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Information on Wismar massacre

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By Annesha Das Gupta 

Heard of Guyana? It is a country in South America, bordered by Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela. Spread over an area of 83,000 square miles, Guyana has a population of approximately 750 thousand (7.5 Lakh). 43 percent of population is formed by people of East Indian ancestry (Indo-Guyanese), followed by Afro-Guyanese ancestry who form about 30 % of the population.

Wismar is a locality in Guyana.

Wismar massacre culminated on the day of 26th May, 1964. This date is special for the people of Guyana, as it is celebrated by them as the Guyana Independence day. Though there is another side to this coin, rather a dark one. Something which was kept well-hidden, for almost four decades, in the archives of the Guyana Government and also in the minds of the Indo-Guyanese.

Yes, the side which denotes the day of the Wismar massacre. A day when more than 3000 Indo-Guyanese where murdered, severely injured, burned and raped by 18000 of the African population. An incidence, which the African government continue to deny.

This article is constructed by garnering and processing through the sources available on the internet. Especially from the blog known as Guyana under Siege. In the blog, one will find the Wismar Report prepared back in the days of 1964 under the order of the then British Guiana governor, Sir Richard Luyt.

The surprising part is that the report saw the light of the day as late as 2004 and was published by GNI Publications. It took special effort of Dr. Odeen Ismael, who was the former historian-ambassador for the government of People’s Progress Party, though the report is only available online.

Another thing is that one will not be able to secure much resource on the topic, no matter how much they trawl through the cyber world.  Perhaps, it is not as astonishing as it sounds after all the histories are always written by the victorious ones.

How? One will ask.

Because sometimes battles are won and sometimes they are not. And the one who lose, do not often get to tell their side of the tale.

The Wismar Massacre

Wismar and Christianburg were the villages where the bauxite mining communities used to live, surrounding the region of the upper Demarara River. It was mixed community where both the members of the Indo-Guyanese and African-Guyanese used to reside. With the population for the Afro-Guyanese being as high as 90%.

Unrest started growing up in the month of May, 1964 around the areas of Wismar, Christianburg and Mackenzie. The workers in the sugar industries started holding strikes, demanding the recognition of the workers as bargaining agents.  And it is known that the strikes were initiated by Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (G.AW.U).

The committee who were responsible for the preparation of the Wismar Report regarded these strikes as essential to include in their report because the participants in those strikes were segregated as East-Indians who mostly supported People’s Progress Party by Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan, whereas the African majority were on the side of People’s National Congress of Mr. Forbes Burnham. Therefore, indicating a racial as well as a political tension.

While in the beginning the strikes were of a more peaceful nature, it did evolved into a violent one as clashes started between the strikers and the non-strikers, with the Africans being employed as the strike breakers. Some people were killed incidentally and both the sides claim them as their very own ‘martyrs’.

Later these clashes intensified into a pandemonium which took part in the greater portions of the East and the West coasts of Demerara. On 21st May, an African couple, were killed when a bomb hit their house. After that the situation went out of hand and a state of emergency was declared after three days.

The massacre in the Wismar-Chistianburg and Mackenzie area lasted for a total of 38 hours; between 24th May, Sunday to 26th May, Tuesday – 1964.

According to the committee, over 230 Indo-Guyanese homes and houses were destroyed, a person was even set on fire. Mr. Ramajjattan, a supporter of the PPP was found decapitated and a 15-year old girl was raped and apart from receiving physical injuries, went through a terrible mental shock. The thing is that these are just some of the instances mentioned among hundreds which have gone uncounted. The Africans who took part in the violence entered into the houses of the Indians hitting and molesting them while they shouted “kill de coolies”.

The people, who managed to escape from their villages, remained hidden in the forests nearby. Unfortunately, the African mob followed them are hunted them down like animals. In the process over 1500 people became homeless.

In the following days of 26th, 27th and 28th May, more than 500 of the Indo-Guyanese came out from their hidings in the forest and were taken to the refugee camps in Georgetown.

Two river streamers were commissioned by the government to take the first batch of the Indo-Guyanese to Georgetown where the Africans pelted them with bricks, jeered and used shabby language at them, on their arrival. About 300 of the total number of Indians found shelters with their relatives while the rest had to sleep on the concrete floor of the pier warehouse.

Seventy-five members of the Mackenzie Police and Volunteer force, who were all Africans, did not take any step to prevent the massacre. Even some of them were found to have themselves being part of the looting, beating and killing of the Indo-Guyanese. The volunteers did not help in any way to stop two women from being raped and they were ultimately saved by the members of DEMBA. In other instance, a young East-Indian was shot when he refused to go by their command.

The committee for the Wismar report, concluded that the disturbances were politically and racially inspired and that it was be said to be a pre-planned massacre.

Aftermath to the present

As mentioned by the committee themselves, hardly anything was done by the Police and Volunteer force and the British troops arrived late in the evening when all over 3000 Indians were evacuated and most of them were re-settled in the coastal areas.

Whereas, on 6th July in the same year a passenger launch named the Sun Champ which was en route from Georgetown to Mackenzie was hit by a huge explosion killing about 36 Afro-Guyanese. This incident was assumed by some Africans, to have the hands of East-Indians behind it. They became enraged and attacked the community, injuring many and killing about 5 people.

Mrs. Janet Jagan, who was then the Minister of Home Affairs resigned from her position concerning the atrocities that has been done. She stated of the non-corporation from the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Owen, who did not follow her orders that were given early on 25th May for reinforcement and the dispatching of the British troops to the areas for the protection of life and property.

In the contemporary times, as mentioned by Rakesh Rampertab, editor of the blog, Guyanese under Siege, mentions a quote where it is cited that the descendants of the Indo-Guyanese people who were involved in the massacre refused to even pass on the information to the other generations either vocally or as a written record.

Though not every part, of it is true. In the recent era some of the people have been seen to write to the newspapers demanding the reimbursement or the compensation to the victims who have gone through such violent times. They want the African government to confess and open up the files on the massacre which have been a well-guarded secret for so many years.

Rampertab, also talks about how Mackenzie was renamed to Linden by Burnham. He cited that Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, named the town after himself to mark it as his greatest political victory. He intended to stamp the massacre and show off his superiority. Burnham also made 26th May, 1966 as the Independence Day for Guyana. In reality, he wanted to register his own name on the massacre and sent a message to anyone from the Indo-Guyanese community who will dare to challenge him, will receive the same fate as that of the Wismar massacre. It is further mentioned that the whole event was used as a tool of racial violence by Burnham’s PNC and Peter D’ Aguiar’s UF  to bring down Dr. Jagan’s PPP, exactly when it was at its zenith.

Therefore, the quote from Mr. Raymond Ali might perhaps ring as true in one’s ear:

“The massacre of Indo-Guyanese in Wismar and Christianburg has remained a well-hidden and well-guarded secret. Not only have Guyanese failed to record and seriously document part of our history but also the older generation of Indo-Guyanese have not passed on this information even orally. Up to today there is no accurate figures on the number of Indo-Guyanese that died during the Wismar massacre”.

  • Linden Sinclair

    On 6 July 1964 an explosion blew apart the Sun Chapman launch as it sailed up the Demerara river from Georgetown to Mackenzie. Forty-three people of mostly African descent died either due to the explosion or drowned when the launch sank.[7] Most of the thirty-three survivors,[7] including the entire crew, were those fortunate to be on the deck or bow [8] when the boat exploded. The Sun Chapman exploded shortly after leaving Horadia[7] about sixteen miles from Mackenzie. By 8 July, thirty-two bodies were recovered from the river and taken to the Mackenzie Hospital morgue to be buried.[9] Some badly decomposed bodies were also buried at Horadia.[7]

    With forty-three fatalities, the sinking of the Sun Chapman is the single largest loss of Guyanese life. Most victims were Lindeners traveling home from Georgetown along the Demerara river. The river was commonly used for this journey before the Linden-Soesdyke highway was constructed in 1966. The explosion was caused by a bomb, but the persons responsible and the type of explosives used remains unknown, this has led to numerous theories about the bombing

    • Wazir Samsair

      You are the 1st Guyanese who has ever given an account without making a race based argument. I commend you for that.
      My family was a victim of this event. It was unfortunate that race and politics interfered with our lives, so much so,
      that we create enemies and develop disdain for one other while the ‘leaders’ enjoy the spoils of life.
      Even 1 death is too much. It shouldn’t matter the race. Understanding cause enables you to resolve and progress. Guyanese have not attained this, and therefore is has moved on to the next generation.
      This incident is a part of Guyana’s history. I think it can be told in a way to teach the importance of cause and effect of bad decision making. Much like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing by the Americans. It prevents the general population from getting embroiled in hateful thinking.

  • Linden Sinclair

    In 1964, Wismar was the site of the Wismar Massacre, where rioting targeted at the Indian minority also led to the widespread destruction of property. The disturbances started on 20 May, escalating to murder on 25 May before the arrival of British troops on 26 May. During this period more than two hundred properties were destroyed by fire and more than fifty people reported physical assaults, including at least seven rapes. The riots also claimed five lives, R. Khan and P. Mirgin, Indian residents of Wismar were killed on 25 May, along with G. English, an alleged looter. B. Wharton died in a fire on 27 May, while I. Bridgewater was killed on the 28th.[6] The Wismar Massacre decreased the Indian population in Wismar; before the riots it was estimated at 3000. This fell to about 300 by the following July, as more than 3000 Indians were evacuated after the riots. The Wismar Massacre was triggered by the general climate of political and ethnic strife within Guyana in 1964. The murder of an African couple in Buxton on 21 May was the most recent violent event, in an extended period of unrest and is considered the trigger for the Wismar Massacre.[6] ONLY 5 PERSONS DIES 2 Indians , 3 afro guyanese not 3000 indians as your article claims

  • Winslow Padmore

    Reading this article makes me sick in the stomach..not because of events of Guyana so sorrowfully explained ..sick because of the most heinous and blatant attempt by the then Indo-Guyanese Dr.Odeen Ismael former ambassador for the PPP political party..Annesha Das Gupta..and other East Indian writers to deliberately distort and mislead readers of the events of Guyana troubled years of racial strive and struggles by writing this one-sided and Bias article..in an attempt to politically and socially demoralize the black citizenry of Guyana..yet no one saw the need to contradict and correct these false tales..I am fro-Guyanese and was 13yrs of age when these racial atrocities between the blacks and East Indians erupted in Guyana around May 26th 1964..There were reports of black bodies being found daily in canals and backdam farm land next to east indian villages on the East and West coast of Demerara ..one black farmer was found with his penis cut off and stuck in his mouth at Buxton ECD… backdam..obliviously that triggered racial tensions in the black communities..and these led to the massacre at.WISMAR..It should be pointed out that the East Indian population was about 3,000 compare to the about 18,000 Black citizens who were mainly Bauxite workers..That figure stated in the article that 3,000 East Indians were killed at Wismar. on May 26th 1964 ..by the writer is deliberate and totally misleading..The total amount of lies lost of east Indians and blacks at Wismar were no higher than 20 death..By that time regiments of British soldiers had already in Guyana and had been distribute to Wismar ..Berbice and other parts of racially troubled spot in Guyana ..Why would anyone write such an erroneous and misleading article like this one without exposing the atrocities of the east indians against the black communities ..is vicious and stupid..when other Guyanese are witnesses to these same events of Guyana History..Let the truth be told..

  • Linden Sinclair

    On 6 July 1964 an explosion blew apart the Sun Chapman launch as it sailed up the Demerara river from Georgetown to Mackenzie. Forty-three people of mostly African descent died either due to the explosion or drowned when the launch sank.[7] Most of the thirty-three survivors,[7] including the entire crew, were those fortunate to be on the deck or bow [8] when the boat exploded. The Sun Chapman exploded shortly after leaving Horadia[7] about sixteen miles from Mackenzie. By 8 July, thirty-two bodies were recovered from the river and taken to the Mackenzie Hospital morgue to be buried.[9] Some badly decomposed bodies were also buried at Horadia.[7]

    With forty-three fatalities, the sinking of the Sun Chapman is the single largest loss of Guyanese life. Most victims were Lindeners traveling home from Georgetown along the Demerara river. The river was commonly used for this journey before the Linden-Soesdyke highway was constructed in 1966. The explosion was caused by a bomb, but the persons responsible and the type of explosives used remains unknown, this has led to numerous theories about the bombing

    • Wazir Samsair

      You are the 1st Guyanese who has ever given an account without making a race based argument. I commend you for that.
      My family was a victim of this event. It was unfortunate that race and politics interfered with our lives, so much so,
      that we create enemies and develop disdain for one other while the ‘leaders’ enjoy the spoils of life.
      Even 1 death is too much. It shouldn’t matter the race. Understanding cause enables you to resolve and progress. Guyanese have not attained this, and therefore is has moved on to the next generation.
      This incident is a part of Guyana’s history. I think it can be told in a way to teach the importance of cause and effect of bad decision making. Much like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing by the Americans. It prevents the general population from getting embroiled in hateful thinking.

  • Linden Sinclair

    In 1964, Wismar was the site of the Wismar Massacre, where rioting targeted at the Indian minority also led to the widespread destruction of property. The disturbances started on 20 May, escalating to murder on 25 May before the arrival of British troops on 26 May. During this period more than two hundred properties were destroyed by fire and more than fifty people reported physical assaults, including at least seven rapes. The riots also claimed five lives, R. Khan and P. Mirgin, Indian residents of Wismar were killed on 25 May, along with G. English, an alleged looter. B. Wharton died in a fire on 27 May, while I. Bridgewater was killed on the 28th.[6] The Wismar Massacre decreased the Indian population in Wismar; before the riots it was estimated at 3000. This fell to about 300 by the following July, as more than 3000 Indians were evacuated after the riots. The Wismar Massacre was triggered by the general climate of political and ethnic strife within Guyana in 1964. The murder of an African couple in Buxton on 21 May was the most recent violent event, in an extended period of unrest and is considered the trigger for the Wismar Massacre.[6] ONLY 5 PERSONS DIES 2 Indians , 3 afro guyanese not 3000 indians as your article claims

  • Winslow Padmore

    Reading this article makes me sick in the stomach..not because of events of Guyana so sorrowfully explained ..sick because of the most heinous and blatant attempt by the then Indo-Guyanese Dr.Odeen Ismael former ambassador for the PPP political party..Annesha Das Gupta..and other East Indian writers to deliberately distort and mislead readers of the events of Guyana troubled years of racial strive and struggles by writing this one-sided and Bias article..in an attempt to politically and socially demoralize the black citizenry of Guyana..yet no one saw the need to contradict and correct these false tales..I am fro-Guyanese and was 13yrs of age when these racial atrocities between the blacks and East Indians erupted in Guyana around May 26th 1964..There were reports of black bodies being found daily in canals and backdam farm land next to east indian villages on the East and West coast of Demerara ..one black farmer was found with his penis cut off and stuck in his mouth at Buxton ECD… backdam..obliviously that triggered racial tensions in the black communities..and these led to the massacre at.WISMAR..It should be pointed out that the East Indian population was about 3,000 compare to the about 18,000 Black citizens who were mainly Bauxite workers..That figure stated in the article that 3,000 East Indians were killed at Wismar. on May 26th 1964 ..by the writer is deliberate and totally misleading..The total amount of lies lost of east Indians and blacks at Wismar were no higher than 20 death..By that time regiments of British soldiers had already in Guyana and had been distribute to Wismar ..Berbice and other parts of racially troubled spot in Guyana ..Why would anyone write such an erroneous and misleading article like this one without exposing the atrocities of the east indians against the black communities ..is vicious and stupid..when other Guyanese are witnesses to these same events of Guyana History..Let the truth be told..

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Hafeez Jalandhari: The Man behind Pakistan’s National Anthem also Wrote Urdu Poem-Krishn Kanhaiya to Praise the Hindu God Krishna

Decoding Hafeez Jalandhari's 'Krishn Kanhaiya'

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Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna
Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna. Pixabay
  • Hafeez Jalandhari weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it
  • Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty
  • The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God

New Delhi, August 31, 2017: This year, Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day coincided with Hindu Festival Janmashtami (a festival to celebrate Krishna’s birth). Both were on 14th August. The famous Urdu poet Hafeez Jalandhari wrote the Qaumi Taranah, Pakistan’s national anthem. But not many people know that the same poet penned Krishn Kanhaiya, a unique Urdu poem beautifully describes the greatness of the Hindu Deity.

The idea of a Muslim poet in today’s time writing on a Hindu God raises all sorts of reactions (some of which are negative) coming from different ethnic groups in South Asia: suspicion, anger, surprise, joy or mere curiosity.

There is much more nuance to the poem Krishn Kanhaiya than what the reader thinks on its first reading. This is not just a devotional poem. Jalandhari had a political bend of mind be it him as a thinker or a writer. So, even this poem of his is not an ordinary one, it talks about Krishna’s grand persona, Hindu idol worship, what makes him different, his righteousness, describing the role he played in a Hindu epic Mahabharata.

He weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it. The hidden meaning of it, when compared with Qaumi Taranah, is that it tells about the cultural politics of South Asia- in the 20th Century and has relevance today.

Decoding the poem:

Idol Worship

In the first line of the poem, the poet says “O, onlooker”- he might be saying this as he’s talking about a Hindu God and Hinduism gives importance to seeing a God, they believe in Idol worshipping, Hindu Gods have a form, a face. Thus, Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty. The poet wants the readers to have mental darshan of Lord Krishna by saying, onlookers. Jalandhari wants the readers to have a mental image of Krishna in their minds.

Krishna is a form of light

The opening lines of the poem are a bit abstract and don’t talk of Krishna; in further lines, the poet asks whether Krishna is a reality or a representation. He refers to him as a “form of light” and then asks is he fire or light. Referring to Krishna as light might indicate to Islamic scholars who said that “Krishna was a righteous prophet sent to the people of the subcontinent.”

Jalandhari finally gives a description of Krishna that we are more familiar with- him being a “flute player” and a “cowherd of Gokul.” The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God.

In the tenth stanza, the poet says that – “Inside the temple / the sculptor of beauty himself / entered and became the idol”. He is talking about Idol Worship done by Hindus who pray to their God in a temple, having a belief that the deity resides in the temple in the idol itself.

ALSO READ: Hindu Temple in Aldenham (UK) Hosts Global Visitors for Largest ‘Hare-Krishna’ celebrations in the world

Krishna Leela

Then we get a glimpse of ‘Krishna Leela’ as the poet talks of Krishna’s playing and dancing around with gopis (cowherd girls), on Yamuna river bank that he describes as a “rare happenings”. He is youthful and charming, to set the tone of the scene, phrases like “intoxicated winds” and “waves of love” are used that there was something heavenly in the atmosphere.

The sound of Krishna’s flute is described as “neither intoxication nor wine / it’s something beyond.”  Such phrases transport the readers into Braj (Krishna spent his childhood and adolescence years here) and they get blissfully lost in the divine sound of Krishna’s flute.

Cheer-Haran of Draupadi and Krishna being her savior

The poem from here takes a serious transition into a serious mood. Here the poet talks of a famous Cheer-Haran (disrobing) scene from Mahabharata as the five Pandavas have lost their kingdom and Draupadi in the dice game. Draupadi is dragged into the court by Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, she prays to Krishna to help her.

It is said that Lord Krishna came to her rescue and due to God’s grace, her sari turned into a never ending piece of cloth as when the Kauravas tried pulling it off, more fabric draped her body and saved her dignity.

With this scene, Jalandhari begins to bring a political angle to the poem as Draupadi says, “These beloved princes (her husbands), have all become cowards!” It seems that Jalandhari is accusing India’s rulers, monarchs who behaved like cowards at the time of British Rule.

Some even argue that the poet is referring to all Indians who worked under British Rule as cowards. The poet uses the phrase “the light of India” for Krishna, this seems more of a political symbolism.

Preparations for the Mahabharata war

In the next scene, the poet takes us to the preparations for the great Mahabharata war, where he writes worryingly, “Duryodhana seems victorious.” Duryodhana (eldest kaurava) symbolizes British Rule over India which continued for a pretty long time, like the Mahabharata war.

The irony is that Kaurava army was much larger in number than Pandavas whereas Britishers were very less in number than Indians. But with Krishna’s arrival on the battlefield (from Pandavas side) and how he preached Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, changes the anxiety and sorrow to much-needed enthusiasm: “the divine decree has been pronounced, the sword has been swung!”

This Krishna is very different from the young playful one which the poet has described earlier. Here, he symbolizes great strength and power: on his “face shines a bright gaze” also his “virtues burn enemies.”  He is so powerful that when he is angry, he can shower lightning. Thus, this Krishna can easily be an icon used for anti-colonial nationalism.

ALSO READ: If you are a Devotee of Lord Krishna, these 10 Lesser Known Facts Will Surprise You!

Relating Mahabharata with British Rule

After this, Jalandhari paints a picture of India suffering under colonial rule, using Vrindavan as a symbol for India. He says that once the joyful Yamuna is now silent, the waves are weak now. The gardens which were earlier beautiful are now ruined and the gopis symbolizing people of India are feeling helpless without their Krishna, their savior.

So, Jalandhari makes a personal plea to Krishna: “Oh king of India, come just once more.” He begs Krishna to return to Mathura (Mathura symbolizes India) and become the King again: “If you come, glory will come, if you come, life will come” With his plea to Krishna asking him to liberate India from British rule, Jalandhari ends his nazm.

If we compare Krishn Kanhaiya to Jalandhari’s more famous work (Pakistan’s National Anthem), we can learn a lot about the cultural politics which has influenced South Asia over the 20th century and continues to do so even today.


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The Solution to Racial Politics in Guyana and Trinidad

It is believed that the PNC was instrumental in the Wismar massacre on May 26, 1964

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Trinidad and Tobago
Indentured Laborers taken from India. Wikimedia

– by Dr Kumar Mahabir

Tobago and Trinidad, August 10, 2017: A noted Anthropologist from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Kumar Mahabir has brought to attention the racial politics in Guyana and Trinidad. The article is an excerpt from a research paper presented by him recently at the First Diaspora Engagement Conference in Guyana organized by The University of Guyana.

There is legitimate suspicion, fear and insecurity among East Indians of the ruling APNU+AFC regime in Guyana. The President of Guyana, David Granger, was a former Commander of the African-dominated Guyana Defence Force under the PNC regime (1964 -1992), which is the major partner in the current APNU +AFC coalition government.

It is believed that the PNC was instrumental in the Wismar massacre on May 26, 1964.  USA non-Indian historian, Stephen Rabe (2005) of the University of Texas, reported that in the massacre, 200 persons [mainly Indians] died, 800 were injured, 200 houses were destroyed and 1,800 persons were left homeless.

Dr Kumar Mahabir

Non-Indian sociologist Stephen Spencer at Sheffield Hallam University (UK) stated: “While the police and special volunteers looked on passively, the African Guyanese engaged in an orgy of violence against the Indian community, involving rape, arson, beatings and murder” (p. 52).

Indians have no faith and trust in the African-dominated Government of Guyana led by a PNC former military commander. And indeed most Indians in and out of Guyana believe that the APNU+AFC came to power through a rigged election.

Their belief is not without factual and historical basis. The Latin American Bureau, a human rights organization, reported that the PNC “has been responsible for massively rigging every election that has occurred since the country gained independence.”

[bctt tweet=”Indian Diaspora in Guyana has no Faith in African-dominated Government” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]

Indians would have no faith in the Diaspora Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unless it is staffed by 40% Indians appointed by the opposition PPP. Contesting the 2015 election as a single party, the PPP barely lost the fight against the united forces of the APNU+AFC alliance.

The result was a narrow victory for the APNU+AFC party with 207,201 votes (50.3% = 33 seats). The PPP followed very closely with 202,656 votes (49.2% = 32 seats) (GECOM, 2015). PPP lost the opportunity to become the government by a mere margin of 4,545 votes. The APNU+AFC collation government is in power by a mere one-seat majority.

General elections were held in racially-divided Trinidad and Tobago on September 7, 2015. The Afro-based People’s National Movement received 52% of the votes and won 23 of the 41 seats in the House of Representatives. The Indo-based People’s Partnership (PP) coalition led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar got 40% of the votes and won 18 seats. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, his Cabinet Ministers and Ambassadors are mainly Afro-Trinidadians and the PP Opposition consists mainly of Indo-Trinidadians.

For the Guyana’s Government’s diaspora engagement programme to succeed, the ghost of the Wismar massacre has to be put to rest. This can only be done if the APNU+AFC government establishes a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) modelled after the restorative justice court in South Africa established after the abolition of apartheid. The APNU+AFC government also has to initiate action to take the surviving assailants of the Wismar Massacre to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Holland.

Guyana’s State polices and programmers can work only if the APNU+AFC government shares power. In his book entitled, Ethno-Politics and Power Sharing in Guyana (2011), David Hinds wrote: “Ethnic groups living side by side have always been suspicious of one another. That suspicion turns to fear and insecurity when the issue of who controls power – decision-making (political) and resource allocation (economic) – invariably arises.”

Hinds added: “In other words, groups fear domination by the other and act out that fear through choices they make both at the community and national levels…. What compounds this fear is that both groups have had a taste of domination by the other” (p. 173).

Attempts by the APNU+AFC government to entice Indian figures to give the semblance of ethnic equality is an exercise in futility. The faces of Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan, Rupert Roopnaraine, Amna Ally and Ronald Bulkan are used as ethnic window-dressing.

[sociallocker][/sociallocker]

In Guyana, David Hinds noted: “Such leaders bring little tangible benefits to the party as they are often ridiculed by their own group as traitors. They are often forced to either endorse ethnic attacks on their group or remain silent” (p. 176).

Hinds observed that parties accept the solution of power sharing when they are in opposition, but reject it when in power. Power sharing with the Opposition is the only solution for development in racially-divided Guyana and Trinidad.

The concept of consociational democracy was developed in 1968 by the political scientist Arend Lijphart from the Netherlands. The political system is intended to reconcile societal divisions along ethnic and religious lines. In consociational states, all groups, including political minorities, are equitably represented in the political and economic arena.

Dr Kumar Mahabir is an assistant professor of Anthropology in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

 

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Stop Blaming Indians for the Black Crisis in Trinidad and Tobago

Raymond Ramcharitar, a columnist with the Trinidad Guardian, is quite accurate when he wrote that “the oppressor these days in the minds of many Trinidadians is not the white world, but local Indian. It’s a narrative relentlessly repeated on talk radio, in newspaper columns, in academia.

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Indian Coolies preparing rice in The West Indies. Circa 1890-96. The West Indies has a strong presence of the people of East India decent.
Indian Coolies preparing rice in The West Indies. Circa 1890-96. The West Indies has a strong presence of the people of East India decent. Wikimedia Commons

 – by Kamal Persad

July 10, 2017:

Blacks in Trinidad and Tobago are describing the situation of the black community as a “crisis” and as one requiring urgent attention.  The main areas of concern are the crime situation affecting the black community, the black on black violence, the murders of young black men and the gang warfare.

They point to the prison population as being black in composition, and the under 18-year-old prisoners at the Youth Training Centre (YTC). The recent outbreak of young black men from the St Michael’s Boys’ Home is also a serious concern to them.

Another area of expressed concern is the under-achievement of blacks in education. This becomes an emotional issue annually when the results of the SEA, CSEC, and CAPE are released and the lists of the top achievers and scholarship winners are announced. There is a visible under-representation of blacks as top scorers in these exams.

[bctt tweet=” Blacks are constantly comparing their situation of crisis with the perceived success of Indians ” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]

The 2017 SEA exam results

An example is the results of the 2017 SEA exams in which the first three top places were attained by Indian students from denominational schools.  Success in business and the professions are also referred constantly by blacks. They point out the absence of blacks.

Trinidad is a plural society and blacks are constantly comparing their situation of crisis with the perceived success of Indians – Indians are their point of reference and comparison.

One tendency in this obvious comparison of ethnicities is to blame Indians for the crisis in the black community. This aspect of black analysis of their situation has the potential to lead to tension and conflict.  Sometimes the United National Congress (UNC) and its leader, Mrs Kamla Persad Bissesser, are singled out for attack especially since she led the government for five years (2010 – 2015), and the UNC political base lay in the Hindu and Indian community. 

The black talk-shows, articles, letters, etc.

The sources of black opinion are expressed in the many call-in talk shows on the radio, in letters to the editor, and articles in the print media such as the weekly TnT Mirror which is virtually an Afro-centric weekly newspaper.  These media outlets are followed by the Trinidad Express in which the black position is given widespread publicity by several columnists who are clearly Afro-centric in their worldview and position on issues. There is the complete absence of any alternate Indian-orientated opinion in this daily newspaper.  In this sense, the Trinidad Express can be deemed to be an urban Afro-centric newspaper and certainly not “national” or “independent” as it proclaims itself to be.

Aiyegoro Ome of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and its cultural arm, the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC), in a letter to the Express (“Mark Emancipation Day in Every Home.” June 24, 2017 p. 15) suggested that Emancipation Day should be celebrated widely. “Let’s face it, the African family is in crisis. The signs are everywhere. Communities which are primarily African are going through torture. Young African males, in particular, are the frequent perpetrators and well as, the victims of crime, notwithstanding the accomplishments of many Africans youths, the status of Africans is tainted with a lot of nonsense.” 

Mayday, Mayday!  SOS, SOS

Using the language of distress and trauma in a lengthy letter to the press (Guardian. June 20, 2017, p 21), another black writer, Michael Joseph, wrote: “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!  SOS, SOS, SOS to our leaders. Where are they? The Afro-centric community is leaderless and without voice. ” He continued: “Our predicament:  We are experiencing a period of genocide in the black communities, where the system is geared towards our demise and we are in full co-operation shown by our actions and attitudes towards to each other.” Joseph stated that the “system” is working for others and not for blacks:

Michael Joseph added: “This multi-ethnic, multi-racial society is exactly what it is, every ethnic group is looking out for themselves and nothing is wrong with that.  What is wrong is the fact that the Afro-centric communities are without voice. We are still being sold to the highest bidder, depending on the education and indoctrination. And so, we contribute to the progress and success of everyone else but ourselves. Where are our leaders?” 

“Wake up black man!”

Joseph called upon blacks to “wake up black man – we are in no position to feed ourselves and protect our families and communities, and that is not good for a people.” He added: “Strength in numbers seems to have no meaning in the black communities. When will the killing stop? Who is benefiting from it?” He hoped the black youths would “stop killing each other, our youths in due course would put away the guns for the real war.” This black predicament affects others: “Children growing up angry with no love of one parent or another, “as such the well-off in society “get robbed or killed by the same disgruntled youths.” Thus blacks pose a real danger to society. This is a point repeated by other black writers on the black condition – the national price the country has to pay because of the black condition and crisis.

The criminal attack by bandits on Fr Clyde Harvey on Monday, June 13, 2017, on the Roman Catholic compound at Hermitage Road, Gonsales, in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, is viewed by the black intelligentsia as the epitome of the black crisis.  The Prime Minister’s reaction was first published in condemnation of the attack of Fr Clyde Harvey: “The attack on Father Clyde Harvey by able-bodied, gun-toting men sadly represents the worst that exists within our communities. Notwithstanding what difficulties one may be facing in life there are limits beneath which the human form should not sink.”  Dealing with the family background of the criminals, he said: “The miscreants have parents and I hope that somewhere in this country today, there are a few parents who are hanging their heads in shame as they reflect in private as to what more they might have done to prevent any of our citizens from behaving in this despicable way.”  

“This is a black crisis.  Don’t put lipstick on it!”

Dr Keith Rowley did not identify the ethnicity of the criminals or reacted in any ethnic-orientated way to the crime. The identity of the bandits were known when the police arrested four young men between the ages of 17 and 24 years, all from the Gonsales area in Belmont in Port-of-Spain. The many other responses to this high-profile crime against a popular priest were generally to condemn the crime. This was not the case of others.

Dr Theodore Lewis is professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota in the United States, retired and residing in Trinidad. He reported on a conversation he had with Fr Harvey before the crime in an article in the Express, about the crime in the Laventille area, and about “his parishioners who bear the brunt of the crime.” Lewis wrote: “But he (Fr Harvey) went further and yes, it is black boys whom he says can see no avenue for escape. Fr Harvey is not afraid to name the problem.  He is not putting water in his mouth. This is a black crisis.  Don’t put lipstick on it.”

“He (Fr Harey) points to the white-collar dimension of crime, crime in suit and tie, hiding behind the cloak of respectability.” In fact, in response to the attack on his person and church, Fr Harvey said that “in a sense, I cannot blame them. Some have identified the men as two wicked young men. They are not wicked, they are victims of our society. It is not about forgiveness. I don’t see them as guilty or see them as misguided – they are victims.”

Thieving black people’s money

When Fr Harvey was forced to open the church vault with a gun at his head, he recounted the event that one of the bandits, when they saw the cheques, one of them said: “All these cheques, you must have money, allyuh pastors have money, allyuh thieving black people money.”

Fr Harvey’s comment on the incident was that the thieves did not distinguish between a “pastor” and a “priest.” He completely ignored, and had no comment to make on, the psychology of the criminal mind, the black young men, who view him and his church as “thieving black people money” and feel justified in robbing and assaulting him, and from what one of them told the policeman, other victims as well, motivated by a sense of victimhood of blacks.

White collar criminals responsible for black crime

Fr Harvey blamed “society” and “white collar criminals in suit and tie” as responsible for the actions of the black criminals, while the black criminals blame him and his church for “thieving black people money,” a truly interesting divergence of positions.

Theodore Lewis commented on the crime against Fr Harvey: “Black boys behind the bridge do not have the means to do that [white collar crime]. They are not accepted in prestige schools, primary and secondary. The university is blind to the absence of blacks in medicine and engineering despite what Noel Kallicharan says.   Fr Harvey was the victim of ‘societal forces that are at play.’”

Lewis added: “Fr Harvey is the one person there is in this country who can sit with gangsters and reason with them to end their war, the main casualties of which are young black men. Men are fighting for their lives daily, while the sons of Mr Big go to university, and while politicians fight for State land for sugar workers, Black men are dying too soon, their beautiful children left without a daddy to read to them at night, black children born into a country that does not tell them about the prowess of Courtney Bartholomew …“

At no point does Lewis place responsibility at the door of the black leaders. The absence of black men at university in medicine and engineering, it seems, is at the expense of Indians who are students of these disciplines. The “sugar workers” are mainly Indians, the prestige schools are populated by Indian children. By being successful in school and university, especially in medicine, law, and engineering, Indians are accused of contributing to the black condition in Trinidad and Tobago.

Blame the PPP Government (2010 – 2015)

Errol Pilgrim followed the Theodore-Lewis’ warped line of thought in his article, “The African Condition in Tatters in T&T” (TnT Mirror. June 16, 2017, p. 11). He identified the criminals who attacked Fr Harvey as black men and placed the African condition of crisis, not within the African community, but on the People’s Partnership Government (2010 – 2015), and more particularly, at the feet of Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissesser.

The criminals who attacked Fr Harvey are described as “cowardly young Black miscreants.”  Pilgrim wrote that “as we move towards our thirty-second-year celebration of emancipation, it is difficult to identify anything in the condition of Africans in our nascent society that is worthy of celebration. For far too long, the character of the young African male, existing on the margins of society, has been largely defined by unrelenting brutality and brutishness and an aversion to anything that is decent and lawful.”

Errol Pilgrim referred to the Selwyn Ryan Report and proceeded to lay the condition of African crisis with Kamla Persad Bissesser and the PP government. He stated that the cancellation of the off-shore vessels by the PP government is responsible for crime among blacks. Pilgrim’s language is quite extreme: “The drugs and gun smugglers enjoyed a long uninterrupted reign, getting their mindless minions, consisting of young Black men, to reign terror on the streets and to set the indigent pockets of African habitation along the East-West corridor awash with African blood.”

Pilgrim wrote that the recommended national service scheme was a “stepped up servile CEPEP scheme” and the recommended use of sports was answered by the PP government “racially-orientated decision to seek to lay waste and ruin the monument that the previous government had started to erect.” He added that the PP’s Life Sport programme “burgeoned into a mammoth criminal enterprise.”  This is political propaganda which fail to address the real causes of the black crisis, but puts blame for the black condition on others.

Blame Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Errol Pilgrim quoted the Ryan Report which asked the question: “What does increased youth criminality say about the failure of two earlier generations to provide ample role models and institutional support to guide the current generation?” Pilgrim’s answer is limited to five years, 2010 to 2017, when Kamla Persad-Bissessar was prime minister. He blames her for everything negative in the black community.  His subsequent week’s article, “Hard To Be Black and Proud In T&T,” carried a photo of Kamla Persad-Bissessar with the caption: “Whereas the PNM has sought to be all things to all people, the UNC has openly and quite effectively sought to promote as a matter of policy, the interests and development of their East Indian political base …“

Errol Pilgrim’s article is a comparative account of the failures of Africans and the successes of Indians with the conclusion that Indians are responsible for the African condition.  Pilgrim’s final article in the month of June, 2017, “I’ll Keep Writing Until Black Justice Happens,” (TnT Mirror, June 30, 2017, p. 11) disclosed his purpose of writing: “ … the racial and ethnic perils that the Black man in Trinidad and Tobago has had to endure to the advantage of other racial and ethnic groups. I propose to persist in my focus on this taboo of race and ethnicity.”

Blacks are never held accountable for their situation, and do not take responsibility for the crisis which they proclaim is facing them. The continuous administrations of Eric Williams from 1956 to the time of his death in 1981 and the PNM in power for 30 continuous years is never mentioned.  Discussion of the continuation of PNM in government under Patrick Manning is avoided, and now under Dr. Keith Rowley.

The new oppressors are Indians

Are we to accept that these PNM administrations did not foster the interests of PNM black supporters? There is silence on this topic. To give a historical background of the black condition would create distress – it is better to avoid Eric Williams altogether.

Raymond Ramcharitar, a columnist with the Trinidad Guardian, is quite accurate when he wrote that “the oppressor these days in the minds of many Trinidadians is not the white world, but local Indian.  It’s a narrative relentlessly repeated on talk radio, in newspaper columns, in academia.  In last week’s Express Selwyn Cudjoe began to beat the drum again saying that Indians were brought here to stymie the economic progress of Africans” (“The View From  AL Jaeera ” Guardian. May 24, 2017 p. 20)

Ramcharitar was referring to Cudjoe’s article in the Sunay Express (“Getting It Right.” March 26, 2017, p. 14) in which Cudjoe wrote that “Indians were brought to Trinidad to undercut the progress that Africans were making at the economic front” and “Indian labor had managed to put Africans back in their place.” Cudjoe concluded that “when Kamla talks next, I hope she talks about the impact indentureship had on her African brothers and sisters and how, in 2017, we can rectify the conditions of poor Africans who still remain at the bottom of the economic pie.” It is as though Indians and whites owe reparation to Africans. 

There is no Indian voice in the Express and Mirror

The black blame of Indians for their condition of crisis is now given historical justification, and as such, Indians must pay for black reparation, an argument based on historical fabrication and falsification. When Indians are mentioned in this discussion of the black crisis, it is the black view of Indians which is published.  There is virtually no Indian voice (columnist) published in the Express and the TnT Mirror, very few letters in response to the issues raised by blacks. There is no discussion of the Indian condition in Trinidad and Tobago or analysis of issues from an Indian viewpoint.

In a Newsday article (“Indo-Trinidadians Position Today.” June 12, 2017, p 12), Trevor Sudama wrote that “we do not know a great deal about the Indo-Trinidadians’ presence in the society today because not much relevant and informative research has been done. To argue for such a program is to run the risk of being accused of having an obsession with race and engaging in race rhetoric. In a polite society, it is considered taboo to talk openly about race.” Yet blacks are engaged in race discussion about themselves and Indians daily, and the media give enormous time and space to entertain this discussion.

One expects that this discussion of the black crisis, as defined by blacks themselves, would continue with great intensity, and the Indian presence would continue to be ignored. When Indians are mentioned at all, it is by blacks who are engaged in comparison of the Indian condition as they perceive it or to blame Indians for the black crisis

This situation cannot continue and Indians must find avenues to respond to black attacks on Indians and to give as far as possible, objective assessment of the reality in Trinidad and Tobago.

Kamal Persad (BA & MA in History, UWI) is from Carapichaima, Trinidad and Tobago. He is an Indian academic Ideologue.

 

 

4 responses to “Stop Blaming Indians for the Black Crisis in Trinidad and Tobago”

  1. It seems strange to not recognise that Indians are black people too and were always referred to as such by the Europeans.It is American Television causing the problems if British channels were broadcasted thing would be much better

    • Irrelevant in terms of this article. There are historical and ethnical distictions being made specifically in terms of Trinidad and Tobago. Outer perceptions are not being considered here. But the fact of the matter is that there is a social divide…. If this social divide and the “Black condition” as described here is justified is another story.

  2. They ( the writers of this article) know fully well that Afro Trinidadians have very little economic agency and know that the U.S. has a finger on who operates the illicit trade of Guns and Cocaine, both trades of which Afro-Trinidadians strangely have little or no control. They know also that people are putting the pieces of the puzzle together and finding strange coincidences. It is about time they come face-to-face with this and stop engaging in the victim blaming of their own making concerning the Afro-Trinidadian community,

  3. Ramcahritar has written the same article in the local newspapers for over ten years, every week, with a slightly different angle or sometimes basically the same argument as the author demonstrates with their sub headings. Ethno nationalists like Ramcharitar, Kumar Mahabir and now this author peddle this narrative of inter ethnic tensions over and over. Outside of the worldvoew of ethno nationalists these examples have deeper contexts and counter examples. This much of what is said here is not true, and simply serves to help ethno nationalists to create divisions in the society that the majority of people in T&T do not hold to. Its almost like Sat Maharaj the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha organization which is the major Hindu organization in Trinidad and Tobago, has culture warriors and sends them out each day to peddle some ancient version of Indians he has in his head and that most people in T&T think never really existed. They want a battle between ethno nationalists on each side because it provides Sat and his cronies with political power. The reality is T&T for the majority is a fluid place of culture and not a pluralist one. The writers i criticise hold to the latter definition while most everyday people live the first example.