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Ethnic Discrimination? Trinidad’s Culture Ministry excludes Indian cultural events from Calendar

35.43% of the Trinidadian and Tobagonian population are nationals of Indian heritage or descent

  • 35.43% of the Trinidadian and Tobagonian population are nationals of Indian heritage or descent
  • The 2011 Census also places Hindus as the second largest religious group with 18.15%
  • No Indian-oriented cultural event was included in the Ministry’s cultural calendar

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island country situated on the northern edge of South America mainland has diverse cultures due to the influx of people from all around the world. It was once a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population governed by Spanish laws.

Originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin, Trinidad and Tobago later came under the rule of Spanish authority. There was a large-scale migration of French planters under their rule. The influx of laborers from India took place when it became a British colony. The demand for Indian indentured laborers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834 leading to large scale migrations.

Now, 35.43% of the Trinidadian and Tobagonian population are nationals of Indian heritage or descent. The 2011 Census also places Hindus as the second largest religious group with 18.15%. They are usually categorized with multiple identities, with a more localized ethnic orientation, like Bihari people, Haryanvi people, in addition to further tribal, village, or religious identities.

The Hanuman Temple at Carapichaima Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

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Therefore, when the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts of Trinidad and Tobago placed a full-page, full-colour advertisement in the daily newspapers captioned “Our Calendar of Arts, Culture and Community Events” for June 2016, one would expect that the interests of all the communities would be taken into consideration. But surprisingly, no Indian-oriented cultural event was included in the Ministry’s cultural calendar.

Dr Kumar Mahabir, chairman of the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre(left) Image Source: newsday.co.tt
Dr. Kumar Mahabir, chairman of the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre(left) Image Source: newsday.co.tt

The failure to recognize events like Baal Vikaas in St. Augustine (The largest school music festival in Trinidad and Tobago), Yoga on the Boardwalk in Chaguaramas in commemoration of the UN’s declaration of International Yoga Day, and Krishna Leela Dance Drama Procession in Caroni in reverence to the Sun, raises a number of questions.”Is there ethnic equity in the top hierarchy of the Ministry’s staff?,” asks Dr. Kumar Mahabir, the Chairman of Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC) in an open letter.

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He writes,” the omission of eleven (11) major Indo-Trinidadian cultural events is a damning exposé of the narrow conscience/ness of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts. The revelation opens a can of worms about the practices and policies of the Ministry.”

He also questions all those who publicly declared that Manning and the PNM(People’s National Movement) have never discriminated against Hindus, Muslims, and Indians. “This form of ethnic discrimination”, he says,” can be the discussion of an entire chapter in view of the fact that Indo-Trinidadians comprise the largest ethnic group in the cosmopolitan society.” “Since the Ministry is promoting events organised by Christian churches, it would not have been inconsistent to announce that throughout the month of Ramadan (June 6 – July 5), free community dinners [iftar] were being offered daily by Muslims at every mosque to breakfast,” he adds.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram.

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