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Indian Diaspora remains a powerful force in world history

By PARAS RAMOUTAR

Trinidad and Tobago will be one of the several diasporic countries which will form an integral partnership to mark the centenary of the abolition of indentureship by the British Parliament March 21, 1917. And, this country’s major input will be the hosting of the Indian Diaspora World Convention entitled, "Global Indian Diaspora - Charting New Frontiers," March 17 to March 20, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel.

The seminar is being organized by the International Diaspora Council (IDC) based in New York with Ashook Ramsaran, International co-ordinator along with Indian Diaspora Council of Trinidad and Tobago, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha(SDMS), the Indian High Commission and the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC).

May 30, 2017 marks 172nd Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago when East Indians, approximately 148,000, were brought from India, principally Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, by the then British colonial government between 1845 to 1917 to work on the sugar, cocoa and coconut plantations. They came here to enhance its economic and financial stability. May 30, a public holiday, is celebrated as the Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago, annually.

The national citizenry here must not allow Indian Arrival Day to become just another day in our calendar as it has deep significance in world history, world civilization and world thought. India’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Indians, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, told the recent International Conference on "Indian Diaspora and Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future" that the Indian Diaspora has emerged as "an important and unique force, making a positive difference in all fields of human endeavour, from economics to politics."

She said: "We hold our heads high when members of the Diaspora are appreciated, recognized honoured and respected for their outstanding contribution in their respective countries of residence. The success and prosperity of the Diaspora is our asset, as much as a strong India is to the diaspora. We are determined to work closely with the Diaspora mutual benefit".

And Trinidad and Tobago fits in this description. Whether we like it or not, Trinidad and Tobago is a multicultural and multi-religious society, and this has become the cornerstone for the full flowering of serious nationhood. We in Trinidad and Tobago must continue to celebrate in our multi-religious and multi-cultural society, Eid, Diwali, Ram Leela, Yagnas, Hosay Phagwa, Corpus Christi ,Christmas, Baptists, Easter and the other religious festivals and occasions at all times. We have to share and respect each other’s cultural strains.

Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, then Prime Minister, in her Indian Arrival Day message, May 30, 2015, reminded us: "We must never forget the many sacrifices that were made by our ancestors and neither forget to show, in a tangible way, our profound thanks for their immense contribution to the economic, religious and cultural life of Trinidad and Tobago."

In the same vein, she invoked a thought of her late Indian counterpart of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi: "A nation’s strength ultimately consists in what it can do on its own, and not what it can borrow from others."

India’s newly-accredited High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Shri Bishwadip Dey, in a message marking Divali 2016, one of the Indian diaspora’s flagship celebrations, noted that Diwali, the Festival of Lights, gives an expression of happiness and a sense of attainment. Darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge and happiness."

The contribution of Indian culture to Trinidad and Tobago is well-noted and it is now being comprehensively documented. Media portrayals continue to improve and expand, but not to an accepted level though. Indian culture continues to flourish the foundations for national reconstruction and inspiration for national regeneration. Are we to conclude that a new world order is emerging - a world order which assigns a much higher priority to cultural relations in national and international development. The claim that cultural traditions have a crucial note to play in the unfolding order is not limited to individuals or nations. Indeed, it is being advocated by prominent people the world over-politicians, statesmen, corporate executives, scientists, scholars, artistes, humanists and philosophers.

So when the Fatel Razack burst through the Gulf of Paria on May 30, 1845, the 230-member human cargo in Trinidad and Tobago, embarked and inserted that indomitable spirit of human kindness, creativity and resourcefulness. Their Arrival has many meanings as they introduced new kinds of food, musical genre, songs, dances, plants, religious literature, religions and cultural traits. And we are here to stay. We have anchored our anvil, "Mother Trinidad and Tobago" in the words of this country’s first Prime Minister, the late Dr Eric Williams. The journey of the hundreds of thousands of Indian indentured labour in the 19th century to Africa, Mauritius, the Caribbean, Suriname and Fiji was one saga of supreme courage, unbending will, unwavering belief in their faith, culture and traditions that triumphed against all odds.

Indian Arrival Day must not be viewed upon with scorn as a people whose socio-economic and cultural and religious backgrounds do not have origins from some celestial source. We are not a tribal people. It is an opportunity to encourage the participation of shared values. We must not be seen as turning our backs on the other segments of the nation, but rather we must converse with others to listen, to learn, to understand and to respect their experiences and values.

Despite the ethnic strains displayed in electoral campaigns, it is heart-warming to see the population of Trinidad and Tobago joining, participating, supporting or celebrating the many religious and cultural presentations like Carnival, Divali, Diwali Nagar and Panorama.

This demonstrates that the philosophy of multiculturalism or cultural diversity is evident in our nation, and it must be enhanced and supported at the highest levels to ensure racial harmony, peace and concord among the respective ethnic groups in the national citizenry. State subventions must be equally shared across the societal spectrum, rather than favouring one ethnic group over the other.

The Indian Diaspora will always answer to this notion of working towards national peace...something our politicians fail to procure or to empower themselves, more so, the population.

There should be syllabi in all academic institutions from primary and tertiary levels about the arrival of East Indians, Africans, Chinese, European, Portuguese in our land. Lack of such an undertaking will set each group apart, instead of knitting them towards the evolution of a formidable T and T society. Our forefathers must be admired and respected for their pioneering spirit, resilience, perseverance and sense of origin. And this must continue to be demonstrated in our daily lives. The Indian Diaspora must be respected for its contribution in all aspects of the sociological, economic and political development of Trinidad and Tobago. We must continue to add to the cultural frontiers. Indo-Trinidadians have made a serious statement via the political arena through its cultural penetration. Like calypso and steelpan, which our African brothers claimed to develop and to demonstrate, Indo-Trinidadians can now lay claim to the production of the famous chutney presentations, which have now been factored on all entertainment stages. This initiative has awed the national citizenry as to the great strength and educational diversity of Trinidad and Tobago.

Former Minister of Finance, and later Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran, noted that as with other diasporas, the Indian community does have an affinity with India. "That affinity was kept alive by films, letters, religion and the ties of kinship. The earlier generations understandably were nostalgic. Globalization today, however, is triumphant. With growing convergence among nations and states, nostalgia will recede and some memories lost".

Dookeran said that while not losing their heritage, the Indian community is first and foremost part and parcel of the identity of Trinidad and Tobago, and the journey was long, at times arduous and difficult, but always inspiring, in the discovery of a new Caribbean identity.

Just a footnote: In 2016, marked the centenary, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation, fought vigorously against the continued East Indian indentureship from India. And this happened at the height of British colonialism and the question still rages, in the minds of historians and social thinkers and researchers, would have it continued had it not been for Gandhi’s timely intervention.

This centennial observance is a major historical issue when one considers the following thoughts: India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru made it abundantly clear to all Indians that, "India will not stand by them where their interests will clash with local interest". This ultimatum remains a standard one even today, as no successive Prime Ministers or Governments ever attempted to reverse this statement, yet at the annual Pravasi Bharitya Diwas (PBD), the diasporas are urged to make liberal remittances to India’s social and economic development.

Later, India’s 10th Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his address to the Antar-Rashhtriya Sahayog Parishad Bharat(ARSPB) in New Delhi which is the forerunner parley to today’s annual PBD noted that there were different forces of history that prompted our people, "to leave India and settle abroad. This kind of trans-national movement of people will only accelerate in the increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world of the 21st century".

Vajpyee continued: "The expansion of the Indian diaspora in the new century and new millennium, however, will follow a very different trajectory. In the past, people left India out of distress or some economic compulsion, because ours was then a country under colonial subjugation. This will no longer be the case in the future."

This is the state of the Indian diaspora as we prepare to observe the centenary of its abolition. Had this not happened, what would have been the state of the Indian nation. Or, let us look at it another way: the countries which were recipients of Indians would probably be fully packed with them, and might have more Indian leadership in the world, a much-needed feature.

Let us all be reminded of the thoughts of Existentialist philosopher, Carl Jaspers: "The apprehension of history as a whole leads beyond history. The unity of history is itself no longer history. To grasp this unity means to pass above and beyond history into the matrix of this unity, through that unity which enables history to become a whole. We do not live in the knowledge of history, in so far, however, as we live by unity, we live supra historically in history"

Contact: paras_ramoutar@yahoo.comor 868-374-5586 or 868-672-8702

Paras Ramoutar HBM,JP,BA,APR,ABC, is an international journalist for over 45 years who writes for several media houses in Trinidad and Tobago, India,(IANS, the indian diaspora, India Empire) Canada, USA, the Caribbean, among other countries. Mr Ramoutar is a respected commentator on issues of public affairs, social, cultural and religious issues with special focus on the Indian Diaspora. He is a Justice of the Peace for Trinidad and Tobago, and has received several national, community and international awards, including the Humming Bird Medal from the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Peace Award from the Judiciary of

Trinidad and Tobago, the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ryerson University, Canada; and Accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. Contact: paras_ramoutar@yahoo.com.



IDC Mourns the Passing of E. R. Braithwaite


E. R Braithwaite

The Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) joins in solidarity with organizations, institutions, agencies, and individuals in USA, UK, Guyana and other countries in mourning the passing of world renowned writer, academician and diplomat Eustace Ricardo Braithwaite (known as E. R. Braithwaite) who passed away on November 12, 2016 in Maryland, USA. We express our sympathies and convey our condolences to his family, friends and associates.

E R Braithwaite was a Guyanese born writer, teacher and diplomat, best known for his semi-autobiographical book To Sir, With Love (1959) which was adapted into a successful film in 1967 starring Sidney Poitier. He has written a number of books exposing racial discrimination in post-war Britain, all of which were inspired by his personal experiences.

Braithwaite was born in 1912 in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), to Oxford-educated parents. He attended the elite Queen’s College Guyana and the City College of New York. He volunteered for service with the RAF in 1940 and served as a fighter pilot during World War Two.

After the war he studied at Cambridge, graduating with a Master’s Degree in physics in 1949. He also received honorary doctoral degrees from Oxford University and La Sorbonne - University of Paris. Braithwaite served as Guyana’s Ambassador to the United Nations (4 years) and Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela (3 years). In addition, Braithwaite was an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO in Paris for 5 years.

E R Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love captured an era, highlighting the realities of racism and the disillusionment of non-white migrants in 1950s Britain, as well as the book’s appeal and relevance to audiences past and present.



New York Launch of Centennial Commemoration of Indian Indentureship

March 5, 2017 (EST-USA)

Press Statement

 

New York Launch of Centennial Commemoration of Indian Indentureship

 

TheIndian Diaspora Council (IDC), in collaboration with its global affiliates and partners, held a prominently successful New York launch of the 100th anniversary commemoration of the abolition of Indian indentureship at the Consulate of India in New York on March 3, 2017. The theme of the event: "Centennial of Abolition of Indian Indenturedship: Challenges, Progress, Achievements and Charting New Frontiers". It was an over-capacity participatory event with speakers and invited guests focusing on: Commemoration of the centennial of abolition of Indian Indenturedship; History of Indian Indenturedship; Perspectives on the end of an era; Challenges, Progress and Achievement; Descendants of Indian Indenturedship and the PIOs experience.

March 20, 2017 marks the centennial of official abolition of Indian Indentureship, an era spanning the years 1834-1917, starting immediately after the formal Emancipation of Slaves in 1834. Indian Indentureship was an intense and harrowing period of Indian migration from several Indian states to far way lands of then British colonies around the world. The history and consequences of Indian Indentureship are deeply embedded with tremendous significance, meaningful history and reflections to millions of descendants living in many countries which were the recipients of Indian Indentured labourers seeking better livelihoods. These countries included: Mauritius, Fiji, Malaysia, South Africa, East Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, Jamaica, Belize, Grenada, St Lucia and other countries of the Caribbean, as well as former French colonies of Reunion Island, Seychelles, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana.

The March 3 event is the New York, USA commemoration of the centennial of abolition of Indian Indenturedship in collaboration with various communities of people of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the New York/New Jersey/ Connecticut/ Pennsylvania/Massachusetts region where a significant population of PIOs and NRIs reside, descendants of Indian Indentured laborers (1834-1917) originally from Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, Jamaica, South Africa and other countries.

Similar commemoration events are being held by Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) and its affiliates in several countries impacted by Indian indentureship during the month of March 2017, including a 2-day conference in New Delhi on April 22-23.

This New York event precedes the Indian Diaspora World Convention 2017, the grand global commemoration onMarch 17-20, 2017 to be held in Trinidad & Tobago: Grand opening ceremonies, conferences, panel sessions, workshops, resolutions, action items team, future projects, cultural presentations and receptions. Several Indian officials as well as officials, civic and community leaders from neighbouring Caribbean countries would be engaged in discussions on engagements and collaboration.

The March 3 program was moderated by Suzanne Mahadeo, editor for Global Fund for Women’s, who requested Rev Seopaul Singh, Pandit Goor Jaganath and Imam Abdool Hakim to conduct invocation prayers (Imam Hakim was delayed). Event chairperson Mr. Jhairam Persaud welcomed the attendees, officials and guests, citing the focus on the centennial theme and its significance. Introductory remarks were made by IDC president Mr. Ashook Ramsaran who spoke on the fitting tribute of the centennial at the Indian Consulate and elsewhere, and requested observance of “a moment of silence for all those who made the harsh and treacherous journeys ahead of us, paving the way for our progress over many generations, and to those who protect our freedoms today and in the future”. The Youth Corps headed by Resha Ali assisted with ushers and program supports; Patsy Leopold coordinated the site registration.

Mr. Harbachan Singh introduced Consul L. T. Nghaite, Consul (PIC) & Head of Chancery at the Indian Consulate as chief guest representing Consul General Amb. Riva Ganguly Das who was away from New York. Consul Nghaite spoke of this special commemoration and the significance to so many millions of persons of Indian origin who are descendants of those left India as indentured laborers during 1834-1920. Introduced by Mr. Darrel Sukdeo, Guyana’s Consul General Barbara Atherly spoke of the many contributions of Indians to Guyana in all segments of society: social, cultural, political and economic, including foods, music and dance. Mauritius minister representative to the United Nations, Mr. Vishal Lutchoomun, introduced by Ms. Sharla Khargi, traced the history of Indians to Mauritius beginning in 1834 and the inherent bonds with India. Mr. Lutchoomun also recited Bhojpuri at the request of Guyanese legendary icon Pandit Ram Lall who was elated at the rendition.

Mr. Martin Lalsingh introduced feature speaker Prof. Marina Budhos, a renowned historian and an award winning writer on the Indian Diaspora, fiction and non-fiction. Prof. Budhos spoke of the history of Indian indentureship and the story of sugar which was the mainstay of the plantations for which the Indian indentured laborers were recruited. The “event was also blessed” as it was the birthday of Prof. Budhos. Ms. Gene Ram introduced Dr. Tyran Ramnarine, Fullbright scholar, historian and academician, who spoke on the need for cheap labor and easy recruitment in India in those states experiencing famine during that era. Consul Nghaite presented mementos to Budhos and Ramnarine on behalf of the Indian Consulate, and IDC officials Deo Gosine (IDC coordinator, Trinidad & Tobago) and Mr. Santram Dukhbhanjan (IDC treasurer) presented IDC mementos of appreciation as well. In addition, Consul Nghaite and IDC made a special presentation to Guyana freedom fighter and icon Pandit Ram Lall.

 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s representative Hersh Parikh presented a citation to IDC and the centennial commemoration on the observance of this historic occasion. New York State Assembly Member Nily Rozic was represented by Ms. Bindu Belani who presented citation as well; Mr. Harpreet Singh Toor presented a citation on the occasion from New York State Assembly Member David Weprin. Parikh Worldwide Media chairman Dr Sudhir Parikh noted that it is a solemn commemoration and commended those who made the journey; Dr. Ramesh Pandey, an expert in Ayurveda, congratulated IDC and conveyed his best wishes for all the centennial observances in 2017.

Clinical scientist Sharla Khargi gave a masterful rendition of the poem from Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore “Where the Mind Is Without Fear”. Mr. Dennis Ramdahin announced the upcoming Indian Diaspora World Convention 2017 on March 17-20, 2017 in Trinidad & Tobago and encouraged attendance; he also spoke on the Vihar Foundation’s efforts in India; and the proposed resolutions at the Indian Diaspora World Convention 2017. Planned Indian Diaspora Economic Forum in Oct 2017: “Connecting and Engaging the Indian Diaspora on Economic Issues”

Ms. Denyse Baboolal of Jaya Devi Arts in Florida introduced the band from Suriname which sang nostalgic songs reminiscent of the music among the descendants of indenture laborers. Dr. Tara Singh expresses thanks and appreciation to all who attended, participated and co-sponsored, as well as the event’s media partners. Dinner of Caribbean foods followed.

Co-sponsors include: Indo-Caribbean Council (ICC); Indian American Global Chamber of Commerce (IAGCC); Interfaith Community Council; Amer. Bangali Hindu Foundation; Richmond Hill Econ. Development (RHDEC);Kali Travel Ltd., Pure Audio Systems; Kris Agency & Home Care; Labidco Port Services Ltd; Abegales Catering. Media partners included: The West Indian; Indo-Caribbean World; Caribbean New Yorker (Nala Singham); Parikh Worldwide Media (Dr. Sudhir Parikh); The Indian Panorama (Prof. Inderjit Saluja); India Abroad (Mr. Rajeev Bhambri); Indian Television (ITV); Caribbean Network Enterprise (Seopaul Singh); TV Asia.

VIEW IMAGES

For more information, please contact Ashook Ramsaran @ ashookramsaran@gmail.com  

Indian Diaspora Council (IDC) is an international non-profit organization of shared heritage, aspirations and interests. 

Indian Diaspora Council  and IDC  are Trademarks of Indian Diaspora Council.



IDC CONDEMNS JUNE 3, 2017 TERRORIST ATTACK IN LONDON, U.K.

The Indian Diaspora Council International (IDC) joins with other organizations, agencies, groups, individuals and institutions worldwide in expressing strong and unequivocal condemnation of another terrorist attack in United Kingdom, this time in London on June 3, 2017 which killed 7 innocent people and left over 30 more injured. IDC considers this most recent brutal and despicable act as inhuman, senseless, unforgivable and unjustified criminal action directed to cause tremendous death and injury while creating widespread fear among innocent citizens in the United Kingdom and other countries.

We consider these killings heinous acts against humanity, the 14th attack in Europe since 2015 claiming more than 300 lives, and coming soon after recent attacks in Manchester and Westminster (UK), Nice and Paris (France), USA and other countries. IDC’s global membership shares the pain and anguish of those affected and extend our condolences to the families of the victims with prayers for speedy recovery of those injured.

IDC commends law enforcement and medical services of London in particular, and the United Kingdom in general, with prompt and diligent efforts emergency services to the survivors and their families. We fully support all measures taken to subdue and kill the perpetrators, and to bring security, calm and confidence to the people of the United Kingdom and urge all efforts to prevent similar attacks in the future. We share in the belief that such callous and uncivilized crimes perpetrated against innocent people cannot diminish the desire and courage to live peacefully with dignity and their hard won freedoms.

IDC expresses deep concern for the victims of the tragedy, their families, friends and associates. We are very confident that the people will endure this national disaster while they retain courage, sense of dignity, pride, their values and their freedom.



IDC Marks 11 th Anniversary of Caribbean American Heritage Month 2017

The Indian Diaspora Council International (IDC) joins with its global affiliates and membership in marking the 11th anniversary of Caribbean American Heritage Month in the United States of America, recognizing and celebrating the significant contributions of Caribbean Americans to the United States in all segments of US society for generations, including social, economic, cultural and political successes.

The Proclamation was issued by President George Bush on June 6, 2006 recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. Through this annual commemoration, America is reminded that its strength and greatness lies in its diversity, including contributions of Caribbean immigrants: From founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who have helped shape America and the American dream.

Caribbean immigrants have been contributing to the well-being of American society since its founding. Several prominent sons and daughters of Caribbean heritage include Colin Powell, Cicely Tyson, W.E.B Dubois, James Weldon Johnson, Harry Belafonte, Marion Jones and Sidney Poitier, Robyn Rihanna Fenty, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Nicki Minaj, Gwen Ifill, Erich Holder, Kwame Raoul, Dule Hill, Sanya Richards-Ross, Pete Wentz, Romany Malco, Roxanne Persaud, Marcus Garvey, Kelsey Grammer, Oscar de la Renta, Shirely Anita St Hill Chisholm, Helen Marshall, Leroy Comrie, Alicia Hyndman, Pt. Ram Lall, Mahin Gosine, Marina Budhos, Jonathan Brassington, Davan Maharaj, Oneeka Williams, Balgobin Nandram, Deborah Persaud, Gaiutra Bahadur and many others. This list is a small sampling of so many of Caribbean descent making their mark in the USA.

IDC takes much pride in the many significant contributions which people of Caribbean heritage have made in the United States and wish continuing successes to them and to the United States of America.


Indian Diaspora Council
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Queens, New York 11365
USA

Phone: +1-347-494-1502
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