Port-of-Spain: Eleven persons of Indian origin (PIOs), including a former minister, the youngest MP in the Commonwealth and a musician, have been inducted in the Hall of Pioneers of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC) here to serve as an inspiration to future generations.
These 11 join 80 others who have been inducted in the seven previous editions of the programme and are “models whom all of us and particularly our youth should try to emulate,” NCIC president Deokienanan Sharma said at a ceremony at Divali Nagar, Endeavour, over the weekend.
“They have come up through humble beginnings as you would later hear and also read in their biographies which we have distributed. Success for them came through hard work, honest application of effort and perseverance in whatever they undertook to do,” he added.
Those inducted are: Brinsley Samaroo (historian/professor/former minister), Hansley Hanoomansingh (broadcaster/businessman/former MP who became the youngest parliamentarian in the Commonwealth at the age of 24), Jit Samaroo (steelband pannist ), Helen Bhagwansingh (philanthropist/businesswoman), Sam Boodram (classical Indian singer/musician), Henry Tooloom Dindial (classical Indian singer/musician), Amral Khan(cultural/business pioneer), Muhammad Khan (scouts) Seereeram Maharaj Pandey(businessman/entrepreneur), Ajeet Praimsingh (cultural icon/promoter) and Ramdeen Ramjattan(comedian)
The Hall of Pioneers is aimed at providing a forum “where future generations can come and read and learn about their contributions to nation building”, Sharma noted.
The NCIC was formed on July 19, 1964, to place Indo-Trinidadian culture on a solid footing but faced a number of hiccups, Sharma said, adding that these had been gradually ironed out over the years. Now, it was the leading Indian cultural body.
“The turning point came with the creation of Divali Nagar, that not only took the Indo-Trinidadian population by storm, but the entire country was literally forced to take stock of the presence of a very important culture that went largely ignored and unrecognized for upwards of 150 years,” Sharma said.
“The NCIC is now a well-respected cultural organization that has in the 51 years of its existence grown to a formidable institution. This is due largely to the dedication, loyalty and tireless voluntary labour of its executive, who have not only ensured the growth of the NCIC but also preservation of Indo-Trinidadian culture in our country,” Sharma added.
He said the NCIC had completed the first phase of its Heritage Center which will house an Indo-Caribbean archive, a diaspora library, a cultural research center and an Indian diaspora museum.
“Included in the center will be the long-awaited Hall of Pioneers which will display in one form or other all the biographies of our Pioneers which we have so far compiled and that those will be researched and compiled in the coming years,” Sharma added.
Speaking on behalf of the inductees, Brinsley Samaroo recalled the dismal and inhumane reception the Indian diaspora faced during their arrival in Trinidad and Tobago between 1845 and 1917 when in excess of 148,000 East Indians were brought here from India. They were principally from what is now Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and worked on enhancing the agricultural capacity of the then colony of Trinidad. They were not even given the right to vote until 1946.
Samaroo spoke of the rich philosophical, humanitarian and entrepreneurial capacity of the Indian diaspora, then and even today, where over 45 percent of the population of 1.3 million are of East Indian extraction.