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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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Indian Labors. Image source: Wikipedia
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  • 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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Parliament In Sri Lanka Gets Dissolved, President Calls For Election

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved

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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

ri Lanka’s president dissolved Parliament and called for elections on Jan. 5 in a bid to stave off a deepening political crisis over his dismissal of the prime minister that opponents say is unconstitutional.

An official notification signed by President Maithripala Sirisena announced the dissolution of Parliament effective midnight Friday. It said the names of candidates will be called before Nov. 26 and the new Parliament is to convene Jan. 17.

Sri Lanka has been in a crisis since Oct. 26, when Sirisena fired his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both say they command a majority in Parliament and had been expected to face the 225-member house Wednesday after it was suspended for about 19 days.

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Sri Lanka’s sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe holds a copy of the constitution of Sri Lanka as he attends a media briefing at his official residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told The Associated Press Saturday that the reason for the president to dissolve Parliament was the need to go to the people to find a resolution to the crisis.

“On the 14th there was to be a lot of commotion and unparliamentary activities sponsored by the speaker,” Amunugama said. “The speaker was not planning to act according to the constitution and standing orders of Parliament.”

Sirisena’s supporters had been irked by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s announcement that he was going to call for a vote for either party to prove their support.

Miscalculation

“The dissolution clearly indicates that Mr. Sirisena has grossly misjudged and miscalculated the support that he might or could secure to demonstrate support in the Parliament,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director at U.S.-based analyst group Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “At the end of the day, he is a victim of his own homegrown crisis.”

Sri Lanka, parliament
Sri Lankan civil rights activists hold placards during a demonstration outside the official residence of ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Wickremesinghe has insisted his firing is unconstitutional. He has refused to vacate his official residence and demanded that Parliament be summoned immediately to prove he had support among its members.

Tensions had been building between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, as the president did not approve of economic reforms introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena has also accused Wickremesinghe and another Cabinet member of plotting to assassinate him, a charge Wickremesinghe repeatedly denied.

Sirisena was critical of investigations into military personnel accused of human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s long civil war against a Tamil separatist group, which ended in 2009. Rajapaksa, who ruled as president from 2005 to 2015, is credited as a hero by the ethnic Sinhalese majority for winning the conflict. But he lost a re-election bid in 2015 amid accusations of nepotism, corruption and wartime atrocities.

Constitutional question

Wickremesinghe’s camp is likely to contest Sirisena’s move because of constitutional provisions stating a Parliament can’t be dissolved until 4 ½ years after its election. The current Parliament was elected in August 2015.

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Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

“It’s totally unconstitutional,” said Harsha de Silva, a member of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and a former minister. “Sirisena has relegated the constitution to toilet paper. We will fight this dictator to the end.”

The party said in a Twitter message that it will meet the elections commissioner to discuss the constitutionality of Sirisena’s move.

US urges caution

The U.S. State Department tweeted that it is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, “further deepening the political crisis.”

Also Read: Once a Hostage, Sri Lankan Sailor Now Helps Battle Somali Pirates

“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

Earlier, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and two other lawmakers wrote to Sirisena warning that actions circumventing the democratic process could impact U.S. assistance, including a planned five-year aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (VOA)