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Indian Arrival Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 25 July 2006
INDIAN ARRIVAL DAY

INDIAN ARRIVAL DAY 

By Ram Jagessar 

Indian Arrival Day is the annual commemoration of the arrival of  Indians from the Indian subcontinent to other countries in the world. It is celebrated as a public holiday on May 30 in Trinidad and Tobago , and on May 5 in Guyana, and sometimes with varying names in the Caribbean nations of  Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica, as well as in the United States, Canada (South Asian Heritage Month), Holland, Great Britain, and as far off as Australia. It has taken on the character of a happy celebration of  the “birthday” of the Indian community in the countries, as well as a proud recognition of  the community’s presence and heritage. In some countries it is the only unifying event for people separated by religion, country of origin (the former India is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan), language, class and culture.

ORIGIN

Indians have been moving out to over 20 other countries since the early nineteenth century, with East Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, and 12 British, Dutch and French Caribbean colonies being the favourite destinations. They went mostly as immigrants, indentured workers or merchants.

In several countries the dates of their first arrivals are well known, since they arrived by ship and were recorded in ships’ logs, by local newspapers and official bodies.  Perhaps because of  their low status, no attention was paid to their coming until well into the 20th century, with the anniversary celebrations of their arrival in the Caribbean  Guyana and Trinidad. These are the first known Indian Arrival Day celebrations. colonies of

INDIAN CENTENARY IN GUYANA 1938, TRINIDAD 1945

The arrival of the ships Hesperus and  Whitby on May 5, 1838 in Guyana (then known as Demerara), and the Fath Al Razak (Victory to Allah the Sustainer- it is commonly called Fatel Razack) in TrinidadMay 30, 1845 marked the arrival of  Indians in the  western hemisphere. They came as humble contract workers for the sugar industries then facing a labour crisis with the freedom of the slaves, and quickly achieved the promise to save the dominant sugar industry. on

When the Indian community in Guyana organized a massive Indian Centenary celebration in Georgetown in May 1945 there was much to celebrate. The colonial governor, the plantation, business and religious leaders of the times came out to join the East Indians in marking the 100th anniversary of their arrival and their role in developing Guyana. It was one of the biggest public gatherings of Indians in the colony’s history.

Trinidad’s Indians held an equally huge Indian Centenary seven years later in May 1945, with a large gathering of  Indians and dignitaries in Skinner Park, San Fernando.  The event attracted national attention and was marked by the publication of a book, Indian Centenary Review, which reviewed the achievements of the Indians.

 

TRINIDAD REVIVES INDIAN ARRIVAL CELEBRATIONS

After the end of  World War 2 in 1945 the memory of the May 5 arrival of  Indians in Guyana slowly faded away over the next 40 years.  In Trinidad there were sporadic, small scale  celebrations of  “Indian Emigration Day” for some years, but the May 30 arrival of the Fath-al-Razak gradually  disappeared from the public memory. By the early seventies only the Hindu group the Divine Life Society of Chaguanas was staging an annual procession and service for  Indian Emigration Day.

By 1977 when even the Divine Life Society's annual march had been discontinued, an Indian activist group called the Indian Revival and Reform Association (IRRA) took up the challenge and set up a small committee to revive the event.

The IRRA Newsletter of June 1978 reported under the title "A Good Start to Reviving Indian Emigration Day", that "The response to our program to revive Indian Emigration Day this year has been just beautiful. A lot more people knew about the arrival of the first Indians in the Fatel Rozack on May 30, 1845 than we had at first believed- and practically everyone agreed that this historic day should become part of our calendar."

The newsletter stated that, " To set things off this year the IRRA put out a pamphlet giving some basic information about the indentured immigrants, the achievements of Indians and listing the names of the first group of Indians. This was distributed widely, and well received. The president of the Association was interviewed by Gideon Hanoomansingh on the Radio 610 programme "Cultural Traditions", again bringing a favourable response. On May 30 itself a short article prepared by the Association appeared in the (Trinidad) Express and one on the voyage of the Fatel rozack by Dr Kusha Haracksingh was printed in the (Trinidad)Guardian. A few schools in San Fernando, including San Fernando Secondary, got together to have joint celebrations. The Mastana Bahar show the following week was dedicated to Indian Emigration Day. In short, a large amount of people heard of Indian Emigration Day and its importance."

The two page IRRA pamphlet titled "Indian Emigration Day May 30, 1978" was "Printed and published by Ramdath Jagessar for the Indian Revival and Reform Association, 13 Frederick Street, Curepe." Jagessar was one of seven IRRA members who formed what became the Indian Arrival Day Committee 1977, the others being Anand Singh, Khalik Khan, Rajiv Sieunarine,Rajesh Harricharan, Azamudeen Jang and Michael Sankar. They were soon joined by Rajnie Ramlakhan, Ashok Gobin and Anand Maharaj. All ten were young people from the Curepe-San Juan area of North Trinidad.

The pamphlet declared that, "For us in Trinidad and Tobago the history of Indians in this country begins on that historic day with that brave band of pioneers from the Fatel Rozack. We must never forget that event, never forget that group of our ancestors and those who came later... It all started with those 220 who came here 133 years ago, on the day that is the birthday of Indians in Trinidad." It went on to list the names of the Indians on the Fatel Rozack and review the history of Indians in Trinidad and their contributions.

The next year1979, the IRRA committee decided to expand the celebration. It decided to contact existing Indian organizations for support and started with the nearest, the largest Hindu group, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), which was headquartered in St. Augustine. SDMS secretary Sat Maharaj and his executive responded strongly and positively, and the committee decided to go no further.

The Maha Sabha agreed to host a large public celebration on May 30, 1979,at its headquarters, with the committee providing publicity and promotion. During discussions between the committee and the Maha Sabha the point was made that Indians were no longer emigrants to Trinidad, and the name Indian Emigration Day was no longer valid. It was changed to Indian Arrival Day to show that it referred to the anniversary date of the coming of Indians to Trinidad. The committee changed its name to the Indian Arrival Day committee.

The 1979 Indian Arrival Day celebrations at the Maha Sabha grounds were a huge success and aroused great interest nationally.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 21 January 2007 )
 
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