The Indian diaspora worldwide was used to enhance British colonialism, imperialism as a deliberate policy in the then British Empire
East Indian immigrants were forced out of India between 1845 and 1917 in order to enhance British interests and plantation owners where ever they went. This initiative was a continuation of the British domination in all its colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and whilst these immigrants made an indelible contribution to the economic and socio-cultural contribution to their newly-found homes, they were traumatized, scorned, belittled and were treated in the most inhumane conditions. It was not easy in terms of human civilization.
And whilst, the East Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago triumphed over the decades, they did so under great social, economic and political stress, all of which continue unabated in today’s society. The Indian diaspora is not a tribal group, rather it has become functional, and it has contributed immensely to the development of Trinidad and Tobago, and this would continue. Throughout that the diligence, hard work, thrift and sacrifice made over the past 178th, years, May 30,2023 must be construed as footprints for our nation, and for which other ethnic groups should emulate and build upon. Approximately 147,000 East Indians came from such places as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They are sited in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, USA or Europe, they have made a great mark for others to take a pattern, and follow suit.
The University of the West Indies, or for that matter, the University of Trinidad and Tobago should undertake an in depth study of all the ethnic groups for future reference for scholars, researchers and students of world history. It is fitting that as we celebrate the 178th anniversary today, since the first group of our forefathers set foot on this land, that such an undertaking becomes a reality.
Indian Arrival Day, whilst it is an opportunity for reflection, it should become a monumental occasion for all of us, including the other ethnic groups, to rebrand our own portfolios with the view of promoting the concept of national development and nation building to greater heights than when they came here.
This must be undertaken in a collective and bipartisan effort as all of us are children of Mother Trinidad and Tobago. Let the true spirit of patriotism that the national citizenry flow with the temper of the times, and now. It is about time that celebrations to mark Indian Arrival Day whether in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Mauritius and Fiji must take a new format and a more scientific approach. (Fiji, this year celebrated Indian Arrival Day on May 15, and from now on it would be a national holiday)
We must move away from the traditional Carnival-style parades, whether they are on the roads or the oceans, floats, religious services and grandiose speeches by politicians and others. As all these activities
are seminal and are quickly forgotten until the next Indian Arrival Day, and this repetition must not continue, or become an integral factor as an Indian Arrival Day functionary. This approach does not provide or offer a new learning process or respect for future generations. We, the leaders of the Diaspora must embark or seek to etch out a new civilizational concept ushering, both a psychological, political and philosophical framework for its continued observance for generations to come.
In the Preface to the seminar held at the University of the West Indies in June 1975, Bridget Brereton and Winston Dookeran, two international scholars in the sciences, wrote: “The symposium on East Indians in the Caribbean was organized in the awareness that issues are central to the future development of the region. The aim was to provide a forum for research and to bring together these findings in the field. We hope that new perspectives on these issues have emerged from the deliberations of the symposium and that as a result new areas of research have opened up”. Apparently, there were similar parleys but nothing of substance emerged. There must be regular parleys to focus any aspects of positive growth or otherwise.
Nobel Laureate, V.S, Naipaul who gave the introduction: “We forget we have no idea of our past; it is part of the trouble, We, came from a culture that has not been given much to self-examination or to historical inquiry. And it is not only today. After the old culture has been more or less been lost. Its values overthrown; only today that people can begin to look at themselves. This is the first paradox; that self-awareness should come only with this loss. But the self-awareness is revolutionary and I think that this first at self-examination—this first Indian attempt at self-examination—this intellectual response to a cultural loss, this break with the past—makes the community more complex and interesting that it perhaps has been.”
This vaunts back to a solution of psychological and political stimulus. Otherwise, the whole concept of the annual Indian Arrival Day trajectory will be blown into the oblivion, and probably forgotten. Other countries will similar ethnic stocks are now given new clout and impetus to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate Indian Arrival Day, with no scorn, no fake. But with jubilation, honour and respect.
We, in Trinidad and Tobago can take a page from similar countries. It is getting late.
(The late Ramdath Jagessar, a journalist friend, who was one of the leading protagonists for the enactment of Indian Arrival Day, passed away in April 2023).