I happened to look at two Indian Arrival programs on television hosted by Blacks. I am now asking the question: Who controls the narratives on Indian history and society? Issues such as the contents of the curriculum, appointments to the senior ranks of the public service and other national issues are never talked about.
The host usually invites quests who confine their conversations to the seeds that Indians brought in their jahaji bundle. Do you know that our Indian ancestors brought mangoes to Trinidad? That’s a MIILLION DOLLAR REVELATION!
I remember attending an Indian Arrival Day presentation hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. The presenter did a power point presentation for more than forty-five minutes on artefacts brought by our Indian ancestors. It was puknee, bilna, chowki and tawa all the way! Nothing was said about Indian thoughts and other values such as thrifts, hard work, sacrifice and our strong family unit.
The guardians of our culture and history are willing to speak about safe issues or what the creole society sanctions. Issues such as the contents of the school’s curriculum are never raised. For example, in the Caribbean History at the CSEC level, Indian indentureship is part of a chapter on migration that includes the Portuguese, Chinese, free Blacks, Syrians, etc. A look at any text on Caribbean history would reveal that Indians are confined to a single chapter, nothing more. This is so despite the reality that Indians are the largest minority in three territories: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname.
Gerard Besson and Bridget Brereton in The Book of Trinidad wrote profusely on the Amerindians, Spanish, French and Africans but confined Indians to a single chapter. The same was done by Dr. Eric Williams in his book -A History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago.
Have our academics murdered Bhadase Sagan Maraj! His contribution to the political, social and religious life of the country is suppressed and there is no protest. It is enough to talk in hush tones in an Indian social setting. However, to agitate for his contribution to be included in the social history of the country would be deemed stirring trouble.
Rudranath Capildeo, a renowned Trinidadadian, is hardly known to the population for his contribution to science and politics. His numerous scientific papers have assisted with numerous inventions including space travel. Thanks to former Governor of the Central Bank, Jwala Rambarran, the Rudranath Capildeo Lecture Series was launched in 2014. The first lecture in this series titled From Lion House to Legend was delivered by Dr. Rudy Capildeo, the son of Dr. Rudranath Capildeo on May 04, 2014. In this lecture the public was given a glimpse of the scientific genius of Dr. Rudranath Capildeo.
On the 1st of June 2021, President Biden visited Tulsa, Oklahoma to mark a dastardly chapter in American history-the murder and destruction of a striving Black community in Oklahoma by Whites. I applaud this move and the demand for compensation for the losses suffered. President Biden also remarked that history should not be kept in the dark and it was time that America acknowledges those missteps.
Are our governments highlighting the injustices suffered by Indians in the Caribbean? For example, why is the Wismar Massacre of Guyana not spoken about? This diabolic crime against Indo Guyanese was planned by the leaders of the PNC. Blacks were incited to turn against their Indian neighbors. Rapes, murders, burning of homes and numerous heinous crimes were committed against Indo Guyanese men, women and children. No one was spared the carnage! Similar acts were repeated in other parts of the country but ignored by the powers that be.
Why is the Guyanese government silent on this injustice? Wismar Massacre was in 1964, much later than the massacre of blacks in Tulsa and yet the Guyanese government refuses to commemorate it. Worse, some Guyanese newspapers have chosen not to publish any material on the massacre. May be, they are hoping that ignoring these horrific events would help to strengthen race-relations in Guyana.
Indian culture, language, food and fashion are not integrated into the school’s curriculum. In graduation ceremonies at the St Augustine Campus of The UWI elements of African culture- African drumming, calypso, soca, moko jumbie – are part of the event but nothing culturally Indian.
In the history of Trinidad and Tobago there is nothing on the Moharram Massacre of 1884. Thanks to the late Dr. Kenneth Parmasad who researched and wrote a thesis on the Moharram Massacre for his M.A in History that this event has come to the attention of public. Raviji, Spiritual Head and founder of the Hindu Prachaar Kendra, has been marking the event with an annual march from Chaguanas to Mon Repos, San Fernando, one of the three places where Indians were shot and killed.
For how long are Indians going to talk about kuchela, jalabi and baigan choka? Food is one among several major contributions Indians have made to this society. As Indians, we need to lift the people above their taste buds and mouth-watering cravings.
Indians can learn much from blacks both in Trinidad and the USA. A glance at events marking Emancipation Day would reveal Blacks talking about issues of discrimination in employment, ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, Black Lives Matter, etc.
If Indians do not set the agenda our academics would be reduced to taking about Bhojpuri, Indian recipes and fashion and not to be bothered about becoming equal partners in administrating the commanding heights of the economy – banks, insurance, state enterprises etc. Or, are we qualified to speak only about nara, hasuli, bush medicine puknee, chula and Bhojpuri?