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National Development PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 25 July 2006

1. The East Indian legacy in St Lucia

2. Pausing to reflect..Indian presence in Jamaica 

3. The importance of the Indian to Trinidad 

4. The Plight of Indians in Guyana

5. Contribution by people of Indian origin in Jamaica

 

THE EAST INDIAN LEGACY IN ST LUCIA by Jolien Harmsen

      "For my spirit, India is too far", writes Derek Walcott. Albeit not so far
      that he cannot write, in the following verse,

      "these fields sang of Bengal, behind Ramlochan Repairs there was Uttar
      Pradesh".



      Far and near at once: the story of East Indians in St. Lucia is full of
      this paradoxical sense of historical distance yet generational proximity.
      Indian immigrants arrived in St. Lucia not so very long ago - yet they
      slipped away from India in such a remarkably unremarkable manner. "There
      are no more elders. Is only old people".

       Whereas a sizeable group of       descendants of former African slaves   continue to yearn for Africa, the
      grand- and greatgrandchildren of Indian indentured workers rarely look to
      India for political or spiritual guidance. Their lives and futures appear
      to be firmly located in the West Indies. The question remains: how did
      East Indians get to come to St. Lucia, and under what conditions?
      With the full abolition of slavery in 1838 inevitably ahead of them,
      planters everywhere in the West Indies frantically began to look for
      another source of cheap, reliable labour to work their estates. They found
      this in south-east Asia. Between 1845 and 1917, hundreds of thousands of
      indentured workers sailed from India to the Caribbean. Most went to
      Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica - but some six thousand set foot on shore in
      St. Lucia. Just over 1,600 people arrived here between 1856 and 1865 and
      another 4,427 Indians sailed to St. Lucia between 1878 and 1893.
      By 1891, there were some 2,500 East Indians in St. Lucia (colloquially
      known as 'coolies'), in a total population of 42,220 souls. Two years
      later, the last batch of indentured workers arrived on a ship called the
      'Volga', totalling 156 people. Some of the other ships on which they
      sailed here are the 'Leonidas', 'Chetah', 'Royle', 'Bann', 'Bracadaile'
      and the 'Poonah'.
      The labour contracts under which East Indians worked varied, but as a
      rule, they were bound to work on a designated estate for five years in
      return for a wage, housing, clothing, food and medical care. After five
      years they could choose between owning ten acres of land or ten pounds
      sterling or they could, after a further five or ten years of 'industrial
      residence', get a free passage back to India.
      By 1895, 721 Indians were still indentured in St. Lucia: 361 males, 152
      females, 13 children and 195 infants. In 1896, their number had dropped to
      149 and a year later, in 1897, the last Indians finished their labour
      contracts. By the turn of the century, St. Lucia had a free East Indian
      population of 2,560 persons.
      The records show that about half of all indentured labourers went back to
      India after finishing their contracts. Dozens, perhaps hundreds more would
      have liked to return, but became economic hostages after the Immigration
      Fund ran dry, leaving no money for return passages. Thus, all time-expired
      Indians who had arrived in 1891 on the 'Roumania' and in 1893 on the
      'Volga' were forced to settle in St. Lucia, despite possibly having
      families waiting for them back in India.
      So what do we see at the start of the twentieth century?
      Two and a half thousand East Indian men, women and children, settled in a
      dozen villages around the island, usually near one of the central sugar
      factories that dominated St. Lucia's economy until the 1950s.
      And then...
      "When sunset, a brass gong".
      Walcott again. A brass gong, sounded to assemble the village elders. An
      assembly that remained sacred even to a younger generation of Indians who
      were destined not to perpetuate their elders' traditions:

      "sacred even to Ramlochan,
      singing Indian hits from his jute hammock
      while evening strokes the flanks
      and silver horns of his maroon taxi,
      as the mosquitoes whine their evening mantras,
      my friend Anipheles, on the sitar,
      and the fireflies making every dusk Divali."

      Music, rites such as the Festival of Lights (Divali), some culinary
      traditions: they remain today at a time when, while some East Indians of
      the first and second generation are still alive, their youngest children
      are already seven generations or more removed from 'Calcutta', the place
      where their ancestors originated from, as they like to say. More likely,
      it is the port from which they were shipped.
      Indentured labourers in St. Lucia probably came from Bihar and Uttar
      Pradesh in Northern India. They were rural people - agricultural labourers
      and small farmers - of fairly low caste, although not usually the poorest
      people in their homeland. Many owned farms, cattle and property in India
      and came out to the Caribbean with a purpose: to save money and return
      home for a better future. Others, most notably women, used indentureship
      as a 'vehicle for emancipation', with the period of indentureship the
      price they paid for eventual (perceived) personal freedom. About
      two-thirds of indentured women were single: widows, 'deserted women',
      women who had run away from unhappy marriages, former prostitutes, single
      mothers and others.
      Migration of indentured labourers to St. Lucia was never very great but
      due to the island's low population density and their uneven distribution
      throughout the island, East Indians gained a fairly high profile in the
      ethnic make-up of the island. Essentially, Indian communities sprang up
      around the central sugar factories: Pierrot, Augier, Belle Vue and Cacao
      around the Vieux Fort factory; La Caye and Dennery near the Dennery
      factory; Marc and Forestiere near the Cul-de-Sac factory, and Anse la Raye
      near the Roseau factory. Also, a small Indian village arose in Balca,
      close to Balenbouche estate.
      Planters preferred indentured labourers to free workers of African descent
      because the contracts rendered the Indians more dependable. But in terms
      of physical endurance, East Indians were generally considered weaker. And
      while it is true that 25 to 30 percent of East Indians were in hospital at
      any one time suffering from malaria and spleen disease, 'dry-islanders'
      such as Barbadians living in St. Lucia displayed the same susceptibility
      to these illnesses.
      Moreover, the living and working conditions of indentured workers at the
      end of the 19th century were worse still than those of free people - and
      those were having a hard enough time as it was. There is the telling
      testimony of Colonial Surgeon Dr. Dennehy, who in 1897 testified that,
      "The coolies, to save money, run themselves down by underfeeding. When
      they come into hospital they pick up 10 or 12 lbs. in weight in as many
      days. Then they go out, work off their fat, and come in again to recruit".
      At the same time, it was said about other St. Lucians that they preferred
      not to be taken to hospital, "as for the sake of economy the diet has been
      cut very low, and they think they are not well enough fed."
      While interracial relations in St. Lucia never became as bitter a source
      of contention as they did in Trinidad or Guyana, East Indian elders worked
      hard at 'protecting' their families from miscegenation. They did so with
      mixed success. From early in the twentieth century, there was already a
      high enough rate of interracial sexual relations - usually between black
      men and Indian women - resulting in a sizeable mixed black/Indian
      population (colloquially known as 'Douglahs'). But interracial marriages
      remained unusual until at least the 1950s. It is only in more recent
      decades that St. Lucia has essentially become a melting pot of racial and
      ethnic distinctions - never mind the fact that there are still distinctly
      'Indian' areas in St. Lucia, and never mind that many people continue to
      colloquially indicate themselves and others as 'Koolies', 'Blacks',
      'Negroes', 'Béchés' (whites), 'Shabeens' (fair-skins), 'Redskins',
      'Syrians' and other such terms now shunned in official communications.
      Derek Walcott puts his finger on it so well. Where academics and others
      often drown their own voices in the sugar water of political correctness,
      St. Lucia's Nobel Prize laureate for Literature speaks the sober - if not
      harsh - truth about the racial coming-together of St. Lucia since the
      second half of the twentieth century:

      "they had started to poison my soul
      with their big house, big car, big-time bohbohl,
      coolie, nigger, Syrian, and French Creole,
      so I leave it for them and their carnival -
      I taking a sea-bath, I gone down the road."

      At the end of the day, creolisation has created it all: the process
      whereby peoples and cultures from an 'Old World' are transposed to a 'New
      World' where they proceed to recreate and reproduce themselves, shaping a
      culture and society that it neither a continuation of its old,
      constituting parts, nor something unrecognizably new. In St. Lucia,
      creolisation has formed everything: from the uniquely vibrant annual
      carnival celebrations, to its society in which descendants from Africans,
      Indians, Europeans and Eurasians have come together and worked out a new
      social order: one permeated, as most modern countries nowadays, with
      materialistic values and concerns. At the start of the 21st century,
      perhaps the really important difference is that at least here in St.
      Lucia, if one cares to look out for them, there are still the fireflies
      making every dusk Divali...

      References:
      * Derek Walcott, 1992. 'The Schooner Flight' and 'The Saddhu of Couva'.
      In: Collected Poems, 1948-1984 (Faber & Faber, London, Boston).
      * West India Royal Commission 1897. Report of the West India Royal
      Commission, app.C, vol.3, part VII: Proceedings, evidence, and documents
      relating to the Windward islands, the Leeward islands and Jamaica.

      Jolien Harmsen holds a Ph.D in Caribbean History. She is the author of
      'Sugar, slavery and settlement. A social history of Vieux Fort, St. Lucia,
      from the Amerindians to the present" (St. Lucia National Trust, 1999). She
      is currently involved in writing a general history of St. Lucia and a
      series of crime novels set in the Caribbean.

 

Pausing to Reflect... Indian Presence In Jamaica

      By Ann-Margaret Lym and Michael Edwards
      Sunday, March 06, 2005

      The recent occasion of the first-ever Roti Festival offered pause to
      reflect on the Indian presence in Jamaica and its impact. In 1845, in the
      wake of Emancipation, the first Inidan nationals arrived on Jamaican
      shores to take up their positions as indentured labourers, with subsequent
      waves bringing in largely professional and merchant groups.

      Beryl Williams-Singh, who heads up the the National Council for Indian
      Culture, the umbrella group for several Indian organisations here, advises
      that the commemoration of the Indian arrival will be formally observed on
      May 10. Among the slated activities, she points out, are an Ecumenical
      prayer service and an awards banquet.


      A Hindu celebration ceremony where the Lord is invited to be present at
      the alter

      The Indian presence here has been felt - and continues - in many spheres.
      Professions, particularly in the medical field, reflect the Indian
      demographic heritage, as do the jewellery and appliance sub-sectors.

      Cultural impact, while evident, is not quite as cut-and-dried as it might
      seem. To begin with, there is not a definable homogenous Indian culture.
      With sixteen official languages, five major religions, and the caste
      system, the world's largest democracy is a veritable study in diversity.

      Certainly the music has proven a major component of Indo-Jamaican exchange
      (as has been the case with virtually every other nationality). The
      adaptation and fusion of Indian music with Western forms is a worldwide
      phenomenon.


      Indian dance forms have impacted on Jamaican culture in many ways

      During the 1960s, the sounds of India became a major departure point for
      jazz masters like saxophonist John Coltrane and guitarist John McLaughlin,
      whose group, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, is still regarded as one of the
      finest jazz-rock fusion combos. Similarly, pop/rock groups like the
      Beatles (especially the late George Harrison) incoporated Eastern sounds
      and philosophies into their music.

      More recently, Indian music forms have been fused with reggae/dancehall
      rhythms to create a highly danceable polyrhythm. The best known of these,
      the Diwali, helped to launch the international careers of deejays Elephant
      Man, Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder.

      Prior to that Anglo-Caribbean DJ Apache Indian had an international smash
      with a track called Arrnaged Marriage on the bhangra rhythm. The bhangra,
      a line dance with origins in the Punjabi region, also features the type of
      rhythmic hand claps that endeared the Diwali to dancehall aficionados.


      An Indian Saree
      Traditional Indian instruments include - harmonium, dholak (drum), the
      tabla and the dantal - the latter a stainless steel pipe that is struck
      with a smaller piece.

      Perhaps even more palpable than the music is the culinary impact. Curry
      (which itself the object of a culinary festival) is a staple in most homes
      and diners, chutney is a prized condiment, and tandoori cuisine is growing
      in appeal among both locals and visiting tourists. Some of the mango
      varieties growing in Jamaica have their Eastern heritage reflected in
      their names (Bombay and East Indian being the most obvious).

      Another cultural staple is religious practice. Presently, Mrs
      Williams-Singh says, there are around 2,000 Hindus in Jamaica.

      This month marks the advent of the Holi festival. The legend surrounds the
      defeat of an evil deity Holika, who would customarily consume children.
      Concurrent with "spring" festivals in many other cultures, it's seen as a
      time of renewal and rededication to purity and other ideals.

      Come August there's the celebration marking Krishna's (representation of
      God incarnate) birth and in November is Diwali, the festival of lights.

      While it is a pan-theistic faith (having many Gods), Hinduism points to a
      main, or source God - OM - who has many helpers. Williams-Singh explains;
      "They say that Hindus worship many gods, but that's not true. There's one
      main God and he has many helpers.

      You also have God incarnate who come to earth when there's a decline of
      peace. God has so far manifested himself as Raam[whose birth is observed
      in April] and Krishna."

      The undit/pandit(the word has since passed into the broader lexicon to
      signify an opinion maker or expert), guides Hindus along their earthly
      journey, and is consulted, Mrs Williams Singh points out, before every
      major decision.

      "The pundit gives you advice on every aspect of your life - marriage,
      education, work etc. Parents who arrange marriages go to the pundit, and
      horoscopes are checked along with other things. If you have a desire or
      prayer, you go to the pundit," says Williams-Singh.

      Viewed as pagans shortly after their 1845 arrival, the Hindus gradually
      emerged from suppression. Many were persuaded to follow Christianity,"
      says Williams-Singh, adding that some saw it as a means of upward social
      mobility.

      Although the suppression of the Indian religion and lifestyle here in
      Jamaica was not overt, their beliefs and practices were generally frowned
      upon, so public worship was minimal.
      Presently, according to Williams-Singh, there are two public Hindu places
      of worship in Jamaica - both in Kingston - and only one pundit.

      "We now have one more pundit in training. But we've had one for around 60
      years now," she says.

      Assimilation has also affected traditional garb, but even that has worked
      both ways. Even though most Inidans today have adopted Western modes of
      fashion, the sari, the nehru suit (round-collared tunic often worn with
      fitted pants) are featuring prominently in Western fashion, whether whole,
      or in variations.

      Whether in tastes, sounds, sights or worship, Indo-Jamaicans, and indeed
      the wider society, are much richer for that fateful boat ride in 1845.



      JAMAICA : INDIAN HERITAGE DAY IS MAY 10.
      Jamaica, in recognition of the history of the Indians who came
      has declared May 10 as ‘Indian Heritage Day’.

      Migration of Indians to Jamaica – Integration and Contribution to
      Development


      People from the Indian sub-continent were first introduced to Jamaica as
      ‘indentured labourers’ on a contractual basis to work on sugar and banana
      estates and livestock holdings, following the abolition of slavery.

      The first group arrived on May 10,1845, on the S.S. Blundell with a total
      of over 36,000 arriving between then and sometime around 1917. ( A plaque
      in commemoration of the first landing was mounted in Old Harbour in 1983.)

      These persons were allocated to estates in Clarendon, St. Mary, Portland,
      St. Thomas, St. Catherine and Westmoreland, initially. The terms of
      indentureship provided for their return to India on completion of five
      years’ service. Overall just over one-third returned to India, a small
      number of whom rejoined the programme. Some of the benefits promised were
      not delivered hence some of the migrants were unable to pay for return
      passages. Some remained as they saw the opportunity for a better life,
      while others had formed alliances and remained for that reason.

      When the indentureship programme came to an end roundabout the 1930’s,
      many then left the estates and sought employment in other parishes. Some
      journeyed to neighbouring countries, Cuba in particular, where they worked
      mainly on sugar estates, with some returning to Jamaica, while others
      remained.

      The Indians brought with them their cultural patterns, customs, and
      practices – language, cuisine, religion, music, dance, craftsmanship (many
      were jewellers), family systems, dress, discipline and reputation for hard
      work.

      They faced many difficulties due to the cultural differences and no doubt
      this led to their ‘holding on’ to aspects of their cultural heritage.

      One major challenge was the legality of marriages performed under Hindu
      and or Moslem rites – this meant the children were ‘bastards’ and could
      not inherit the property of parents readily, among other things. At the
      representations of the then active East Indian Progressive Society the
      relevant Law was passed by the Government in the early1960’s.

      The Indians engaged themselves mainly in agricultural pursuits, e.g. rice
      growing, vegetable farming and floriculture. Significant contribution was
      made in the growing of rice in the parishes of St. Catherine and
      Westmoreland during World War II, thereby alleviating some of the
      difficulties for the Island brought about by the restrictions on overseas
      importation of food.

      Some of the ex-indentured labourers displayed greater initiative than
      others and eventually became landowners and businessmen which not only
      improved their standard of living, but enabled them to provide better
      educational opportunities for their children thereby accessing greater
      social mobility.

      Although many continued to struggle in the generally lower socio-economic
      environment, Indians gradually became fully integrated in the unique
      Jamaican diaspora of ethnic co-existence.

      Descendants of the ex-indentured labourers have over the years equipped
      themselves academically and their contribution to the development of our
      country can be readily identified in all areas of national life-
      Agriculture, the Arts, Aviation, Banking, the Civil Service,
      Communications, Construction, Engineering, Finance, Information
      Technology, Law, Merchandising, Management, Medicine, Politics, Religion,
      Sports, Teaching, Transportation.

      From sometime in the 1920’s other Indians came to seek a livelihood in
      Jamaica – firstly there were the merchants who in time made Jamaica home.
      Many are today involved with the In-bond trade. They and their off-springs
      continue to contribute to the country’s economic activity whether in
      business or the professions.

      Later there were professionals who came on their own or under special
      recruitment by the Government for specified periods, some of whom have
      remained and have become naturalised Jamaicans.

      The community of persons of Indian origin over the past three-quarters of
      a century has been served by a number of organisations aimed at –

      - preserving and promoting indian culture;


      - fostering programes for the upliftment of the well-being of the

      less privileged in our Society, e.g. assisting children for educational
      purposes, food packages for indigent and senior

      citizens; free medical clinic and catering to the spiritual needs.


      Cultural activities include stage presentation of songs and dance,
      lectures on a range of topics by visiting experts from India and
      elsewhere, observance of Indian festivals, e.g. Diwali, the Festival of
      Lights, and auspicious days on the religious calendar, participation in
      national events,e.g. Float parade for Independence celebrations.


      There are several musical groups and Indian dance instruction is available
      privately. More recently a Dance school has been established. For over
      thirty years a weekly programme has been aired on radio which showcases
      music, songs and other related matters.

      There is much local talent which is being developed and there are
      connections with external organisations and groups which permit the
      interchange of cultural activities and transfer of knowledge.

      People of Indian origin who were born in Jamaica are citizens by birth;
      later arrivals have become citizens by naturalization, while there are
      others who are working here on contractual basis.

      Having regard to their known capacity for discipline and hard work, they
      continue to strive for the best and make meaningful contribution to the
      development of our nation.

      The Government of Jamaica, in recognition of the history of the Indians
      who came has declared May 10 as ‘Indian Heritage Day’.


      Contributed: Beryl Williams-Singh, C.D.
      Chairman,
      National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica.

 

 

The Importance of the

Indian to Trinidad.


D. Parsuram Maharaj
An executive member
of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.

There are many today who are quik to tell the Indian community to “Go back to India”.

These statements are said without the thought of the Indian contribution to the development of Trinidad. There are many who still confuse a national identity with ethnicity and religious origins. To these one cannot be an Indian or Hindu and be called a Trinidadian. Thus these people ask where have all the Trinidadians gone? To these persons a brief refresher, in this month of Indian Arrival, on the contributions of the Indians to Trinidad’s economic survival which made Trinidad’s economy different from that of the other Caribbean islands.

The Indian made his appearance in Trinidad, and indeed in the Caribbean, after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Presbyterian minister John Morton commented “ The emancipated slave either would not work or diverted their energies to their own gardens.

For want of workmen the sugar interests came to the brink of disaster”. Every effort was accordingly made to get labourers from all possible quarters. In 1834, a number of immigrants were brought from Fayal and Maderia, but work in the cane field did not suit the Portugese..... The West Indian body in writing to Lord Stanley, October 19th, 1843, urged him to assent to Indian Immigration ‘as a regular supply of labourers was absolutely necessary’. November 06th 1843 replied that he was trying to get negroes ‘from Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick’ but did not agree to immigration from India, and closed the correspondence.

On November 29th 1843, Lord Stanley recognizing the critical state of affairs in the West Indies, suggests to the Governor-General of India that the order restricting East Indians from emigrating except to Mauritius should be canceled. This opened the way for East Indian immigration to the West Indies.

Terms were reached between the Home, the Indian, and the Trinidad Governments, and the first ship the Fatal Razack with 214 East Indians immigrants arrived on May 30th 1845.” [ Ironically the first Indian immigrant recorded was a man called Barath which meant India.] Morton further commented that “a new era soon dawned .....Planters, immigrants, and Governments worked hopefully together. Large numbers of East Indians were introduced and the Island began to flourish. Ten years later Governor Keateon wrote Sir Edward Bulwar Lytton ‘the Island is mainly indebted to Indian Immigration for its progress’. [John Morton in Trinidad 1916].

W.G. Sewell, in “The Ordeal of Free Labour in the British West Indies” [1861] wrote of Trinidad Indian immigrants after his visit in 1859 : “Not only has the island been saved from impending ruin, but a prospect of future prosperity opened to her such as British island in these seas ever before enjoyed under any system, slave or free.”

From the years 1838-1845 when the “Hesperus” sailed into British Guiana and the “Fatel Razack” to Trinidad receptively, under a free and disorganized scheme of immigration up to 1917, when the “SS Ganges” and “SS Mutlah” delivered the last batch, hundreds of voyages were made. For Trinidad between 1845-1917 ships made 319 voyages bringing 147,592 registered Indians to Trinidad’s sugar, cocoa, and coconut estates. While the first ship to Trinidad carried just 225 persons with the journey lasting just under five months, in later years the number of immigrants per ship would increase. Later voyages were shorter as EMS and Rhone in 1898 lasted only 113 and 93 days respectively. The number of people arriving was as small as 134 on the Emma of 29th May, 1847 to as large as 847 on the Mutlah of 29th August, 1909.

The route from India went around the Cape of Good Hope and then to the West Indies. The voyage was long and involved several climatic changes. The mortality rate during the
long and perilous journey was so high that the Government of India suspended immigration in 1848. Although the second phase began in 1848, it again had to be suspended until 1851. The system of immigration was eventually dismantled by the Indian Government under the Defense of India Act 1917.

G.K. Gokhale, Pundit Madhan M. Malaviya, and M.K. Gandhi were the leading statesmen who moved the resolution in the Indian Leglisative Assembly in 1916, demanding the abolition of the emigration system. Lord Hardinagi, Viceroy of India, accepted the resolution and got the support of the secretary of state. Emigration was viewed as derogatory to India’s self respect as a nation and undesirable in the estimate of enlightened public opinion.

The 147,592 Indians that came to Trinidad most chose to make this new land their home. As a result of this decision the descendants of the Indian immigrants now constitute over 42% of the population of Trinidad. The other major ethnic group in Trinidad are the descendants of African slaves who constitutes 41% of the total population. The mixed [Indian, Black, White, Chinese, etc. inter-marriages] population is 16% while other ethnic groups [whites, Chinese, Syrians, etc.] comprise 2% of the population. The Indian population comprises of Hindus 30%, Muslims 5%, and Christians 15%.

Hindus [the majority Sanatanists] are viewed as more Indian as they have proudly identified as Indian in the past. The Sanatan Dharama Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago Inc. [1952] has defended the Hindu position and as such has been branded as racist by those uncomfortable with an assertive Indian presence in Trinidad. The roots of the Maha Sabha extend deep into the history of Trinidad and can be traced to as early as 1881 only a mere thirty-six years [36] after the Fatel Rozack arrived.

 

The Plight of Indians in Guyana
  By Roop Misir, PhD

Background
    This Article was written in  2002 to highlight the plight of Indians in Guyana. Although there have been changes, people may argue that improvements in the economic life of the country and its people have essentially been put on hold. To some extent this is a consequence of the high emigration rate and consequent loss of skilled workers. However, an underlying factor is the apparent breakdown of law and order as marauding gangs rob people and kill other. For its part, the government claims that these attacks affect all citizens, not necessarily Indian..
    On January 26, 2008 in the Indian dominated village of Lusignan East Coast Demerara, eleven more innocent people were massacred in cold blood in the wee hours of the morning while sleeping.  From all accounts, robbery was not the motive. To no one surprise, the victims were of Indian descent.

Below is a revised version of the 2002 Article:

Indians Replaced Slavery
in British Guiana

    Success usually depends on how well we can address and solve problems that confront us in our daily lives. Like other citizens in the South American country of Guyana, the Indian population is fully integrated into the mainstream milieu. Their ancestors were taken to the colony of British Guiana to work on the sugar plantations following the abolition of African slavery in 1838. In addition to saving the sugar industry from certain collapse, our ancestors single-handedly built the rice industry. By the time Indian immigration ended in 1917, nearly a quarter million Indians were taken from India to this colony.

Indians suffered under various regimes

    As time progressed, their descendants actively participated in every facet of the country’s economic life. Today, they constitute the largest ethnic group in a politically independent country of Guyana. However, events in recent times have caused a lot of uneasiness. For one thing, all Guyanese had to endure nearly three decades of a black dictatorship from the mid-1960’s to the early 1990’s. Over the years, government corruption, political nepotism and overt racial discrimination led to declining opportunities—especially for Indians. A weak, corrupt and incompetent national government was unable to maintain law and order. Thus, highly skilled and educated Guyanese, were forced to immigrate to any country that were willing to take them, but mainly to affluent countries (EU, USA and Canada).

Social Problems facing Indians

    Although Indians are in the majority, their numbers are actually dwindling due to emigration. Strange as it may seem, President Bharrat Jagdeo and members of his government may be ethnically Indian, but their efforts are directed to retaining power at all cost. Out of necessity, therefore, they must cater to the needs of opposition and their mainly non-Indian supporters. In the meantime ALL Guyanese suffer, but the brunt of the hardships are borne by Indian people who have supported the ruling political party in every national election since 1953.
    Below are examples daily social problems that citizens have to endure under various governments.
    Alcoholism—There is no shortage of alcoholic beverages. Rum is one of the cheapest and most readily available beverages. It can be bought illegally at any time of the day in every corner store or  “cake shop”. Anyone regardless of age can enjoy a drink at any time and place.
    Prostitution—Poor and destitute girls are forced into the world’s oldest profession at a young age. As a visitor returning to home after many years, I recall being accosted by girls younger than my own daughters. Of course, I dismissed these advances. But I vividly recall one particular instance. Here a helpless soul proposed that for $5 (US), I could have her services for one full day. And for $50 (US), she will be at my call for one entire week!
    Crime—Criminals wishing to get “easy money” pose as police or army personnel, and prey on unsuspecting overseas visitors/ returnees. Also, bandits armed with hi-tech weaponry attack private homes of Indians. In many of these encounters, not only are money and jewelry taken, but also victim who resisted sometimes lose their lives!
    Suicide—it is true that the helpless usually flock to houses of God to get (at least temporary) solace. However, many Indians have lost hope completely. A friend of mind recently narrated a very tragic tale of a young Indian woman who committed suicide to escape the daily beatings of her unemployed and constantly drunk husband. After the funeral, friends of the husband accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. And because this was too for the husband to take, he did what many young Indian Guyanese find expedient to do--he took his own life!

Euphoria then Exodus

    There was much euphoria following the restoration of democracy in 1992 with the election of Dr. Cheddi Bharat Jagan as the President. But all this soon evaporated for various reasons. Perhaps, there was no Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate wrong doings committed by the previous black dictatorship. Even though Dr. Jagan publicly declares that he heads a national government, the main thrust of his policies is geared to appeasing black supporters and the opposition. The question is: Like other Indian leaders, was Dr. Jagan afflicted with a uniquely Indian disease—appeasing others while taking his own supporters for granted?
    An incident (July 03 2002) may exemplify the present plight of Indian people. During an illegal procession to the presidential palace, the pro-Indian ROAR Party claims that hundreds of Indians were mercilessly beaten up, sexually molested, abused, robbed and several businesses torched. In one particularly gruesome incident, a gang of African men grabbed a young Indian girl off the street. Then  these beastly monsters took turns and forced her to perform oral sex —in broad daylight and in full view of the public. Did this incident show us who is in charge here?

Guyanese Speak Out

    This latest pogrom against Indians has provoked even conservative elements in the Guyanese society to speak out. Up to this time, people were silent. For the first time, they are now coming out openly and admitting the truth. In fact, they are saying that it was Indians who were targeted for the mindless racial violence in Guyana. This has always been the official position of the ROAR Party. Now, ROAR has renewed its call for a UN Peacekeeping Mission—a call that first went unheeded when it was first issued in 1998.
    Isn’t it about time that the world wake up to the plight of Indians in Guyana, and take decisive action before it’s too late?

Guyana Blessed but Blighted

Guyana is blessed with abundant fertile agricultural lands where almost any crops can grow year round. On its vast savannahs are some of the largest cattle ranches. Its thriving mining industries (gold, diamonds and bauxite) are generating much revenue. Recently discovered offshore reserves of oil and gas can some day transform this struggling country into an energy powerhouse. Yet, things are not all roses these days. Our country remains blighted.
    Of course, there are always beneficiaries following tragedies the recent massacre at Lusignan and other areas in Guyana. Years of confrontation, conflict and crime by marauding gangs accelerate the exodus of Guyanese to countries faced with declining populations and a shortage of skilled and talented people. Would this reality help explain why overseas countries like Canada, the USA and the EU choose to turn a blind eye as Guyana faces an uncertain future, bordering on the brink of collapse?

[Dr. Roop Misir is an Indo-Guyanese  Canadian Teacher with the Toronto District School Board. Readers may wish to contact him at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]

 

 

 CONTRIBUTION BY PEOPLE OF INDIAN

ORIGIN TO JAMAICA

 

 


THROUGH SOCIAL, CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL &

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

At

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CONTRIBUTION BY

THE PEOPLE OF INDIAN ORIGIN

 

New Delhi, India

 

On

 

February 12th & 13th, 2000

Prepared and Presented By:

Pt. Lochan Nathan Sharma –

Representative:

National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica

Tel.#: (876) 928-1517

Email: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

http://pandit-jamaica.com/index_files/Documentation.htm

 

Contents

INTRODUCTION

INDENTURED LABOURERS

CONTRIBUTION TO AGRICULTURE & ECONOMY

AGRICULTURE

CRAFTSMANSHIP & SPORTS

SPORTS

CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCATION & CIVIL SERVICE

CONTRIBUTION TO CULTURE

B. (INDIAN NATIONAL) BUSINESS GROUP AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION

C. (INDIAN NATIONAL) PROFESSIONALS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION

CONCLUSION

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDIX

INTRODUCTION

 

 

Like India, Jamaica was colonized by the British for over 300 years.  The resources of one country could be transferred to another for its own exploits. The vast labour force of India was transferred to many British colonises under the Indentureship Programme.

 

Three distinct categories of Indians migrated to Jamaica.  Firstly, Indians came as indentured labourers between 1845 and 1917.  The second group was that of business people, they began arriving from 1930 onwards.   Having found prospects they were Naturalized and settled.    The third group of professionals came after Jamaica's Independence in 1962. They came on short contract and left after the end of the contract, only a few have settled.

 

Jamaica:

Jamaica is a parliamentary state within the Commonwealth and is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea. It has an area of 10991 km2 and is about 23km long. The capital is Kingston. The island was captured by Britain in 1655 and then became independent in 1962.

 

Agriculture remains the largest single employer of labour and is a main contributor to the national income, together with the industrial sector, notably bauxite mining and tourism.

 

The country's motto "Out of Many, One People" tells of our culturally diverse history. However, Jamaica's society is now dominated by a black population of approximately 95%, while the Indian community accounts for about 1.3%, the nations largest minority.

 

When the slave trade was abolished in 1807, Jamaica had imported 300,000 slaves to work. However, when emancipation was finally granted, in 1838, many slaves left the plantations and moved to the hills. Only 13,973 remained on the plantations in 1846. To redress the scarcity and irregularity of labour, Indian immigration was introduced, to Jamaica, in 1845. The intent of this cheap labour resource was to create competition for employment, as Africans were preferred.  In fact, between 1841 and 1867 ten thousand Africans immigrated, but they found a receptive enclave in the existing ex-slave collective, after the expiration of their one year contract. A different type and source of labour was hence required, and the colonial masters turned to India for the answer.

INDENTURED LABOURERS

 

 

On May 10th 1845 two hundred men, 28 women and 33 children, under 12 years of age, became the first immigrants from India to land in Jamaica, under the Indentureship Programme. On their 17-week voyage from Calcutta, aboard the SS Blundell, 10 people perished at sea.  They came with high hopes and expectations to work on sugar plantations, for a 5-year contract period with a paid return passage to their homeland. When the Programme ended in 1917, 36,412 Indians had migrated to Jamaica, and a total of 12,109 people returned to the motherland. The remaining 24,303 persons voluntarily, or otherwise, adopted Jamaica as their home.

 

The composition of each shipment of labourers had only 11-28% females on board, so it was not surprising that a 1961 census showed that of a population of 2.5 million people, 28% were mixed with traceable Indian blood. Today, only about 36,000 Indians remain on the island. The 1991 census showed that of 2,299,630 people registered 29,218 were

East Indians.

 

Of the approximately 36,000 Indians in Jamaica, 30% live in the rural areas and are general and farm workers, 20% are semi-skilled, 10% are in skilled jobs, 10% are small and large farmers, 20% are in business and 10% are professionals.

 

More than 95% of the Indentured workers who came to Jamaica came from the Gangetic plains of Eastern Uftar Pradesh and Bihar. In the 1840s most were recruited from the Chota Naggar area of the hilly interior of Bihar and the adjoining Andhar Pradesh. Between 1900 and 1913, 4,447 immigrants came from Uttar Pradesh, mainly Gonda, Basti, Faizabad and Gorakhpur districts.

 

The ratio of Hindus to Muslims (9:1), among the immigrants, represented the typical Indian village population in India in 1845. The caste composition of the immigrants to Jamaica is reflected in 1900 - 1913 immigration data, that is, of the 6,151 indentured workers 979 were Muslims, 1098 were Brahmins and Kshatriyas, 318 artisans, 1881 of farming sub-castes, and 1817 were farm labourers and tanners.  Three Christians, who came, may have been from an urban community.

 

The immigrants reflected the professional and economic strata of a typical village community; landless farm workers, small land owners, artisans, businessmen and priests. Regardless of their primary occupation, they all had an agricultural background and understood the economic and social structure of their community.

CONTRIBUTION TO AGRICULTURE & ECONOMY

 

AGRICULTURE

 

Agriculture in Jamaica would not be the same without the indentured Indians. Not only were new skills brought for the cultivation of traditional crops, but also over 75 plants of Indian origin were, directly or indirectly, introduced by Indian workers. In fact, tobacco, vegetable farming and horticulture were mainly done by Indians. Channel irrigation

systems, previously unknown in Jamaica, were introduced by these Indians. These skills have been adopted by the general farming communities as accepted and traditional

practices.

 

 

Sugar Cultivation:

Sugar is one of the major export products and foreign exchange earners for Jamaica. It is the livelihood, directly or indirectly, for at least ¼ of the population.  Sugar production has definitely increased since 1845, albeit many of the small estates have closed, larger factories expanded immensely to accommodate the closure of these estates.

 

To date there are about 100 large, 150 medium and 3,000 small cane farmers of Indian descent in Jamaica. Indo-Jamaicans now own much of the sugar cane lands and almost all of the privately owned cane haulage machinery.  A large percentage of the Indian population has moved from rags to riches, although many still work for the Sugar Estates

on farms as well as in the factories, and still settle around the five main cane belt areas living in poverty.

 

Banana Cultivation:

Banana was introduced in Jamaica in 1872 and many Indians were moved from sugar estates to farm the banana plantations. By 1892, Jamaica had become a major exporter of this product and this continues today.   Presently almost every backyard has a banana plant. This was started by Indians in order to provide food provisions to supplement their

diet. At many of their poojas, this plant is still used as a part of the decoration.

 

Rice:

Attempts to cultivate rice in Jamaica since 1707 failed, due to a lack of technical expertise. It was not until the 1860s that rice was successfully grown in the Jamaican swamp lands, due to the skills of Indian indentured workers in that field.    In 1874, 3.5 bushels of paddy seeds were imported from India for distribution among the Indian farmers. The Protector of Immigration reported, in 1883, that "the cultivation of rice by time- expired immigrants has now attained considerable importance."

 

Afro-Jamaicans, having seen the successes of the Indo-Jamaicans, started rice cultivation as well.   The transfer of technology, to Afro-Jamaicans, was complete with Hindi terminology, such as berd (seedlings), lagwai (transplanting) and karyan (threshing ground). In 1935, over 2,000 acres of rice was planted, and by 1950, there was at least 5,400 acres under cultivation, of which Afro-Jamaicans farmed 30%. The rice shortage of 1943 was a boon to rice traders, but the land owners then saw it fit to terminate the lease agreement of rice tenants and took over the plantations. However, the lack of knowledge, on the part of owners caused rice cultivation to cease, shortly there after.

 

Tobacco & Marijuana:

Indians are responsible for the presence of tobacco plants found in Jamaica today. It was carried to the island during the indentureship period by these immigrants. Jamaica still grows and exports tobacco in various forms. Technology has changed and multinational corporations now control the industry. However, the basics introduced originally, by the

Indentured labourers, still prevail.  Carrearas Group of Companies is now a major exporter of cigarettes to other Caribbean territories.

 

Marijuana (Ganja) was introduced to the Caribbean by Indentured labourers as far back as 1845.  It was used for smoking, preparation of tea, worship of Goddess Kali and tantrism. It was grown freely and was also used for medicinal purposes. Afro-Jamaicans became attracted to the plant, and is now a part of their claimed heritage. The Rastafarian

Movement has adopted Ganja in their daily worship and routine.  Smoking of Ganja is prevalent in Jamaica although the cultivation and its use is illegal. The University of the West Indies has done extensive research and found it useftil as medicine to control glaucoma.

 

 

Horticulture and Floriculture:

The tradition of vegetarianism and the use of flowers in daily Hindu worship made many Indians experts on growing vegetables and flowers.     From provisional lands on plantations to rented lands on Indian settlements, market gardening was a viable occupation of many Indians. Today, many people are turning away from eating meat and

becoming vegetarians.

 

Fruits:

Mangoes of East Indian and Bombay varieties were brought to Jamaica by Indians. These are very popular with Jamaicans.

 

Fisheries:

Indentured workers brought with them special fishing techniques from India.  These techniques have been passed on to the local fishermen who have made it their livelihood.

 

Probably the greatest contribution, that Indo-Jamaicans have made to fish farming, is in the area of cage and pond rearing. Red Tilapia, and other species of fresh water fish, is grown in ponds, while salt water fish are grown in cages in the sea.

 

In early 1980s, Calma Ramharrack, Indo-Jamaican and land surveyor made the first break through in Jamaica, by growing Red Tilapia in seawater.  This fresh water fish was grown in brackish water, that is, part sea water and part fresh water.  The technique improved the quality of the fish, by removing the inherent muddy taste present in fresh

water fish.  The Red Tilapia gained a quick following and acceptance of the fish was tremendous.

 

Jamaicans are becoming more health conscious and are moving rapidly to a fish! vegetarian diet, rather than the traditional red-meat dishes.  Indo-Jamaicans have certainly influenced this industry and the local eating habits in general.

 

 

 

 

Poultry Farming:

Chicken meat is processed by two packaging plants, which supply most of Jamaica's requirements. Farmers grow chickens from baby stage to maturity on a contractual basis, for the processors, which in turn, supply the farmers with day old chicks, food and medication.

 

Poultry rearing is mostly done in St. Catherine and Clarendon plains, where there are relatively dense settlements of Indo-Jamaicans, who produce 70% of all chicken meat produced in Jamaica.

 

Mr. Robert "Bobby" Jaggan, an Indo-Jamaican, worked with the poultry industry from its infancy, for over 30years. Firstly, he worked as a supervisor of farms and is now one of the largest contracted poultry farmers in the island, producing 80,000 chicken, approximately every six weeks. Mr. Jaggan is also the largest cold-storage distributor of

chicken meats and his daughter is the financial controller of the major poultry packaging plant, in the island.

 

 

CRAFTSMANSHIP & SPORTS:

 

Craftsmanship

 

Jewellery:

Indentured workers displayed unusual shrewdness in dealing in gold and silver and, without the aid of much capital, set up jewellery manufacturing businesses. Prof. John Andren, a member of John Hopkins University Expedition Team to Jamaica, in 1884, wrote, "Our contact with the home life Coolies on the North Coast and their skills in making silver ornaments with the simplest tools gave a feeling of comradeship with the natives of India, which we failed to see with native Africans."

 

By 1891, twenty-three Indians who completed their contractual agreement had become full-time jewellers in Jamaica. They made every tool and equipment used in the industry. Indentured labour brought a large quantity of jewellery from India and a few have been passed down to the current generation. Jewellery is a prized possession and almost every

Jamaican wears it in one form or the other, whether it is a ring, bangle, anklet, toe-ring, earrings or pendants.  This is one of the largest cottage industries operated almost exclusively by Indians.

 

SPORTS

 

Horse racing:

Horseracing is big business in Jamaica, and Indo-Jamaicans are an integral part of its processes, hence they have made a huge impact on the industry. The champion jockey, in 1999, Andrew Ramgeet set a new record in Jamaica for 8 wins in a day and shares the world record with four others.   He also holds the record (in Jamaica) for seven consecutive hat tricks. The industry employs thousands of persons and has found its way into the daily life of many Jamaicans.

 

Henry Jaghai, J.P., is one of the foremost Indo-Jamaicans in Horse Breeding and racing. He owns the Bombay Stud Farm and, in 1996, the farm trained 21 horses at Caymanas Park. In 1996, 1997 and 1998 he won the Champion Breeders' Trophy for two-year old horses and all categories of horses.

 

Cricket and Football:

Many Indo-Jamaicans are attracted to cricket and football. In 1939 the first sports club was formed where Indo-Jamaicans played mostly football. The club played cricket later on where they won the Ambleton and Carib Cups.   In 1954 the all Indian cricket team was formed. The team competed in local tournaments and toured Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in 1973.  They won many Trophies and Awards both locally and overseas.

CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCATION & CIVIL SERVICE

 

 

Indentured labourers did not find easy transition into the Jamaican way of life, however they eventually integrated and acquired compatriots in all sections of the society. As schools became more accessible and accepted by Indo-Jamaicans, during the post- indentureship period, there was a gradual increase in the number of Indian children who attended school. This promoted greater opportunities within the wider society. Today, almost all children attend some form of school, but only a handful make it to the University level.   Those who have attained high positions and made significant

contributions are in the field of Law and Civil Service.

 

Presently there are two Indo-Jamaican High School Principals and many are in administration. There are an estimated 100 Indo-Jamaican teachers throughout the island. Lieutenant Colonel Errol Johnson, M.Sc., was awarded a scholarship to attend The Rajasthan University, Jaipur, India where he majored in Chemistry. Dr. Winsome Clarke is the Senior Education Officer and Director in the Ministry of Education having excelled in the teaching profession.   Dr. Paul Maragh (chemistry) and Dr. Asha Badaloo (nutrition) are two of the top educators at The University of the West Indies. Theses

Indo-Jamaicans have made Jamaica proud.

 

In the field of Medicine there are many doctors and nurses who give unselfish service to the well being of their fellowman. Professor Winston Chutkan (Orthopaedic Surgeon) and Dr. Ivan Parboosingh (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) were two of the pioneering Indo- Jamaicans in the medical field.

 

Professor Inderman H. Jadusingh, is quite possibly the most qualified Indo-Jamaican professional.  Among his many achievements he is a Fellow in Cardiac Pathology, Examiner for surgery, Clinical Professor of Pathology. He has publish about two dozen articles in many prestigious journals.

 

Law:

It was as far back as the 193 Os, that Harold Ballysingh became the first Indo-Jamaican to gain acceptance to the bar and later became Crown Prosecutor. Subsequently, many have followed his lead and offer service to the nation at numerous levels.  Justice Mahadev Dukharan is the only Indo-Jamaican to make it to the High Court Bench, and in 1998 was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. He is well respected by society, as well as by his counterparts and also the first Chairman of the National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica.

 

Raam Shankar Pershadsingh graduated from the University of Toronto in 1946 and then obtained the LL.B. degree from London University in 1948. He belongs to the elite rank of Queens Counsel and was on the panel, which drafted the Jamaican constitution. Many of his court cases are now regarded as test! reference cases by the legal profession and he

was legal advisor to the government in the late 1 960s.

 

Civil Service:

Mrs. Beryl Williamsingh has excelled above all other Indo-Jamaican in the Civil Service, reaching to the top post of Chief of Personnel in the Services Commission.  This is a department of Government, which appoints all persons in Government Services throughout Jamaica. Ambassador Edwin Singh is the only ambassador of Indian origin and Hon. Benjamin Claire was Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeding Hon. David Coore, who was also Deputy Prime Minister and claims Indian heritage. Miss Enid Bennett and O.D. Ramtalli were M.P. and Cabinet Ministers.

CONTRIBUTION TO CULTURE

 

 

There was tremendous pressure by the churches on the Indians to abandon their traditional Hindu and Muslim customs. Many were converted to Christianity. Pressure, by the churches, schools and the administration, to adopt the English language, restricted use of Indian Languages to domestic situations.  This meant that over two or three generations, Indian dialects became virtually extinct. Distinctive Indian dresses "saris and blouses" for females and "Dhotis and Kurtas" for males were considered unsuitable for the labourers and were replaced by Western clothing such as trousers and shirts.

 

Hindu and Muslim marriages were not recognized in the eyes of the State and were, in fact, considered illegal. Christian marriage was the only form of wedlock deemed legal and so, many Indians were compelled to have two ceremonies, their own and another conducted by a Christian priest. However, illiteracy, poverty and the long journey from rural areas to the Immigration Office were such great obstacles that many marriages were not registered.

 

No child was accepted in school unless he! she could show a baptismal certificate with a Christian name. Many names were changed and registered at birth as Christian names, for example the author's grandfather was named Nathan Baleshwar Sharma. His father's registered name was Sanjay Nathan Baleshwar, while he registered as Lyle Nathan. This

was done to remove any semblance of heritage to Hinduism or India.

 

Religion:

Despite the ridicule and savage attacks by the Churches, Hinduism and the Islamic religion have survived and still carried on by a relatively small number of ardent supporters.

 

Presently, there are two Hindu priests in Jamaica, Pt. Ramadar Maragh and the newly ordained Pt. Lochan Nathan-Sharma. There are also two Mandirs! Hindu temples in Jamaica, the Sanatan Dharm Mandir and the Prema Satsangh of Jamaica, which are foremost in the propagation of the Hindu religion and festivals.

 

Divali and Holi are celebrated by some Indian groups in Jamaica. The temples celebrate them as religious festivals, but the business and professional Indian Nationals use it as a fund raising exercise. Regrettably, these festivals have little, if any impact on the larger society.

 

The prolific Rastafarian Movement has been, indirectly, influenced by Hinduism, so much so that their leader, claiming himself to be a prophet, changed his name to Gagun Guru Maragh. After forming their new religion, many Hindu beliefs and practices were adopted, such as animism, reincarnation, transmigration, a linear nature of the universe,

and yogic chakras.

 

The practice of sacramental smoking of ganja, honouring goddess Kali while smoking ganja, referring to their locks as jata, vegetarianism and many of their prayers have all been adopted from Indo-Jamaicans.

 

With the introduction of Sathya Sai Baba Centre, Ananda Marga Yoga Society, Brahma Kumari Centre and Krishna Consciousness coupled with the local Hindu organizations, Hinduism and Indian culture is becoming more accepted and is now making slow, but steady progress into the general society.

 

On the other hand Muslims seem to have done relatively well. The Islamic Society of Jamaica was formed in the 1950s to serve the needs of a few hundred Muslims. Today, there are 10 Mosques and the membership is comprised of both Afro-Jamaicans and Indo-Jamaicans and the Muslim festival Hosay has become very popular. Recent growth

is due to the influence of the Islamic Movement in the USA.

 

Up until the 1940s eight parishes with sizable Indian populations celebrated Hosay in a traditional manner. It had become an annual carnival for many mixed communities, as everyone participated in the ten-day street parade. Gradually, tazia builders started to vanish and Hosay celebrations declined.  Today, only two communities, in Clarendon,

build and celebrate the festival, which attracts a large mixed crowd, of which a vast majority are Afro-Jamaicans. The youths find the days' activities quite compelling and entertaining, as it is filled with exuberant dancing and rhythmic drumming.

 

Music and Dance:

Throughout the years music and dance has dominated the Indo-Jamaican cultural scene. There have been numerous dancers, singers and musicians, foremost of whom are Ramlal Malgie and Dr. Winston Tolan, who have passed down the tradition and are still very active.  Many have migrated and improved on their talents, and served their new communities.

 

Jamaica may be the only country, in the Caribbean, where the traditional Sarangie, Kathghora and Nachania dances can be found, along with the original folk styles. The Indian community of Cockburn Gardens, Kingston, although a low income community, has done much to retain the Indian culture.

 

Presently there are three organized musical groups, which supply entertainment on festive occasions, fundraisers, weddings, funerals and stage shows and it is through this medium that the Indian community maintains its cultural links.

 

The weekly radio programme "Indian Talent on Parade" is the longest running programme on the airwaves. Since 1968, listeners have been tuning into the programme as their primary source of information! entertainment on Indian culture, through the electronic media. Mr. Krishna Deonarine and Dr. Winston Tolan have given yeoman service in running this programme over the years.

 

In order to improve the quality of dance and entertainment, four students were sent to Trinidad, in 1999, to upgrade their skills in music and dancing, and a small number of dancers entertain the numerous audiences throughout Jamaica, which includes hotels, stage shows and festive occasions.

 

Raam Shankar Pershadsingh, a lawyer by profession, has not only contributed to his profession, but was also one of the founders of the Little Theatre. The Little Theatre is one of the most highly regarded cultural centres in the island, and attracts crowds from all corners of the country.

 

 

Culinary Arts:

The most popular dishes on Jamaican menus are curried goat, rice, roti and various callaloo (spinach) preparations. These dishes were originally ridiculed by the masses, but have now become the sought after meals, even at international functions.  Callaloo took to the sky in mid 1 980s, when the local carrier, Air Jamaica, served it as a regular

breakfast option, on all of their flights.

 

Chutneys, as well, have become very popular, and are used by much of the population as a substitute for their traditional dips. It is now so popular, that many varieties can be seen on supermarket shelves across the island.

 

Many medicinal plants, for example ganja, karela, neem, tulsi, imli leaves, coconuts, turmeric powder, and Bhanta, are still used, particularly by rural people, for curing numerous ailments and diseases. The Hindi terms, for the plants, have also been retained.

 

 

Hindi Teaching:

To help preserve and expose the general public to Indian culture, Hindi classes are conducted by Dr. Sitaram Poddar, one of the Indian nationals. In July 1991, he started Hindi teaching programme, under the Government of India Hindi scheme, through the Indian High Commission in Jamaica. He gives Hindi classes every Saturday and Sunday,

at Club India, Kingston.

 

Presently there are about 20 students who benefit from this programme, of which only 3 are Indo-Jamaicans. Since 1998, he also has been teaching Hindi on the "Indian Talent on Parade" radio programme. Similar programmes were in place in earlier years.

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Various Indian organizations have made efforts to help mould the Indian Community in their struggle to help preservation of the culture.

 

 

East Indian Association:

The first Indian organization, the East Indian Association, was founded in the mid 1920s and registered as a friendly society.  The ETA was an insular body, engage mainly in holding weekly poojas, celebrating festivals and training priests.  Later the East Indian National Union was formed, in the 193 Os, to improve the legal, economic and cultural needs of the Indians. In 1938, its lawyer Emanuel Rasut spoke about the unique cultural and economic needs of the Indian community before the Moyne Commission and pleaded for changes, which would improve their standard of living.

 

East Indian Progressive Society:

On the 2nd April 1940, the East Indian Progressive Society (EIPS) was founded with Dr. Varma as President. Soon after, EIPS opened office in every parish and formed various sub-committees to deal with specific matters, which should have been addressed at least two decades earlier. Its headquarters, in Kingston, was later called Varma Hall. Among the achievements of the EIP S were:

 

1. The repeal of certain immigration laws which discriminated against Indians.

2. The recognition of Hindu! Muslim marriage officers.

3. To repeal the USA labour laws which barred indentured Indians from seeking jobs as

   farm workers in the USA.

4. The establishment of an elementary school at Varma Hall

5. The award of scholarships to Indian children to attend secondary and vocational

   schools

6. The contribution of a monthly dole to the poor and aged

7. The publication of a monthly magazine "Indian"

8. Maintaining the celebrations of festivals

9. Lobbying for a cremation facility in Jamaica

10. Ban the use of the degrading term "Coolie" from the law books.

 

By the late 1960's the EIPS had achieved most of its original objectives.

 

 

Hindu Samaj of Jamaica:

This body was incorporated in 1958 with the aim to propagate the growth of Hinduism. This was a religious organization with headquarters at 3 Betune Avenue, Kingston 13. The spiritual leader was Pandit Rajkumar Tewari.  The organization was administered through an executive body.  When other religious organizations were founded in the 1970's this group was no longer functional.

 

 

Club India:

In the 1 950s Club India was formed to provide social and recreational facilities for Indians in the society. Being located in the centre of Kingston it is a convenient place for socializing. Functions and Receptions are quite often held at the Club, the foremost of which was that of the late Mrs. Indira Ghandi former Prime Minister of India. The Club has much potential to serve to community and operates a restaurant where the general public can attend.

 

Sanatan Dharma Mandir (SDM):

During the 1960's to early 1970's SDM was the hub of Indian activities in Kingston. The temple was officially opened by Swami Sathya Prakash, President of All India Arya Samaj, in the presence of His Excellency, Mr. Geeteshwar Raj, High Commissioner for India in Jamaica, in 1976. This mandir was reopened in 1995 and it remains open to the public. It is in the centre of the densest Indian population and helps to bring Hinduism to the community.

 

Prema Satsangh of Jamaica:

The Prema Satsangh of Jamaica was founded on 12 November 1972 and re-registered and rededicated as a Hindu Temple in 1994.

 

The aims and objectives are to:

1. Propagate activities by spreading the knowledge of Hindu scriptures.

2. To do social work, foster goodwill and unity among all races in the community.

3. To propagate recreational and other facilities such as temple, medical clinic and Hindi education.

4. To campaign against the use and abuse of alcohol and other dangerous substances.

 

The group has fulfilled all its objectives and continue to be the foremost Hindu organization in the society at this time.

 

The principle of sickness and death benefits incorporated in its regulations propelled the organization to start a free medical clinic on the 8 January 1978.  Subsequently every first Sunday of each month, the clinic serves the poor communities. Here medical check up, drugs, tests and prescriptions are given free of cost.  The clinic serves approximately 2,500 Jamaicans.

 

The organization meets for worship twice per week, and celebrates all Hindu festivals and Jayanthi.  Their outreach satsangh and teaching programmes in homes in various parishes are well received. They also conduct funeral services, havans, poojas and serve the Hindu community as required.

 

They have accommodated numerous Swamis such as Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Raama and a host of Pandits from other countries in helping to educate and elevate the general public.

 

Annually 700 persons look forward to their Christmas Treat, and 50 youths are trained in its Summer Camp since 1994.     The teaching of bhajans, music and dance has kept the culture alive for the past 28 years. The organization produces its own Hindu Devotional book with English translation.  This is used in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the United

States, and Canada.

 

The organization provides scholarships and book grants to needy students, funeral expense for the destitute, monthly seeda programmes to at least 25 families who receive groceries. The members of many Indian organizations were trained or received their cultural experience and exposure through the Prema Satsangh of Jamaica.

 

The celebration of the 150111 Anniversary of Indian Arrival in Jamaica saw this group taking a lead role in some of the activities by organizing Parade Floats, National Church Service and making awards to people Nationally who had made tangible contributions to the preservation of Indian culture.

 

Indo-Jamaican Cultural Society (ICJS):

The Indo Jamaican Cultural Society was founded in March 1978 with the following aims

and objectives:

 

1. To preserve and promote Indian culture and philosophy;

2. To study and understand religion;

3. To establish centres of learning and provides social and recreational facilities for    members.

However, the group concentrated on cultural activities.

 

 

In its early years the IJCS organized Divali fairs and Phagwa celebrations where groups of people ranging from 1000 to 3000 attended the fairs and had interactions.  They facilitated the formation of a musical band in 1979 by acquiring a tabla and harmonium for the group.

 

They have organized several exhibitions on the theme of Indo-Jamaican Cultural Heritage.   They have assisted the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission in organizing some festival parades, Independence Parade and the Queen's visit to Jamaica.

 

Additionally they have helped the less fortunate in the society by providing Christmas Treat and financial assistance in early years. Donations were made to the disabled at the Mustard Seed Community, Cancer Society and Cardiology Unit of the University of the West Indies Hospital.   They have collaborated with the Jamaica Heritage Trust and erected on May 8, 1983 a monument recognizing the arrivals of Indians in Jamaica in 1845.

 

An off shoot of the Indo-Jamaican Cultural Society, the Friends of the Indian Community has staged annually Mehfil Shows featuring entertainers from abroad. This show exposes the Indian community to high quality cultural performances. Indian movies are  also shown on a monthly basis by this group.

 

 

 Ananda Marga /Brahma Khumaris/Sathya Sal Baba Organizations:

 These organizations have attracted a wide cross section of the Jamaican population, from  the peasant to the politician. Their philosophy and teachings are well appreciated and  their membership has grown steadily. These non-racial groups not only teach the Hindu  religion but also yoga, meditation and service to the community as part of their planned

 programmes.  Ananda Marga Yoga Society also operates two kindergarten /primary  schools in the most depressed areas in Kingston, with an enrollment of 300 students. In  May 1999 they established their new Mustard Seed Children `s Home on a 40-acre  agricultural property. Here abandoned children will be raised and later taught shills  The Sathya Sai Baba Centre provides food and service to infirmaries and indigent people on a monthly basis.

 

 

 National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica (NCICJ):

 In 1998, the National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica was founded by Pt. Lochan  Nathan Sharma together with Dr. Sitaram Poddar, Mrs. Babara Persaud and Lloyd Persaud.

 

 The objectives are to:

 1. Preserve and promote Indian culture in Jamaica on a national level.

 2. Bring about unity among all segregated Indian groups.

 3. Establish a monumental cultural centre and headquarters for the group.

 

 Presently the group composes of members from 9 organizations along with  representatives from the parish level and affluent Indians in the society.  It is chaired by Hon. Justice Mahadev Dukharan Supreme Court Judge and His Excellency Sir Howard Cooke Governor General of Jamaica is Patron.

 

 The Council is recognized by the Government of Jamaica as the apex Indian body, and has recently accepted its proposals to:

Erect a statue I bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Kingston,

Recognize and highlight May 10th each year on the National Calendar as "Indian    Heritage Day"

To bring about changes in the school cumculum in order to highlight Indian culture.

 

 Since its inception The Council has staged all national cultural celebrations which has  attracted large multi-racial crowds. It provided assistance for over seas training of young  people in music and dance and given financial assistance to The Ananda Marga  Children's Home.

B. (INDIAN NATIONAL) BUSINESS GROUP AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION

 

 

When the British moved into the province of Sind (now Pakistan), in the 1850s, many residents sought refuge in East and West Africa, Hong Kong and other Far East communities. This group was heir to the traders that plied the trade routes in the Middle East for centuries. Many of these merchants also came to Jamaica, Trinidad, Curacao and Panama, in the early 1920s, and saw their opportunity for trade in the Caribbean.

 

In 1928, Daoulatram Dadlani and Khiantowal Tikamdas migrated to Jamaica from Trinidad. They opened a store on Holborn Street, Kingston and started trading in textiles and sundry merchandise from the Far East. Today, there are an estimated 1500 families and businesses operated by Sindhis, and to lesser extent, Gujraties, throughout the island.

These are close-nit family businesses and even the cooks are imported from abroad.

 

These in-bond merchants operate and cater mostly to tourists, offering duty free and tax-free incentives to their customers. As cruise ships dock, scores of tour buses and taxes converge on the piers and one of their destinations are always the in-bond shops and villages.  Jewellery, gift items and electronic equipment are main items of trade. The multi-million jewellery industry has been made popular and is dominated by the Indian business community.

Direct employment is estimated at 1,500 people throughout the sector and indirect labour from the production of local gift items is also estimated at 1,500 people.

 

Although a compulsory General Consumption Tax of 15% is levied on each consumer item, in Jamaica, in-bond shops are duty free and tax-free. The government receives an estimated US $ 100 million dollars annually, from this sector, in addition to declared after profit taxes.

 

A school in Ocho Rios was built by Indian merchants. There are about 200 children who attend this school.

Through the Sathya Sai Baba Centre inmates of infirmaries receive food and other benefits on a bi-monthly basis.

The business community has made their presence felt in the area of sport by sponsoring football and cricket competitions.

C. (INDIAN NATIONAL) PROFESSIONALS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION

 

Professionals such as doctors, engineers, teachers, accountants, computer scientists are employed by the government, the Universities and other agencies.   They come on short- term contracts and leave after the expiry of their contracts. It is only few who opt to become Naturalized Citizens of this country.  Most use Jamaica as a stop over port to move to North America.

 

Some academics working in the Universities have contributed significantly in their research areas, and to the scientific and technological advancement of Jamaican Indian. Doctors posted in parishes across the island have served to their health care need. Indian scientists have helped the country in several programmes such as in the development of agricultural crops, pest control techniques, milk production and distribution, and in the development of computer software programmes.

 

Indian Nationals founded an Indian Cultural Society to provide entertainment for themselves, by bringing artists from abroad, but now have opened doors to Jamaicans who are major supporters of the society and are trying to bring the society to the main stream of the Jamaican life.

CONCLUSION

 

Indians who came to Jamaica as indentured labourers comprise the main bulk of PIOs in Jamaica. They had to face great hardship in the country of their adoption.  The support, which one would expect from the motherland, was not lacking, nor did they get any support from the mercantile group which came later.

 

The high hopes that Indentured labourers brought with them were short lived, as their dreams for a better life soon turned to nightmares. The expected land of plenty was to become the graveyard of the feeble and those that survived were misjudged and mistreated with harsh and severe cruelty.

 

The achievements and contributions which Indians have made to thee general development of the nation have been presented in this paper. The Proclamation made by the Govenor General of Jamaica Sir. Howard Felix H. Cooke, during the 150th Anniversary  of Indian Arrival in Jamaica, speaks very loudly of the contributions of Indians.   The Proclamation states that "the Indian immigrants and their descendants contributed greatly to the economic, scientific and technological achievements of Jamaica and to professional service in Jamaica."

 

Due to the insignificant numbers of Indians in the island, pressures to conform to the culture of the general populace still exist to some degree. Therefore, focus has been concentrated on maintaining their cultural ethnicity and direct and tangible contributions by the Indian community are, more often than not, on a personal level rather than nationally.

 

The main areas of contributions, however, have been in economics and agriculture. Here, thousands of people benefit directly and indirectly, through the varied businesses of Indians in general.

 

The strong lobbying and influences, over the years, of various Indian organizations in Jamaica, is slowly bringing about a national awareness and acceptance of Indians and their contributions to the development of their adopted country. In the future, greater impact on the economic, cultural and social evolution will certainly be realized.

 

India is the largest exporter of human resources in the world today. If these people are adequately equipped spiritually, culturally and socially, and willing to integrate in a plural society, the change that the world longs for will certainly take place. Presently, we hold the flag high and look forward to your support, the motherland.

 

The quantum of cultural support which we expect from the Motherland India has not been to our expectations. We would very much like to retain our cultural heritage and expose our children to it. This support could be in the form of supply of Vedas, Ramayan and Sri Mat Bhagavadgita, written in Sanskrit/Hindi, with pronunciation in Roman and meaning in English, so that we could read, recite and understand the meaning of the text and pass on this rich cultural heritage to our children. The other aspect of support should in the form of visits of cultural troupes, cultural officers and priests, etc.

 

 We are happy to note that the Govt. of India has introduced the Persons of Indian Origin (PlO) Passport, but its fee is very high - US $ 1,000/- each. We will suggest that this fee should be reduced as all PlO's living abroad are not so rich.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 First, I must thank the organizers of this International Conference on contribution by the  people of Indian origin for giving us this wonderful opportunity. I am thankful to Hon.  Justice Mahadev Dukharan, Chairman of the National Council for Indian Culture in Jamaica for selecting me as the representative of the Council to participate in the  conference and present a paper. I am also thankful to His Excellency Shri O.P. Gupta Indian High Commissioner and his staff for facilitating my trip.

 


I would also like to thank:

· Laxmi and Dr. Ajai Mansingh, for allowing me to take many details and extracts from their book "Home Away from Home".

 

· Dr. Sitaram Poddar for going through the manuscript and making worthwhile suggestions.

 

· My daughter Andrea Kamille who was responsible for typing and assistance in proof reading.

 

· My wife Parvati for her support.

Text Box: BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Ahmad, Nasima and Rafi (eds.)                       150th Anniversary of East Indian Arrival in Jamaica Magazine: 10th May 1845 – 1995. IJCS, Kingston, Jamaica, vol. 1, No. 1, Dec. 1995

 

Mansingh, Ajai and Laxmi                              Home Away from Home: 150 years of Indian Presence in Jamaica 1845- 1995. Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston, Jamaica, 1999

 

Persaud, Roopa(ed.)                                         Prema Satsangh of Jamaica Magazine: Rajat Jayanti November 1972 – 1997. Stephensons Litho Press., Kingston, Jamaica, 1997

 

Shepard, Verene                                               Transients to Setlers: The Experience of Indians in Jamaica 1845 – 1950. Center for Research in Asian Migration, the University of Warwick and Peepal Tree Books, Leeds, England, 1994

 

Goetz, Phillip (chief ed.)                                  The New Encyclopedia Britannica. University of Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica Press, Chicago, USA, 1990 (1768), vol. 29, pg 750.

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 February 2009 )
 
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