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Evidences of Recruitment and Abolition show the plight of Indentured immigrants from India

Authors and researchers bring out history of certain origins and the dynamics of Indian Indentured Labourers

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Indian labour transportation to West Indies, Wikimedia
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This article is completely based on the research work and opinion of Dr Kwame Nantambu. Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago marks an important event in the Indian History as well as World History. If one browses through the article, they will come across details about the origins that include the Asian-Chinese Dynasty, “Ganges” river, Indian originality and the label “Indentured Servants.” Dr Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies has highlighted certain origins and the historical dynamics of Indian Arrival.

Asian-Chinese Dynasty

Pieces of evidence and studies have revealed that Africans had ruled all of Asia in the B.C. era. It is quite strange to know that China’s first two and most important dynasties- the Xia (2205-1766 B.C.) and Shang/Chang were ruled by Africans.

Understanding facial dynamics also add an interesting angle in knowing the origin of several communities. If one takes a closer look at the Asian facial type of eyes, one will notice it is slanted. This is one of the common characteristics of people in West Africa, the Sahara and in South Africa among the Kong-San Bushmen. Therefore, as one can already figure it out that these ancient Africans brought numerous facial dynamics when they ruled Asia for centuries and mingled with the indigenous population; just as the African-Moors did in Euro-Spain from 711-1492 A.D.

History bears proof that the earliest occupants or inhabitants of Asia are Africans, from ancient Kemet or Egypt. They were the ones who built pyramids in China, which is located near Siang Fu city in the Shensi province.

Need more proofs? The 1st Chinese emperor, Fu-Hsi (“Son of Heaven”) 2953-2838 B.C. was a woolly-haired Black-African man who invented the oracle of “I Ching” or “The Book of Change.”

In addition to that “martial arts,” a form of sports and the therapy called “acupuncture” today were the gift of the ancient Africans from Kemet/Egypt to China. One can go in person and see the evidence of all these historical truisms painted on the walls of Temple of Ptah. In ancient Kemet or Egypt B.C., the ‘opening of the mouth’ ceremony was believed to have been devised by him.”

“Ganges” River

“Ganges” is considered one of the most sacred of rivers in India, as there is a spiritual significance attached to it. But, only a few of them is aware of the fact that is named in the honour of the most famous and powerful African or Ethiopian King, namely Pharaoh/King Ganges, who invaded, conquered as well as ruled Asia as far as this river in India circa 1,500 B.C.

Indian Originality

History bears witness that Indian “indentured servants” came to Trinidad from India in May 1845. They did not come from Indo. Put another way, Indians were the people who came from India; they were not the Indoes who came from Indo.

Ergo, the descendants of these original Indians are now proud Indian-Trinbagonians in May 2011. They are not Indo-Trinbagonians- this label is totally ahistorical and must not only be immediately relegated to the ash heap of T&T’s cultural or ethnic history but must also be expunged from T&T’s societal lexicon.

Capitalism and Slavery, a book by Eric Williams. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Capitalism and Slavery, a book by Eric Williams. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“Indentured Servants”: Afri-centric Background

In his magnum opus titled Capitalism and Slavery (1938), Dr. Eric Williams asserts:

“The immediate successor of the Amerindians was not the African but ‘poor whites.’ They were regarded as ‘indentured servants’ because before leaving England, they had to sign a contract binding them to service for a stipulated period in return for their passage. Others were criminals/convicts who were sent by the British government to serve for a specific time on plantations in the Caribbean.” (p.9).

Dynamics of Indian Arrival

Image source: www.goodreads.com
A Post Emancipation History of the West Indies. Image source: www.goodreads.com

Prof. Isaac Dookhan in his book titled A Post Emancipation History of the West Indies (1975), suggests that immigration of Indians to the Caribbean was very attractive due to following reasons:

  • During the Colonial rule, the establishment of the British factory system in India destroyed Indian domestic industries, like the spinning of cloth and as a result about tens of thousands were thrown out of work and this resulted in the high unemployment rate.
  • Due to the failing of crops and high food prices, parts of India got affected by famine.
  • Lands were taken away forcefully or by illegal methods in India and Indians were promised of land for themselves in Carribean
  • Indians saw Trinidad and Guyana as a better future for themselves as the Indians were promised higher wages. Labourers were paid between 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pence a day in India but in Trinidad, they could earn 2 shillings a day and in Guyana, 1 shilling and 9 pence a day, that was enough to lure them.
  • Criminals who escaped from the police and were afraid of returning to the village, as well as loafers, could go to the colonies.
  • As small scale industries were shut down, displaced workers in cottage industries and agriculture and labourers experienced seasonal unemployment and financial crisis became common. Due to lack of job opportunities, they were ready to listen to the Euro-British recruiters’ propaganda.
  • Some Indians were brought to Carribean by giving a false hope that they could find non-agricultural work as policemen, teachers, clerks, and much more in the Caribbean colonies.
  • Contacts and communications with returning relatives and friends from Carribean, who came back home with a decent sum of money encouraged Indians to emigrate. (pp.51-52)

The religious breakdown of the Indians who came to Trinidad: 85.3% Hindus, 14% Muslims and .07% Christians.

The result clearly states that majority of them were Hindus as the last Euro-British ship to bring Indians from India was called the “Ganges.” It took about five months to reach Carribean from India as it was via Cape of Good Hope (Africa).

225 Indians arrived at Nelson Island, Trinidad, on the Muslim-owned vessel “Fath Al Razak,” on 30 May 1845. Six Indians died during that journey via the “Kala Paani” or Middle Passage.

Indian Arrival Day—Guyana

18 Indians died in the journey, when two small sailing ships, the “Whitby” and “Hesperus” arrived with 396 immigrants from India on 5 May 1847.

Indian Arrival Day—Jamaica

In Jamaica, it was on 10 May 1845 when 261 Indians arrived on the ship “Blundell Hunter.”

Indians who came to Trinidad consisted of men and women between the age group of 10-30 years and they were from the lower caste people Shudras, and not the Brahmins, who came to Trinidad. Others were agricultural workers and 40 women to 100 men were selected from this section.

The Indians came to Trinidad from the following towns in India: Calcutta, Madras, Pondicherry, Punjab, Lahore, Karachi, Bihar, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Mardan and Kashmir. As of this writing (29 May 2011), the umbilical, ancestral cord of this historic, unforgettable journey is still etched in the names of streets in St. James — location, location, location.

An Indenture certificate. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
An Indenture certificate. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

An offer of 5 pounds and five acres of land were made to the Indian “indentured labourers” to stay in the colonies after their contract ended. The offer was different for men and women. While men received a five-year contract, women got only a three-year contract. The stark historical reality is that the Indian “indentured labourers” received the same treatment from the Euro-British government that was afforded to the Euro-British “poor whites” or “indentured servants.” The contract said that 10 years after the contract ended, immigrants could return to India and a free passage will be provided.

In the colonies, the work schedule was such that the Indian “indentured migrants” were required to work only 280 days a year; while women who are pregnant worked part-time on the plantations. In case a woman has children, older women used to look after them.

In 1869, the Euro-Trinidad–colonial government opened up Crown Lands for sale and thousands of ex-indentured Indians acquired ten–acre estates. In 1884, the Euro-colonial-British government established the Peasant Development Programme to assist in the economic development of Indians in Trinidad.

Dispersal of Indians in Diaspora

Research by Prof. Isaac Dookhan reveals the count of Caribbean indenture dispersal of Indians: Trinidad, 143,939 (1845-1917); Jamaica, 36, 412 (1845-1885); Guyana, 238,909 (1847-1917); St. Lucia 4,354; Grenada, 3,200; St. Vincent, 2,472 and St. Kitts, 337 (p.51). Apart from that, Indian “Indentured labourers” also went to Fiji, Belize, Mauritius, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. If one counts the total, it sums up to 1.5 million Indians, who left India in this labour-intensive exercise.

It was on 21 March 1916, when the Euro-colonial–British government went ahead and abolished the Indian indentureship system and it came into effect on 21 March 1917.

– prepared by NewsGram team

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Is Chutney out of place in Carnival?

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music

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Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. Wikimedia Commons
  • Chutney soca music is a crossover style of music incorporating Soca elements
  • The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.
  • It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

When people get angry, they tend to speak their mind. Their emotions explode in words that they have been suppressing for some time. Psychologist Dr Jeffrey Huntsinger proved this theory after conducting experiments at Loyala University in Chicago in the USA in 2012.

Chutney Soca promoter George Singh really spoke his mind when he became upset on learning that his 2018 show was not funded by the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), an agency of the Afro-dominated Government in multi-ethnic Trinidad and Tobago  (T&T).

At a news conference which he convened, Singh said that “the decision by the Government not to support chutney soca was an insult to the art form” (Express 05/02/17).

George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons
George Singh is a Chutney Soca promoter. Wikimedia Commons

Singh raged: “The Government, over the last three years, has consistently reduced funding to Chutney Soca Monarch and various members of the present administration have stated directly to me that chutney soca brings no value to Carnival” (emphasis added).

At the same news conference, Singh said that the Government had approved a budget of TT $146 million to the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

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“I think this administration is hell-bent on seeing that it [chutney soca] has no place in Carnival. It is a slap in the face to Indo-Caribbean entertainment,” he said.

Singh’s outburst was a public exposé of what the Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) community had always known i.e. Indian culture (e.g. chutney, pichakaree ) is given marginal or no space in “national” and regional shows (e.g. CARIFESTA).

Sing’s rant is more revealing since he has admitted that he has “family ties” to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (Express 27/12/17).

Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons
Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. Wikimedia Commons

In all his anger, Singh was careful not to confirm what almost every Trinidadian suspected i.e. that Government initially denied him funding because he was allowing Massive to perform his hot chutney hit “Rowlee Mudda Count.”

The satire on Prime Minister Rowley’s mother has been arguably the most controversial song in the history of calypso, soca and chutney in the country.

I have always contended that chutney concerts, competitions, tents and fêtes must be recognised as part of Carnival and must be a given an equitable share of culture funds, media space and stage presence.

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My argument is contained in detail in a chapter entitled “Chutney Music in Carnival:

Re-defining National Identity in Trinidad and Tobago” in the book Caribbean Dynamics:

Re-configuring Caribbean Culture (2015). The book is edited by Drs Beatrice Boufoy-Bastick Savrina Chinien and published by Ian Randle in Jamaica.

In the chapter, I discussed how Carnival in Trinidad has long been the cultural preservation of the Afro-Trinidadian (African) community. To this day, the major players and champions of calypso, soca, extempo, steelpan and masquerade, whether in Jouvert (“Jour Ouvert”) or Dimanche Gras, remain participants of African descent.

The emergence of chutney music and artists in 1995 – when Basdeo Panday was elected as the first Indian Prime Minister of T&T – was historic. In 1996, the rendition of Sonny Mann’s runaway hit “Lotay La” by DJs in soca parties, and by steel bands as their Road Mach tune during Carnival signalled the advent of chutney into the national urbanized festival/centre.

Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons
Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles. Wikimedia Commons

In the following years, Indians continued to change the ontology of “the national festival” to the extent that Carnival has to be re-defined to include Chutney Monarch, Chutney Brass, Chutney Soca, Chutney Calypso, Chutney Glow and Chutney Mardi Gras.

For the first time this year, a new chutney show is being introduced to the Carnival calendar. It is the International Chutney Queen Competition to be held on February 2 at Guaracara Park in San Fernando, the second largest city in the country. The event is being hosted by Randy Glasgow Productions.

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Chutney is being strongly influenced by calypso and soca rhythms and dance styles, but the genre is also used as an alternative to the Afro-Creole music formats. There have been two institutionalised chutney calypso theatres: “D” Massive Gosine Roving Calypso/Chutney Tent and the National Chutney Calypso Touring Tent.  Now in its eighth year is the National Carnival Schools Intellectual Chutney Soca Monarch Competition held at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.

These chutney competitions cum fêtes allow Indians to gain a sense of inclusion in this grand “national” festival, although on the periphery of the capital city. These cultural incursions also allow Indians to actively participate in Carnival without losing their (sense of) ethnic identity.

Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books
Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books

In 1998, cultural critic Burton Sankeralli wrote: “Indians are claiming Carnival space as Indians…. [and] … The flagship of this Indocentric presence and contestation for space is chutney …” With the re-creation of chutney, Indian artists are refusing to be subjected to silence and invisibility on mainstream radio, television, newspaper and the stage.

Chutney has been able to resist the domination of calypso as the heartbeat of Carnival music. The subversive spirit of calypso and Carnival is perhaps being re-incarnated in chutney.

(Dr Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books)