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Guyana: Indo-guyanese and their legacy

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Where is Guyana?

Guyana, officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a sovereign state on the northern mainland of South America. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Suriname to the east and Venezuela to the west. With 215,000 square kilometres, Guyana is the third-smallest country on mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname.

How many people of Indian origin live there?

Its current population of the country is close to 7.5 Lakh (700 thousand) and about 44 percent of Guyanese population consists of people of Indian origin. The descendants of indentured East Indian immigrants and settlers who came to British Guyana between 1838 and 1928 constitute the largest group in the population, Today, they play essential roles in the economic, political and cultural life of the country. The current Prime Minister of Guyana is of Tamil origin, Mr Moses Nagamootoo.

How did East Indians arrive in Guyana?

Three years after the start of Potuguese immigration and four months before African emanicipation in August 1838, East Indians started to arrive. Over the next nine decades, 239,909 Indian immigrants would arrive until the termination of the system in 1917, a few hundred others came up to 1928. Of these, 75,547 returned to India under the terms of their contract. The remainder who survived chose to make this country their home.

What were the first few Indian languages of Guyana?

First  immigrants from India to Guyana were a form of Bhojpuri people. During that period 1842-1871, more than 73 percent of the immigrants came from areas where the languages spoken were Maithali, Magahi, Bhojpuri, Avadhi and several western dialects.

Over time in the new environment, a process of homongenization took place leading to leveled form of Bhojpuri that subsumed the other dialects. This amalgamated language was termed as “Guyanese Bhojpuri”.

Why Tamil language was not subsumed by “Guyanese Bhojpuris”?

Tamil language was not subsumed by the “Guyanese Bhojpuri” as Tamil belongs to the Dravidian family of languages whereas the north Indian languages are members of the Indo Aryan family of languages. In Guyana, it is well known that in the Albion area of the country, there is a large Tamil community where the Dravidian culture still flourishes. So, South Indian immigrants learned the Guyanese Bhojpuri for communication with their north Indian counterpart but maintained communication in Tamil within their group.

How did Urdu emerge?

Around three quarters of all the Indian indentured immigrants to Guyana were Hindus and around one quarter were Muslims. This division is important as religion has played a large pole in the Indian culture that evolved in Guyana. Towards the end of indentureship period, more and more formal Hindi and Urdu were being introduced through the school system, the translators examinations and the influx of more educated immigrants to take on the role of Hindu and Muslim priests.(image: operationworld.org)(Inputs from stabroeknews.com and Ekta Mal)

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  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Impressive mapping by NewsGram on Indo-guyanese rich legacy.Reminds me of a French colonised Republic de Mali with less then 1000 Indians.Here the old bollywood stars Mithin Charavaty and his old classics like `disco dancer` and `Nuree` dubbed in local language or in French are a big hit. Mithin the Indian disco dancer is a household name in Mali.

Next Story

Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

Mahathir’s new government won a stunning victory in a May 9 general election amid anger over a massive corruption scandal.

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Malaysia, Malay
Protesters rally near a mosque to celebrate the government's decision not to ratify a U.N. anti-discrimination convention, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 8, 2018. Thousands of Malaysian Muslims are rallying against any attempt to strip ethnic Malay majority of their privileges. VOA

Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims rallied Saturday in Kuala Lumpur against any attempt to strip the ethnic Malay majority of its privileges, in the first massive street gathering since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance won a historic vote in May.

The rally, backed by the country’s two largest opposition Malay parties, was initially aimed at protesting a government plan to ratify a U.N. treaty against racial discrimination. Critics allege that ratifying the treaty would end Malay privileges under a decades-old affirmative action policy. The plan to ratify was eventually abandoned, but organizers decided to proceed with what they called a “thanksgiving” rally.

Rare racial clashes

Racial clashes have been rare in multiracial Malaysia since deadly riots in 1969. A year later, Malaysia instituted a preferential program that gives Malays privileges in jobs, education, contracts and housing to help narrow a wealth gap with the minority Chinese. Ethnic Malays account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s 32 million people, with large Chinese and Indian minorities.

Malaysia, Malay
A protester covers his face with headbands reading “No to ICERD” during a rally to celebrate the government’s decision not to ratify a U.N. anti-discrimination convention called ICERD at Independent Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 8, 2018. ICERD stands for International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. VOA

Saturday’s rally came less than two weeks after more than 80 people were arrested in a riot at an Indian temple in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur. The government was quick to stress that the violence was the result of a land dispute and was not a racial riot. Still, the government warned Saturday’s rally-goers not to make any provocative statements that could fan racial tensions.

Mahathir said the government allowed the rally as part of democracy, but warned against any chaos. The rally was held under tight police security, but ended peacefully after rain started to fall.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been charged with multiple counts of corruption, was among opposition lawmakers at the rally.

In the streets, 55,000

Police said there were at least 55,000 people on the streets. Many wore white T-shirts and headbands with the words “Reject ICERD,” referring to the U.N. treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The protesters gathered at three locations before marching to a nearby historic square, chanting “Long live the Malays” and “Crush ICERD.”

malay
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right gestures to Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, to move in closer for the group hand shake as Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, watches during the opening ceremony of the 28th and 29th ASEAN summits at National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. VOA

“Yes, we did not ratify ICERD, but we are still here to say that we are still against it,” said shopkeeper Rosli Ikhsan. “Even if the government has said they won’t endorse it, we are still protesting with all our might from all of Malaysia.”

Mahathir’s new government won a stunning victory in a May 9 general election amid anger over a massive corruption scandal involving Najib and his government, but many Malays still support Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, and the Malaysian Islamic Party, which controls two of the country’s 13 states.

Some analysts say Najib and his party were using the rally to shift attention away from corruption charges against Najib, his wife, his party’s president and former government officials.

Also Read: Syrian Stranded at Malaysia Airport in a Political Limbo

“For me, ICERD is bad,” university student Nurul Qamariah said at the rally. “It’s bad because it will erode the position of Malays. This is a country for Malays. We want Malays to be superiors, but why do these people want to make Malays the same level as Chinese and Indians?” (VOA)