Racial bias against Indians in Trinidad and Tobago

DH Singh voices his concern for continued racial discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians

A Hindu temple near Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dear Editor:

On Saturday 16th April 2016 I had the privilege of listening to Lenox Grant delivering the feature address in the launch of a book titled “ The Hindu View of Trinidad and Tobago, “ a collection of articles by Sat Maharaj and edited by Kumar Mahabir.

While I enjoyed Lenox Grant’s speech for his striving for balance, I must confess that he has unconsciously or unwittingly perpetuated misconceptions or stereotypes  of Indian society and leadership. For example, the sceptre or mukdar that Sat holds in his hand and depicted in the cover of the text could not be accepted by Lenox Grant. He wrote:  “I hear the golden ornamental staff of office is called a mukdar. But I prefer sceptre-or Hindu magic wand.”

Lenox Grant should appreciate that the Hindus have their labels for the objects that are part of their culture and tradition. If the Hindus label it a ‘mukdar’ then that should have been good enough for him. But not so. He went on: “ I prefer sceptre –or Hindu magic wand.”  A similar attitude is also witnessed in the ad by the Guardian Newspaper featuring the top SEA pupil for 2015 where the Hindi word “dhanyavaad” was removed and replaced with “thank you.” The Guardian Newspaper could not tolerate “dhanyavaad” as much as Grant “prefer sceptre –or HIndu magic wand.” Is Grant saying that he has a phobia for Hindi-sounding words?

A Hindu holyman making purchases in Debe, Trinidad and Tobago. Wikimedia Commons
A Hindu holyman making purchases in Debe, Trinidad and Tobago. Wikimedia Commons

Grant in typical “Creole style” went on to label Sat’s social commentaries as “race talk.” He wrote: “Sat Maharaj has gained notoriety in what I have called T&T race talk.”  Interestingly, he brought into his address the recent pronouncement of Minister Garcia that there was  bias in the distribution of scholarships. Is Grant simply brushing aside that serious allegation of Minister Garcia as simply “race talk” and nothing more?

Grant did not stop there but went on to lump former columnists and letter writers as simply race talk. He wrote: “Over nearly three decades, I have been paying attention to race talk” and went on to identify  Noor Kumar Mahabir, Kamal Persad, Anil Mahabir and  Rajnie Ramlakhan, Indrani Rampersad and Rabindranath (Raviji) Maharaj. I feel deeply disappointed that Grant could so easily dismiss the writings and concerns raised by the  Indo-Trinidadian community as simply race talk. Why couldn’t Grant interpret the writings of those columnists as a cry for social justice in a society where they felt like second class citizens?

Grant continued:” I played a part in making such media access possible to people fired up as part of a prevailing mood and motivation resembling that of an Indo-Trinidadian renaissance. I could more easily picture him wielding a cutlass in—at least metaphorical—defence of the interests of Hindus, and of Indians, and of deserving others in this country.”  And Grant has now said it all –“I could more easily picture him wielding a cutlass…”

I would like to write a conclusion to this piece but I would refrain from doing so as I leave it to the readers.

D.H.Singh,

Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago