The Tragedy of Indians

13

By The Piper

The PiperIndians in Guyana and Trinidad face an insurmountable problem when it comes to the politics of race. The problem is two-fold. Firstly, Indians are almost always assumed to be the privileged ones despite a vastly more complicated story on the ground.

Secondly, and far more problematic is that there is no general, universal narrative of Indian suffering and oppression and this, despite the fact that both Indians in India and in the diaspora have been subjected to centuries of ridicule and violence. We can therefore examine the condition of Caribbean Indians in both material and discursive terms.

On the material side of things there is no doubt that East Indians have done well, with many of them owning big businesses. But by no stretch of the imagination do they have a monopoly on businesses. Further, the fact is that there are as many poor Indians in Guyana and Trinidad as any other groups.

Many of the poor Indians in these two Caribbean countries work in the agricultural sector, meaning sugar cultivation. In Guyana they are the backbone of the sugar industry – many doing backbreaking cane cutting and fetching with wages that are embarrassing when compared to wages in the bauxite industry. The workers who form the shovel gangs and the gangs who clean the trenches are underpaid, this being comparable to Afro-Guyanese workers in many sectors of urban employment.

Indians have a second class position in practically all areas of national life including but not restricted to sports (excepting for cricket), and national culture or what is presented as national culture. The Inter-Guiana Games is a good indicator of the situation. Most of these Games usually only have about a dozen Indians of the couple hundred athletes representing Guyana. It goes without saying that Indians from the country-side almost never make any of the teams.

Although Indians have been living in Guyana for one hundred and seventy five years, their religion, music and other cultural practices are seen as ‘ethnic’. The standard, national culture is always more grounded in things Christian and urban. Things Indian apparently cannot ever be national.

On the discursive side Indians are in a hopeless situation, not because of any inherent condition but because of the new ways of representing who is the oppressed in Guyana. Africans are indeed the victims of racism and discrimination world-wide. The constant is that in most places in the world (outside Africa); Africans do not have access to state power.

That same cannot be said of Guyana. However, many folks simply slide from Black oppression in America to Guyana as if the two are really comparable. Persons of African descent have had considerable control of state power and key state institutions, including the forces of coercion, for extended periods. People of African descent have also held key positions even when the supposedly Indian PPP party has been in power. Note also, that practically half of all the anti-PPP activists are Indians.

Indians cannot, appeal to any already constructed narrative with global currency to draw attention to their suffering. The reason – there is none. A population may suffer physically, but if there is no corresponding narrative, the material circumstances are simply dismissed. The reverse is true in other situations. Although a population may not be as oppressed in their own place, it can simply take cover behind other struggles.

The APNU-AFC administration promised that it would end all forms of racism in Guyana, but its actions to date have shown no promise in that direction. Every Guyanese has a moral and patriotic obligation to put an end to the madness of prejudice. What have you done lately?

13 COMMENTS

  1. What is the source of your revelation that Indians were sometimes treated worse than Blacks? Unless you are void of comprehension skills, I made no racist rant against any race, because historians, including Walter Rodney, attested to the point I referenced above. In fact, it is proven fact that Blacks universally have been tagged with the worst labels among all races, but we have to grow up at some point and stop living in the past, but simply use it to find ways to live as ONE PEOPLE. Now, where in my goddam post did I mention anything about Linden, or did you introduce it to make your own racist point?

  2. Nonsense, Indians are for the most parts distrustful of Africans in Guyana, from marriage to congregating. With sports, name one Indian in Guyana who joins a football club, an athletic club etc. For the most parts Indians in Guyana still see themselves as immigrants passing through, they behave so.

  3. I agree with everything you said except the Naga piece. He is not the person to speak for the Indian community. He is seen as opportunistic, power hungry, crass and filled with anger and rage against Jagdeo. So extreme is his anger he proceeded to label Jagdeo a “coolie bully”, a comment that has angered people so much that it might have been the final nail in his coffin, at least for me. It is not what is expected from a Prime Minister, especially considering the divisive politics in the country.

    I still believe Granger can do more to bridge that divide by practising truly inclusive governance. It requires courage and risk taking but I think he stands to reap much reward if he does. Granger must resist the attraction of the old PNC/Burnham politics.

  4. In Guyana’s case it was revealed that the indentured laborers were some times treated worse than slaves but they didn’t cry out loud and proud like the Afros so stop your racist rants. If Linden is marginalized , is an oppressed and depressed community then tell me why is Linden expanding people wise? Almost every Afro village in Guyana they cry how they are oppressed and depressed when in fact there are more Indians living in squalor than that of Afros. Go to Guyana and take a peek. PPP took their main base supporters for granted that is why so many stayed at home and could not be bothered to vote.

  5. Mr.Piper whom ever you are I have to agree with most of your article ,but all Governments put their people in place when they gain power..the ppp did it in 1992…,lets give this new Government a chance to govern and see what happens..

  6. Your entire discourse offers very little or nothing to enlighten about what were the historical factors deliberately put in place to propell and sustain the Indian economic growth. Are you trying to hoodwink or rather mislead while showing off the superior social and economic skills of the Indians ? Whatever your intent do some research- historically- before pushing this farce……Read Your History with an open mind ; it will do you tremendous good.

  7. Africans were brought to Guyana as slaves, while Indians were brought as indentured servants. Unlike Africans, who were labeled as sub-humans, Indians were not. And slavery was worse than indentureship.

    Now, the problem between Indians and Africans (Blacks) started out as a political decision by the White colonial masters to deny freed Black slaves the rights and benefits of working on the plantations, by bringing in the Indians, thereby forcing the two groups to compete. That political decision by the White colonial masters would go on to affect the relations between Blacks and Indians for decades later.

    This is why the race problem is Guyana is not necessarily between Indians and Blacks, but between politicians who hold themselves out as representatives of the two groups, competing for the right to wield political power on behalf of one group or other.

    Until such time Guyana has genuine Black and Indian leaders working together for the better and benefit of ALL races in Guyana, therefore, we will continue to see the fallout from raced-based political decisions that really benefit politicians. Because almost fifty years since the White man left Guyana, we are still being divided racially by OUR GUYANESE politicians.

    Can David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo be the heroes we have been looking for? If yes, then Nagamootoo has to be more visible in a lot of these decisions affecting Indians once associated with the PPP regime. Let him call the shots and explain to the Indian community why the decisions are being made.

  8. What this person that write these words should be saying is what the PPP did in 23 years to eradicate racism in Guyana instead of talking about the new government. the indians of guyana especially the old wons are very racial and i am not attacking you ppl i am speaking the truth .
    their is some negro racist but not compare to the indians and that is a big problem .Also look at the voting pole for example PPP and PNC that mind set must change and guyanese must see each other as guyanese because anywhere we go we will be labeled as guyanese so that mind set must be change.

  9. Ref, Indians In Guyana And Trinidad are Marginalized Politically!

    This is Ethnic Pandering and Total Bull Shit.

    To assume that Indo-Trinidadians and Indo- Guyanese are marginalized because of some perception of privilege, or political bias is preposterous.

    And caters to those who have been for decades, promulgating the same stereotypes to gain support and votes.

  10. I am always surprised when afro-guyanese are crying marginalisation and discrimination when they outnumber every other ethnicity 2-1 if not 3-1 in the public sector.

  11. Having said that Piper you have failed to address the fact that Indians for the most part presents and see themselves as exclusive to most others particularly those of African descent. Except for how they relate to Caucasians what is worst they do not fail to display this attitude or mentality. This attitude is even more pronounced when those Indians are wealthy. In business or most other areas in life Indians either consciously or unconsciouly exclude Africans and this is not exclusive to Guyana. I personally know of a Guyanese political player in Queens NY from a particular area who even when needing votes to the City Council encouraged Indians in that area not to sell their homes to Afro Guyanese. To a great extent Indians are their worst enimies. One cannot shout wolf while at the same time doing the very same thing you are accusing others of doing. In order to be balanced Indians indeed have suffered under the hands of our former Colonial masters although not as much as Africans who still endure the residues of that brutality but for reasons too expansive to address here they have achieved despite their historic suffering. This achievement is worn as a badge of honor by most not all Indians. Not that Afro Guyanese have not achieved but in most cases not at the level of indians and again there is a historic explanation. My point here is Indians because of their cultural attachments, religious heritage financial and business acumen see and present themselves as better than and for the most part this is consciously done. This MO does nothing for how Indians are viewed by Afro Guyanese this does not auger well for race relations. On the political scene the example set by APNU/AFC is promising in terms of racial tolerance only the future will tell how successful this experiment will be. Indians and Afro Guyanese must do more if we are to overcome this Everest like challenge. I dear say the attitude of Indians are in need of a major refit. This from someone whose grandchildren are half Indians. My son_in_law is Indian. Maybe just maybe he and my daughter maybe on to something.

  12. What have you, Piper, done lately? Written a set of inflammatory and apparently deliberately biased pieces camouflaged as authoritative?

    What you have spoken to is the surface dressing of the Indo-Guyanese situation. That which is more likely to be closer to the truth is not as obvious. Your pieces, I believe, ought to be taken as the catalyst of a necessary national conversation and historical investigation. Some of the world’s poorest people can be found in India; with their dwellings right alongside those who are among the world’s richest. You see the Indo-Guyanese plight is not about Trinidad and/or Guyana; but one rooted in the very culture of India. Need I say more?

    I have never heard of an Indo-Guyanese, as a matter of fact, any Guyanese being put out of a Christian church because of how they look. But, I have heard of cases, and I, because of how I looked, was put out of a traditional Indo-Guyanese ‘church’ (I was invited by a non-Guyanese guest who was invited by the ‘church’ leader because that individual was a high ranking in the religion). There are some places where non-Indo-Guyanese are not accepted in this very country. Can this be a contributing factor to things Indo-Guyanese being inadvertently or otherwise being treated as “ethnic”?

    In essence, the very factor that lies at the heart of the industriousness and wealth of Indians the world over, is the very factor, IMHO (like you said there is no narrative), that lies at the root of the poor Indo-Guyanese plight; not the rich. Nonetheless, while I believe that your article is biased, you have brought up an important issue for the attention of the Guyanese public. I trust that a meaningful conversation can emerge from your effort. One Love.

  13. In short. Indians do not fight for their rights. Indians just sit back and relax and take whatever comes their way. Unlike the Afros who fight for their rights and also fight for their wrongs. Had PPP/C promised what the coalition promised and failed to deliver you bet Georgetown would be ablaze and Indians would have been beaten into submission on the streets.The coalition government broke almost every election promise especially the big wage increase for public servants ( Afros ) and no one in the streets crying injustice. The other big blow to all Guyanese was the promise that was made to reduce the Berbice bridge toll. You bet had PPP/C made that big bold promise and failed to deliver it would be Indians who would have paid a heavy price for broken promises. It’s an insult to all Guyanese for that $300 reduction based on what was promised.

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