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Suriname in South America celebrates June 5 as Indian Arrival Day

Indian workers were brought to Suriname as indentured labor under the false pretext of visiting a holy place, 'Sri Ram' for piligrimmage

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Suriname
Indian Labors. Image source: Wikipedia
  • Indian Arrival Day is celebrated in various countries to mark the arrival of Indians as indentured labour
  • Indians form 27% of Suriname’s population, largest among all communities
  • Speeches and parades are performed to celebrate Indian Arrival Day in the country

A huge number of the Indian population was shipped to various parts of the world as indentured labor by powerful European authorities. As a result, various countries have a sizable chunk of their population attributed to Indians even to this day.

To celebrate and respect the Indian Diaspora, many countries celebrate Indian Arrival Day, which, as mentioned in previous articles published by NewsGram, is “a national holiday celebrated in various countries of the Caribbean, the island nation of Mauritius and Suriname, on different days to acknowledge the first wave of arrival of laborers from the Indian subcontinent by British colonial authorities.”

Indian Arrival Day in Suriname, South America is celebrated on June 5. The country is nestled between Guyana to its west, Brazil to its south and French Guiana to its east. Originally inhabited by local tribes, Suriname was discovered by the Europeans and became a Dutch colony in the 17th century, before finally gaining sovereign status in 1975.

Map of Suriname. Image source: Wikipedia
Map of Suriname. Image source: Wikipedia

On 5 June 1873, Lala Rookh, the sailing ship carrying 452 laborers arrived in Paramaribo, the modern capital of Suriname, after three long months of voyage from Calcutta. This was the first of around 64 vessels which brought over 34,000 Indian laborers through the years of 1873 to 1916, most of them originating from the modern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Dutch people tricked these Indians into believing they were being taken for pilgrimage to the holy land of ‘Sri Ram’, which turned out to be the colony of Suriname.

After their contractual period of labor, which was 5 years for most workers, the Dutch government lured the laborers to settle permanently in their colonial lands. A lot of incentives were provided, like free settlement rights and the provision of a 100 Dutch guilders. These incentives seemed to be evidently popular, as 23,000 ‘Hindustanis’ resolved to stay back and start a life in Suriname. With the acquisition of small plots of rice land, which later spread to larger areas, the Indian diaspora found a source of revenue.

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With the onset of the 20th century, more and more Hindustanis began to explore the sectors of trade and transport. They realized the importance of Western Education to acquire high income jobs, and ensures their children received proper education. The settlement of Hindustanis was helped by the fact that the Dutch Government gave out immediate Dutch Citizenship status to everyone born on Surinamese land. With the progression of time, the Indian diaspora ventured into the field of politics and governance, and eventually made their mark in Suriname.

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The sudden rise of the Indian community was resented by a few local populations and tribes. In 1975, when Suriname was granted independence by the Netherlands, as many as 50% of the then 300,000 strong Indian Diaspora opted to migrate to Netherlands owing to racial tensions and the liberal dutch citizenship.

Today, nearly 27% of Suriname’s population is comprised of East Indians, the largest ethnicity in the country, which mostly originated from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As a result, 22.3% of the population also practices Hinduism, second largest chunk after Christianity, which is followed by 48% of the population.

June 5 is considered a national holiday in Suriname, and important speeches by prominent political figures, like the Indian Ambassador to Suriname are delivered. Wreaths and flowers are often laid at the ‘Baba and Mai’ statue, which represents the first Indian to set foot on Surinamese soil. Parades and coaches along streets attract thousands of spectators, and showcases the unique culture of immigrants and the diaspora.

-by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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Short-Circuit Likely The Cause of Notre Dame Fire, Claims Police Investigators

"It's a chance for France to bounce back, a chance to realize what unites us, because we have been too much divided over the past years,''

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firefighters who saved Notre Dame Cathedral
Members of Paris Firefighters' brigade enter the security perimeter to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, April 18, 2019. France paid a daylong tribute Thursday to the Paris firefighters who saved Notre Dame Cathedral from collapse. VOA

Paris police investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a police official said Thursday, as France paid a daylong tribute to the firefighters who saved the world-renowned landmark.

A judicial police official told The Associated Press that investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral Wednesday but don’t have a green light to search Notre Dame’s charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards.

The cathedral’s fragile walls were being shored up with wooden planks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak by name about an ongoing investigation.

Investigators believe the fire was accidental, and are questioning both cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, third left, and other officials listen to cello player Armance Quero during a ceremony in front of the Paris city hall, April 18, 2019.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, third left, and other officials listen to cello player Armance Quero during a ceremony in front of the Paris city hall, April 18, 2019. VOA

The police official would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisian newspaper that investigators are looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other things. The prosecutor’s office said only that “all leads must be explored.”

Temporary structure proposed

Since the cathedral will be closed to the public for years, the rector of the Catholic parish that worships there has proposed building a temporary structure on the plaza in front of the Gothic-era landmark, and City Hall gave its approval Thursday “subject to technical restraints.”

“The rector has no cathedral for the moment. … But I’m going to try to invent something,” Bishop Patrick Chauvet said.

A crypt containing vestiges dating from antiquity is located under the vast esplanade.

President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants Notre Dame to be restored in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which Paris is hosting. Restoration specialists have questioned the ambitious timeline, with some saying it could take three times that long to rebuild the 850-year-old architectural treasure.

Honoring the firefighters

Earlier Thursday, Macron held a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to thank the hundreds of firefighters who battled the fast-moving fire at Notre Dame for nine hours starting Monday evening, preventing the structure’s destruction and rescuing many of the important relics held inside.

Emergency service personnel walk at the Elysee Palace in Paris after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, April 18, 2019.
Emergency service personnel walk at the Elysee Palace in Paris after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, April 18, 2019. VOA

“We’ve seen before our eyes the right things perfectly organized in a few moments, with responsibility, courage, solidarity and a meticulous organization,” Macron said. “The worst has been avoided.”

The cathedral’s lead roof and its soaring spire were destroyed, but Notre Dame’s iconic bell towers, rose windows, organ and precious artworks were saved.

Macron said the firefighters will receive an Honor Medal for their courage and devotion.

Paris City Hall also held a ceremony in the firefighters’ honor Thursday afternoon, with a Bach violin concert, two giant banners strung from the monumental city headquarters and readings from Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Remarkably, no one was killed in the blaze that broke out as the cathedral was in the initial stages of a lengthy restoration.

Securing area, cathedral

A large swath of the island in the Seine River where Notre Dame is located was officially closed Thursday by police, who cited “important risks” of collapse and falling objects. The area had been unofficially blocked off since the fire.

A crane hoists scaffolding past gargoyles outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 18, 2019.
A crane hoists scaffolding past gargoyles outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, April 18, 2019. VOA

Meanwhile, workers using a crane removed some statues to lessen the weight on the cathedral’s fragile gables, or support walls, to keep them from collapsing since they were no longer supported by the roof and its network of centuries-old timbers that were consumed by the inferno.

They also secured the support structure above one of Notre Dame’s rose windows with wooden planks.

Saving history

Among the firefighters honored Thursday was Paris fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who told the Le Parisian daily he was able to save the cathedral’s consecrated hosts. The paper said he climbed on altars to remove large paintings, but that he was especially proud “to have removed Jesus” from the Cathedral — a reference to the Catholic belief that consecrated hosts are the body of Christ.

An earlier report credited Fournier with helping salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, but Fournier told France Info Thursday he arrived after rescuers had already broken the relic’s protective covering and an official who had the secret code needed to unlock it finished the job. He praised the action that preserved “this extraordinary relic, this patrimony of humanity.”

Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, Jean-Marc Fournier, center, waits at the Elysee Palace in Paris prior to a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, April 18, 2019.
Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, Jean-Marc Fournier, center, waits at the Elysee Palace in Paris prior to a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, April 18, 2019. VOA

Among others honored was Myriam Chudzinski, one of the first firefighters to reach the roof as the blaze raged. Loaded with gear, they climbed hundreds of steps up the cathedral’s narrow spiral staircase to the top of one of the two towers.

“We knew that the roof was burning, but we didn’t really know the intensity,” she told reporters. “It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic. It was very hot and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly.”

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Benedicte Contamin, who came to view the damaged cathedral from afar Thursday, said she’s sad but grateful it’s still there.

“It’s a chance for France to bounce back, a chance to realize what unites us, because we have been too much divided over the past years,” she said. (VOA)