Since Dr Bisram’s article on the struggle of the NY diaspora for democracy in Guyana, there has been much commentary. Much was left out which needs to be chronicled.
Let’s put things in perspective.
There were two main camps fighting for the restoration of democracy and free and fair elections in Guyana. There was the ORIGINAL Association of Concerned Guyanese (ACG) led by Karshan Arjune which included such people as Mel Carpen (NJ), Flattie Singh (PA),Chuck Mohan (NY) Samad Ally (NY), Danny Singh (NY) Reuben Khusial (NY), Abdul Hafeez (NY), James Morgan (NY) and a few others. Thus was a pro leftist, anti- America group. The other opposing group was the Indo Club and other incarnations like CPG, Jaguar Committee for Democracy, etc that was capitalist oriented in economic and political philosophy and was pro-American.
For the first 24 years of the ACG it was composed mostly of former residents of the village of Enterprise ECD. Then Abdul Hafeez joined and the group became more diversified for the next four years. The ACG was a leftist organization and as much as it distributed pamphlets on 14th street NYC, it was largely an ineffective group. Being socialist oriented, American lawmakers and the White House didn’t pay attention to it. The ACG had about thirty members and its chief activity was sharing out pamphlets and producing a newsletter on Guyana. It also took part occasionally in demonstrations. ACG members and I (Vassan Ramracha,) Dr Bisram and Baytoram Ramharack group distributed pamphlets on 14 st NYC (where most Guyanese shopped at that time). There were occasional verbal and physical confrontational clashes between the two members of the two groups over ideological philosophy. ACG members would hurl insults at us for being pro America, calling us imperialists and doing the bidding of USA.
The ACG was aligned with the American Communist Party and other communist leaning groups. While they were in college people like Dr Bisram, my brother Rennie Ramracha and I, Dr Baytoram Ramharack and others. founded in 1977 the Indo Caribbean Club of City College of NYC to foster brotherhood and take up issues about Guyana.
After graduation, they became affiliated with a political party called the Conservative Party of Guyana (CPG). It drew symbiotic sympathy from the Reagan Presidency’s strong anti communist policies. The CPG leadership felt there was no hope for free and fair elections with the leftist PPP leading the fight for the restoration of democracy in Guyana. In the 1980s, particularly during the latter half of the decade, other diaspora based groups were formed in America as well as in Canada, UK, Trinidad, and elsewhere. Ravi Dev and a handful of other Guyanese founded the Guyana United Democratic Movement ( GUDM) in 1986; it later became dysfunctional and around 1990 was absorbed into the Indianite movement. GUDM was closer to the WPA with Eusi Kwayana as their messiah.
After the CPG leaders were arrested in Canada the group decided to form the Jaguar Committee for Democracy. For a few successive years the Jaguar group went to Guyana during the summer months to agitate for the removal of the PNC, renting houses and paying people to cook for them with their own private funds. Theirs was strongly pro-American in opposition to the PPP sworn leftist leaning.
Balram Singh Rai and HJM Hubbard (one of the PPP founders) warned Dr Jagan about the dangers of fighting America. History has proven the Jaguar boys right when American President Jimmy Carter sanctioned free and fair elections in Guyana in 1992.
After disassociating from CPG the Jaguar Committee for Democracy (JCD) was formed. It in turn formed ROAR with Ravi Dev as leader. Dev afterwards permanently moved to Guyana where he was supported by the NY Jaguars with an office building, staff and field workers. ROAR was a right wing group and later won a seat in Guyana’s parliament. In the meanwhile Jaguar was very active in NYC picketing demonstrations picketing the UN when PNC officials addressed the world body.
It successfully picketed and shut down a real estate company owned by an Indian Guyanese lady who had given a plaque to President Hoyte on behalf of Indians. It successfully picketed the Shiva mandir in Northern Blvd, Queens NYC when Pandit Gowkarran Sharma read the yagya. Deo Gosine of the Shiva Mandir was incensed about the mandir being picketed. People boycotted the yagya when they were made aware of Pandit Sharma’s activities in Guyana. Pandit Sharma’ had said Forbes Burnham was the reincarnation of Lord Krishna. Deo later apologized to me in Trinidad for entertaining Pandit Sharma when we met. The Jaguar group also picketed PNC high officials like Dr Ptolmey Reid when he spoke in Manhattan. Dr Reid’s bodyguards brandished a gun at the picketers while they were pelted with broken bottles.
The Jaguar group also conducted a poll at UG by a group called the Turkeyen Research Institute led by Dr Baytoram Ramharack. The poll revealed the PPP would win a free and fair election. The poll was used by Dr Jagan in a meeting with the US State Department to convince them his PPP would win any election. Moses Nagamootoo revealed this pre 1992 information to the Jaguar leaders while he was still a PPP official.
Dr Dhanpaul Narine’s role was dubious. He interviewed President Desmond Hoyte and praised him in a newspaper article. Dr Narine should NOW put that interview with his picture on the internet for people to judge. Dr Narine also ingratiated himself with Sonny Ramphal at a West Indian Commission hearing at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn telling Ramphal how he had met him when he had spoken at the London School of Economics in the UK. It was an egotistical and puerile sucking up to Ramphal. While Dhanpaul was inside praising Hoyte and Ramphal, a group of us was demonstrating outside calling attention to their governance in Guyana. We stood in heavy rain protesting against Ramphal while Dhanpaul was enjoying the warmth and protection of the elements. The protest against Hoyte was on a sunny day. Both protests were organized by our group. ACG members lent solidarity.
Additionally there was an active leftist WPA group in New York . The WPA in Guyana was led by Dr Walter Rodney who was later assassinated. The prominent NYC members were Dr David Hinds, Rohit Kanhai and Dr Odaipaul Singh, who later became Swami Aksharananda.
Dr Singh reportedly wrote articles in the WPA newspaper Caribbean Daylight He had originally been removed from his teaching job in Guyana. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received a Phd in Religion. He also taught there.
Swami Aksharananda is a brilliant academician. His analyses of issues are profound and he has become a laudable, highly respected and strong Indo centric leader running his prestigious Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) school. I salute his leadership.