The treatment of Guyanese Indians over Decades

Topic started by Ormila Bhoopaul (@ on Sat Sep 20 08:22:58 .
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India disturbed over crimes on Guyanese Indians -Joshi

Stabroek News
August 17, 2002

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India has observed with grave concern the recent developments in the country in which a number of heinous crimes have been committed on members of the local Indian community.

In his speech on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of India's Independence on Thursday, India's High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr Prakash V. Joshi said crimes committed on members of the local Indian community have caused "much unease and unhappiness" in India.

Commenting on the current situation in Guyana, Joshi gave the assurance that the government and people of India stood by the people and government of Guyana at this juncture.

The Indian government has also renewed its invitation to President Bharrat Jagdeo to visit India. "We are eagerly looking forward to your visit," which he said would give major impetus to the growth of cooperation between Guyana and India in various fields.

The Indian government, he said, would be willing to play any possible role to ensure maintenance of democratic institutions in Guyana and that all its communities are able to live and work in peace and harmony.

Reviewing activities over the past year, Joshi felt that the sharing of a common understanding and perspective was reflected in the heightened tempo of economic cooperation. Bilateral trade, he said, stood at US$6.3 million against US$2.75 million a few years earlier.

He announced that very soon, India would hand over "a mobile vehicle which will be used to train people in rural areas in various aspects of agro-based industries."

In the cultural milieu, Joshi said, "we continued our efforts to project different facets of India's culture and heritage through special programmes and music, dance, etc, rendered by students and teachers of our cultural centre."

Expressing thanks to the local media, particularly the television channels for excellent cooperation in this area, he said he had little doubt that they contributed in further bringing the peoples of Guyana and India together.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples

From: Urme (@ on: Sat Sep 20 08:03:26 EDT 2003

Its is bad enough that Indians in Guyana have to cope with how their are viewed by some of their Indian counterparts in India, but worse is that they are harassed and killed by another race in Guyana.

Here is another story:

"I could be killed in Guyana because I am Indian" - Ryan Shah
By Binoy Thomas

Racism here is normally associated with the Black and White situation, especially in North America where due to historic reasons the Blacks have always been seen to be the victims of this foul attitude. And yet if you ask the Indians of Guyana who their tormentors are they would point to the local Blacks. Strange, but true. For decades now, according to several observers, Black on Indian crimes have gone unpunished. What's worse, according to the activists, they have gone unpublished. The world media has other more pressing stories. This is a small country with a small population ruled by a Marxist oriented government headed by an Indian! "The irony is that it is this Indian government that has failed to take any action to curb the ethnic violence," says Ryan Shah of Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA), a group of people who have banded together to fight the racist violence internally and at the same time bring the world's attention to bear up on events in the tiny South American country.

Shah wrote recently, "It was one year ago, July 2002, that GIHA started to speak against the ethnic violence in Guyana. Following the July 3 atrocities by PNC (the African Guyanese party now in the Opposition) 'protesters' in the streets, a female victim who had been robbed, cuffed, stripped, cursed and molested along with a friend on New Garden street by a gang of African Guyanese men came forward to tell her story on television. That mini-documentary made an impact. For the first time, people in Guyana heard first-hand the horrors of the race hate that exists in Guyana. No newspaper or television station ever reports it. And always significantly absent from the streets when 'protesters' take over to beat up on Indians are the police. No one has ever been caught and arrested for these crimes. Shortly after the documentary was aired, an African Guyanese bandit cut off Anita Singh's long hair to words of race hate, and this further horror of cultural rape was the catalyst that decided our agenda: to fight against all odds - they are formidable - to put an end to these atrocities in Guyana."

"It's the Indian government that tell the community to sit down and take it. 'Bear all you can, do not retaliate', they tell the people," Shah told the Voice. This passive attitude, she says, has not worked and has only emboldened sections of Blacks to be more active in their harassment of Indians.

Guyanese Indians were originally taken there by the British as indentured workers beginning early nineteenth century. The Black community, which were there earlier, by no means native to the place, resented the arrival of the Indians. "There is no difference in their attitude today," says Shah. GIHA has published an exhaustive report on the state of ethnic violence in Guyana titled 'Indians Betrayed'.

When Shah and others speak of the Indian government, they mean the one in Georgetown, Guyana. The Progressive People's Party that draws its electoral support from the majority Indian community is in power currently. The Indians form nearly 50 per cent of the population in Guyana.

Ryan Shah who is currently in Canada drumming up support for the cause of a 'governance change' in Guyana, says she became an activist almost by accident. After having lived abroad for years, she decided to go back in 1997 to lend a helping hand to her father who was 77. It coincided with a major election related riot. What she saw happening there made her determined to fight the menace of Black on Indian violence. "It was not until I went back home that I realized that you could be killed just because you're an Indian. And this has been going on since the sixties," says Shah. And they see the government of President Bharat Jagdeo as a major obstacle to real progress. Shah and others would like to see a 'shared government' in place where both Indians and Blacks have a role to play. "We have an Indian government that is in denial. This denial actually works for them. The Indian government in order to retain power says 'we're a multi-ethnic party'. This violence is in their interest. As long as the Blacks keep beating upon the Indians, the Indians will keep voting for the Indian party."

The GIHA crime report enumerates hundreds of attacks that include, kidnapping, looting, armed robbery, murder and rape of India women. The report asks: "During the daily protests and riots of 1998, and again in 2001 when Indian businesses were targeted and Indian civilians were molested, beaten, robbed, raped by Black youths, Black children, Black men and yes, Black women who handed over their Indian women victims to Black men, where were the Police? Who could believe that with the marauding hordes roaming the streets looking for their victims, the police would somehow manage to make no significant arrests? Not in January 1998, not in June 1999, and not again in 2001! The police either looked on merrily and thereby participated, or turned away and thereby participated."

Guyana's Police and Army are almost exclusively Black. And that, many feel, is the reason why the Indian population have not risen up in more violent ways. In South America, riddled with violent popular movements, Indians in Guyana are an oddity. They have been passive in the face of extreme provocation. But there are increasingly vociferous demands for the need to do something, and soon.

Shah says the Indian community is getting more and more demoralized. "I was talking to a man whose wife was raped by two Black thugs. Even he will tell you what can the government do? They are completely demoralized."

Over the decades, Guyanese Indians have been leaving by the droves for foreign destinations and today; there are an estimated one million of them abroad, mainly concentrated in the New York area and Toronto. There are perhaps as many Indians abroad as those still in Guyana. And if this continued state of siege lasts, then more will get out.

When asked about the possibility of a partition of the country, Ryan Shah, "That has been discussed. But that could only be the very last resort. We want to see a shared government that would protect both communities. Partition can happen only if both parties determine that it's impossible to live together."

You can reach GIHA at Telephone 592-223-6385


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