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Indian influence on Jamaica and Rastafarianism

Jamaica is a country in The West Indies. East Indians form <1 % of total population. Jamaican culture is influenced by Indian culture. Rastafari religious belief is considerably influenced by Hindu spiritual beliefs and practices

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Image source: jablogz.com

By Shubhi Mangla

The popular music form, Reggae has been acknowledged by a large number of people around the world. This form of music has actually originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Reggae involves a powerful four-beat rhythm through drums, electric guitar, bass guitar and the scraper. The rhythms of Reggae soon emerged as Jamaica’s leading modern music and its diaspora. Reggae, gained international recognition and was soon popular in countries like US, Britain and Africa.

Reggae music- wikimedia commons
Reggae music- wikimedia commons

Jamaica, an island in the West Indies to the south of Cuba and west of Haiti is mostly linked to Africa owing to the large population of African descent present there. The island has a rich heritage, glorious history and is a fusion of diverse cultures. However, Jamaica has also been largely influenced by the Hindu culture which still remains highly unacknowledged.

Indian influence on Jamaican cuisine

Jamaican Curry Goat
Jamaican Curry Goat

An important element of Indian influence on Jamaican culture is its cuisine. Jamaican food consists of a good usage of curry leaves. Curried chicken and goat dishes are the most popular dishes of Jamaica. Locals and tourists are mostly served with curried shrimp, curries red snapper, curried lobster etc. More health conscious citizens and visitors are treated with curry vegetables. Roti and curry goat even form a part of the island’s national cuisine. Indian chutneys and hot sauces are also adopted by Jamaica’s culinary cuisine. One can easily be fascinated with the Jamaican cuisine due to this Indian flavors.

Indian arrival in Jamaica

Indian migrant workers in Jamaica- Wikimedia commons
Indian migrant workers in Jamaica- Wikimedia commons

According to livity.info, Jamaica first saw the arrival of Indians on May 10, 1845, who came to work in the sugar plantations of Clarendon, the island’s third largest church community. Their main aim was to replace the liberated African laborers who refused to work for their masters. Indians had friendly relation with African descent in Jamaica at first; hence Jamaican Africans accepted many of the Indian cultures and practices. Indians now form the third largest part of Jamaican society.

Rastafarianism and Indian influence

At the time when Reggae music was gaining dominance, Rastafarianism was growing in Jamaica. Rastafarianism began in Jamaica in 1920s and 1930s. Rastafarians believed in Jainism and Christianity and worshipped Judeo-Christian God, Jah. According to releigonfacts.com, “The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one’s hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism”.

The leading father of Rastafarianism, Leonard Percival Howard belonged to Clarendon and grew up amongst Indians and Hindu culture. Howard believed in various Hindu rituals, their ceremonies of worshipping God, chanting “Jai Mata Di” and drinking bhang/ ganja, which are sweet flavored liquid consisting of little amount of alcohol. The practice of Ganja consumption was brought by Indian apprenticed workers which was known to cure all ills and also for religious purposes and vegetarian food. The main achievement was not food but the spread of spirituality. The early Rastafarian tenets were also influenced by Indian astronomy.

Leonard Percival Howell- twitter.com
Leonard Percival Howell- twitter.com

Leonard Percival Howard, who preached African ancestry and was a nature lover, borrowed many dogmas of the Rastafarian movement from the Indians. The Rastafarians also adopted the Ital diet which is of the idea that our body is a temple and it should be kept pure. Thus, it focused on eating vegetarian food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans etc.). The diet came to be known as the Rastafarian diet. This high disciplined diet of vegetarianism was known to be influenced from the Indian servants who were vegetarians following an age old tradition in Hindu culture.

Ganja- wikimedia commons
Ganja- wikimedia commons

Jamaicans who lived in the countryside amongst Indians and Rastafarians were majorly utilizing Ganja/marijuana for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Though Africans used Marijuana for similar purpose, but it is Indians who were responsible for its arrival in Jamaica. People of African descent made use of this ‘herb’ for ceremonial practices. Those who practiced Kumina (an Afro-Jamaican culture which practiced western culture) also used marijuana in order to communicate with their ancestors.

Leonard’s Hindu influence was also acknowledged by Joseph Hibbert, another funding father of the Rastafarian movement in an interview with Leonard’s biographer Helene Lee who said, “After learning about the Hindu God incarnates Rama, Krishna and Buddha, Howell was convinced that every nation had their own God”. Leonard considered Emperor Selassie of Ethiopia as his African God.

Robert Nesta Marley, a popular face of reggae and Rastafari, was nicknamed as “Tuff Gong” associated to Leonard Howell who was known as Gong. The term “Gangunguru” means ‘Great King’ or ‘king of kings’ in the Hindi language as proclaimed by the book “Dread History” by Professor Robert A Hill.

Even today, Jamaica holds a significant population of Indians who are more segregated as compared to their early arrival. Most of the Indians in Jamaica are merchants who look down upon the Afro-Jamaicans. Irrespective of their present dogmatism, they must be appreciated for their contribution towards Rastafarianism and the Jamaican culture at large.

References:

http://www.religionfacts.com/rastafarianism

Shubhi Mangla is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. She is currently working as an intern at Newsgram.

Follow her on twitter @shubhi_mangla

 

 

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The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once it became eminent, that there were no international mediators to take on the case on behalf of Pakistan; especially once Assad and Gaddafi explained the dilemma to General Zia, the latter was forced to rethink his stand. By then, AZO had reduced the demand from ninety-one prisoners, to some fifty-four of them. The Pakistan general was forced to comply with Murtaza’s bargain, as it released the PPP detainees from various gaols in the country, who were then swapped for the PIA plane and its passengers.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir.

The mastermind of the hijack, was a seamlessly trained Salamullah Tipu, who was seen waving his gun in the air triumphantly from the door of the airplane, after throwing down the bloodied and dead corpse, of one Major Tariq Rahim on the tarmac. Rahim was a close aide of the Zia administration. While Tipu took the blame upon himself, and the PPP back in Karachi, led by Benazir and her mother Nusrat, denied any knowledge or existence of the AZO, Mir Murtaza Bhutto continued to avoid Pakistani authorities, was never caught on camera during the hijack episode, and was declared a wanted criminal by the Pak judiciary, in absentia.

 

In his biography of the older Bhutto scion, The Terrorist Prince: Life And Death Of Murtaza Bhutto, author, student activist, and political henchman Raja Anwar, notes, that a paranoid Murtaza had ordered for the assassination of anyone who he feared would challenge his methods as head of AZO. A sizeable number of its members were apprehended from their homes, murdered, and dumped in shallow ditches. The same author states, how he himself, Shahnawaz, Mir Murtaza, and some other workers of Al-Zulfiqar, had received lodging, food, money, and military training, in New Delhi. The government of Indira Gandhi, a Centre-Left political organization in India that is recognized as the Indian National Congress, had housed and funded the Bhutto revolutionaries and their fighters, with an eye on ending the rule of the hated Zia. In the late 1980s, when Murtaza had made a stopover at Delhi, during one of his journeys abroad, he had personally met Rajiv, son of Indira, and her successor as the next premier of India, with a large, and impressive bouquet of flowers.

The AZO leaders and members resided in the outskirts of India’s capital, and led well-oiled, luxurious lives, while simultaneously receiving training to destabilize the regime of Zia ul Haq. In this duration, the Bhutto brothers had come close to the Nehru-Gandhi clan of India, and according to a number of verified reports, may have worked as R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing, India’s topmost espionage and intelligence agency) informants for a period of time. A common agenda; that of toppling the American-installed, Islamist, and regressive regime of Zia, being the binding force.

Benazir Bhutto with Rajiv Gandhi
Benazir Bhutto with Rajiv Gandhi

Zia was killed in a plane crash in 1988. The ensuing elections found the PPP, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s political outfit, sweep the polls in Pakistan. Benazir went on to become the Islamic world’s very first woman head of state. Eventually she and Murtaza would have a falling out, with the latter going on to form his own faction of the PPP; the PPP(SB), where SB stood for ‘Shaheed Bhutto’. Unlike his sister’s rule, which can be described as opportunistic and inept, Mir Murtaza Bhutto remained a ‘Peoples Man