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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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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean

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Thanksgiving Day Across the World

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated across the world and for each country, it has its own tale and tradition around food and days.

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Thanksgiving Day celebrations
Happy Thanksgiving Day, Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving Day. The name stands for itself as the day to give thanks and is celebrated as a national holiday in many countries like United States of America, Canada, Netherlands, Philippines, Grenada, Liberia while similarly named festival exists in Germany, Japan, and United Kingdom.
Thanksgiving holiday remains a day to give thanks at the close of the harvest season.

America
The official date for the American Thanksgiving that exists today was set by President Roosevelt to be on the fourth Thursday in November instead of the last Thursday in November as decided by President Lincoln as thanksgiving date.
But their thanksgiving is surrounded by a debate over the nation’s first celebrations and the two places embroiled in this debate are New England and Virginia as both the places provide certain proofs of being the spot for nation’s first celebrations for Thanksgiving.

Canada
Canadian Thanksgiving tradition is celebrated in the true spirit of giving thanks at the close of the harvest season. It is believed that due to the geographical differences from the USA, Canada’s Thanksgiving arrives on the second Monday in October as that is the close of their harvest season.

But in countries like Liberia, Netherlands, and Grenada, it is not just a day to give thanks at the close of the harvest season.

Liberia
In Liberia, Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated to mark the freedom from black slavery by the U.S.A. The Thanksgiving day’s date remains on the first Thursday of November and has been a tradition since 1820.

Netherlands
Netherlands celebrate thanksgiving to mark to commemorate the Pilgrims who had migrated and became residents of the city of Leiden and died at Pieterskerk. To commemorate the hospitality, the thanksgiving, a non-denominational Thanksgiving Day is celebrated as the same as American Thanksgiving Day’s morning.

But there are some countries like the Philippines where the tradition of Thanksgiving only arrived with the Americans due to it being an American colony in the early 20th century but the tradition of Thanksgiving there had seemed to die down.

Food:
The American Thanksgiving seems to dominate the Thanksgiving menu when it comes to this holiday. Their famous turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, pies, mashed potatoes, and yams are signature dishes related to this day.

Black Friday:
Not only food, American Thanksgiving has also made Black Friday, an informal day following the Thanksgiving Day to mark the beginning of their country’s Christmas season sales and it has been in the history books since 1952 such that it has become a tradition of its own now.

Thanksgiving Day remains an occasion for many families to get back together and celebrate this holiday in the spirit of one while giving the rise to the excitement of upcoming Christmas also which remains barely a month away from Thanksgiving day.

Samridhi Nain is a student of Philosophy (Hons.) from University of Delhi.