progress in Guyana”, stated Ashook Ramsaran, President of Indian Diaspora Council International. Ramsaran continued, “We also recognize the invaluable contributions over several generations that persons of Indian origin have made to the diverse culture and economic development of Guyana”.
The organizers of the petition stated that this petition does not, in any way, diminish the many contributions of other ethnic groups in Guyana, in particular, the descendants of African slaves brought to then British Guiana against their will yet persevered under inhuman conditions. Further, it should be noted that several countries with significantly smaller percentages of people of Indian origin celebrate Indian Arrival Day as a national holiday. Examples: Grenada, St. Vincent, The Grenadines, Suriname, and others. Ramsaran and Ramnarine Sahadeo Jr (Toronto, Canada) collaborated on the petition, garnering signatories in Guyana, USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Reunion Island, France, and India.
By Cliff Rajkumar,
President, Indian Diaspora council, Canada.