By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 10, 2010
The victory of the People’s Partnership (PP) with the assistance of African people, has changed the face of Trinidad and Tobago’s politics. In spite of its rhetoric, 2010 may prove to be a pivotal year in the relationship between Africans and East Indians. In years to come it may be seen as the year in which Indian ascendancy consolidated itself and the decline of Africans commenced. One only has to look at Sat Maharaj’s new prominence to understand where much of PP’s power lies and why his function, in many ways, may be analogous to that of the Priestess in the last administration.
It is wise, therefore, to keep our ears attuned to the testimony of the major players of the PP to get a sense of how Indians see themselves in this new dispensation. Winston Dookeran, the leader of COP and a generally mild-mannered man, is a case in point. Earlier this year he visited India as a part of a tour that was organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. In an interview with India Empire (May 2010) the editor asked him why Indian identity in the West Indies remained subverted (or was it subservient) to African identity “even though East Indian majority was established through indentureship in many of the countries,” to which Dookeran replied: “There are two reasons. The power structure in the country did not facilitate the plurality of the political voices…. The structure of the society was such that is why identity became a big issue. The Indians saw themselves as victims, not shapers of the society, and the Africans captured political power. They felt they had the power of the state. What is required now for the Indian community is to be the legitimate shaper of the New Society. When we talk about Indian identity, we need to talk in terms of Caribbean identity. The time has come when the Indian community must now shape the society for all so that they can offer that leadership.”
There are many problems with this statement all of which cannot be dealt with in this article. Apart from its many factual inaccuracies, it is an unhistorical view about the development of politics in our country. In the first place colonial societies such as Trinidad and Tobago did not facilitate the plurality of any voices until 1925. In 1831, the first legislature, the Council of Government, was established and the island remained a crown colony government up until 1925 when the first Trinbagonians were elected to the Legislative Council. The electorate comprised of 5.9 per cent of the total population of which 14.8 per cent voted.
The 1925 legislature established a balance between the official and unofficial members. In addition to the governor there were twelve official members and thirteen unofficial members. Although Indians were against the elected system-they feared it would not work in their favor–their fears turned out to be ill-founded. At the first election in 1925 one Indian member, Sarran Teelucksingh was selected. In 1928, Teelucksingh was joined by two other Indian members, F. E. M. Hosein (St. George) and T. Roodal (St. Patrick). Roodal, a leading member of Cipiani’s Workingmen’s Association, brought a substantial section of the Indian working class into the labour movement.
A. C. Reinzi, a fourth Indian member, was elected to the Legislative Council in 1938. Five of the seven members elected to the Council in 1938 were representatives of labour: Cipriani, Roodal, Rienzi, Teelucksigh, and Milliard. One was white (Cipriani); one was black (Milliard) and three others were Indians. In 1946, the first year of universal adult franchise, four of the nine victorious members were Indians. Although Indians consisted of 35 per cent of the population, they represented about 44 per cent of the elected members. Two of the four of elected members were placed in the Executive Council.
In 1950 there were eighteen elected seats in the Legislature. Indians won seven of those seats. That is to say, although Indians consisted of only 35 per cent of the population (Africans were 46.8 per cent of the population according to the 1946 figures) 38.9 per cent of the elective membership of the Council were Indians. Although there may not have been a plurality of political voices the Indians were well represented during this early period which leads one to ask: where or what is the discrimination to which Mr. Dookeran alludes?
After such a spectacular indictment, Mr. Dookeran makes a great leap forward. He says: “The Indians saw themselves as victims, not shapers of society, and the Africans captured political power. They felt they had the power of the state.” Just like that. If my analysis is correct up until 1950, Indians possessed more political power (certainly if one measures their representation in the Legislative Council) than Africans. More importantly, within that period Africans took the lead in wresting power from the British authorities who was controlled the state. While the Indians were worthy allies the Africans were in the vanguard of the struggle for self rule.
Although the Indians may have seen themselves as victims (and I am not too sure who made them feel that way) it is untrue to say they were not the shapers of their destinies or the society. In fact, social theorists have argued that while the Indians kept their culture and traditions during indentureship, African culture and traditions were attenuated during the slave and colonial period.
When Dookeran says that the “Indians community must now shape the society for all” it sends a threatening message to all. It leads one to believe that in spite of the talk of inter-racial unity Indian (read Hindu) hegemonic intent still lingers in their psyche.
In 1869, J.J. Thomas, the son of an enslaved African, expressed the wisdom of our forebears when he admonished: “If the frog tells you the crocodile has sore eyes, believe him” which means that in judging another person give great weight to what he says about himself. As the old people say, don’t take a candle to look for something that you can see in broad daylight.
Ethnic chauvinism is an inescapable consequence of the PP victory. Let us be on guard against its crudest manifestations.
53 thoughts on “Indian (Hindu) Time Ah Come”
Mrs Edwards, you’re an educator, a historian, author, a mother, grandmother and I’ve also gathered from your writings that you do have members of the East Indian community within your family circle, yet your comments seem like they came from someone who live in the heart of Congo that doesnt know another race exists other than her own. I have yet to see a comment from you that gives any kind of praise to Hinduism or the East Indian community at large. It’s always negative. I’m in my early twenties, I’m of the same race as you are(and damn proud of it), I consider myself to be educated (I double majored in Biochemistry and Chemistry and I’m currently a medical student at mt hope in my clinical years), I also have a range of different races and religion within my family tree and no, I’m not a Hindu (I’m Christian), but for the very short life that I’ve experienced on this earth so far, my parents have instilled as a priority in addition to academics, that their children must be well rounded individuals and that includes having at least a basic understanding of all the different people and cultures of this country and learn to appreciate and tolerate them before opening our mouths and that goes beyond just appreciation for relatives. You obviously sound like you’re a Christian. You grew up learning Christian values, doctrines and practices and you obviously will believe that’s the right way, but that does not mean it is, so you dont have to ramble and spew hate on other people’s beliefs just because they’re different from yours. Your comments are very biased and based on personal experiences and you then generalize the entire east Indian population due to the doings of a few.
You look at every flaw of East Indians, you target their religion, their traditions, their beliefs, their political affiliations, yet you cannot see that our very own race needs to take a long hard look in the mirror ourselves. Why do you see so many men of African descent in the prisons rather than schools and having jobs? Why Laventille ( a die hard PNM area) still hasnt shown any great progress, when clearly PNM was in power longer than the UNC? Why is it that the ten poorest nations in the world come from the African continent? Who to blame? East Indians? Colonialism? White man? The majority of the blame has to go to themselves. If you or Dr. Cudjoe were born East Indian and grew up as a Hindu, i could bet you your last dollar your tone would have been very different on this blog. Try fitting yourselves inside other people’s shoes, then you’ll have a better understanding of what they go through and how they live. There is good, bad and ugly in every race and religion.You know, the funny thing is, I’m in a hospital setting everyday, and i see people from different religious communities coming into the wards and praying for people in their hour of greatest need. They do not read patient files to see if the individual in question is a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, atheist or agonist. They humbly offer a prayer regardless of what religion you’re affiliated with, if any. If only people could live their entire lives this way, rather than living it only at their time of death or illness, half of the problem would be over. There was this one patient I spoke to a few months ago, who suffered from liver cirrhosis after years and years of alcohol abuse. He’s of African descent and he saw a woman “jharaying” other patients of East Indian descent on the ward with jaundice and decided to give it try even though he didnt really believe in it. The doctors and nurses accepted and to my surprise, his bilirubin levels were within the normal reference range within one week. There were many who said it was just coincidence, there were some who said it was a miracle and there were some who just denied it all because it was not part of their religion and beliefs. I specifically chose this as my example, because when Linda tells Linda B, “what the —do you know about loyalty to anything except perhaps the Lotah and some marigolds”, it speaks volumes as to her ignorance and lack of basic understanding of other people’s beliefs. Nobody says you have to force yourself to believe, but at least show some tolerance. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, RACE and RELIGION are the two easiest targets and that’s why many of you form your arguments through this pathway.
On the whole note about Dr. Cudjoe’s article, I’m not surprised about any of it and I’m also not surprised why it was chosen as a topic for discussion on this blog. After all, that’s the only topic that seems to get the most attention on this blog: RACE and RELIGION. Even if the topic is completely outside race and religion it naturally veers in that direction. It’s starting to bore me to death. For all I care, people like Selwyn Cudjoe and Sat Maharaj could go the hell back to Africa and India respectively if they’re so desperate so we could move forward together. They’re old men, with lots of experience, but the same old ideas and ramblings. I would never want my children growing up to see their country in the eyes of those two men. It’s time for a higher level of thinking.
When Manning was in power this blog was alive with racist comments targetting and accusative about the PNM. Now that awee in power you all want us to sing kumbaya. Give me a break!!
I thought you would have preferred to sing David Rudder’s “Trini to d bone” that so many of us love Mr. Daniels. But then again I’m yet to see the true “trini to d bone” if such a person even exists. Most of you seem to have only reached “skin deep”. There’s still a very long way to reach that bone.
Well said James, both times on this page.
The ability to emphatise is missing in most of the commentators here. They take it for granted that there was a plan in this world that they would be born African, East Indian, Chinese, mixed, etc – Not realizing that it is an absolute accident that they are whatever race they are. Being born into this world is considered a gift – pride or racial superiority for its own merits is a very misguided belief.
The pursuit of race and ethnicity can not put food on your table, a roof over your head, keep you healthy or keep you safe at nights.
I am glad that we have many young people like the prior commentator who are willing to think independently and not be tainted by the base element.
this man called james is talking about congo? what the hell does he know about africa. please dont let ur ignorance becloud ur judgement.
James, I gave a family member of mine who is a medical doctor in Tnt a book on hindutva so he wouuld understand the culture. Everything I write that seems negative to you,is in response tossomething derogatory someone else said. Thanks for giving me grandchildren, which I did not have before.Not a single Indian friend of mine(I mean people from India has ever said anything that seems to say they think I am biased, it is only the low minded Trinis of Indian descent who feel so. In CAnada, in 2000, on a trip sponsored by a branch of the uS State Department, I met some Indians, four of them actually, who were part of the same international conference. The Canadians, this was in peerborough, not Toronto made no provisions for their fod. there was a lot of meat and suasages, for four egans. I went into the kitchen and had a word with the cook. They then brought out fruit and yogurt so that the Indians had something toeat with their bread. They were so grateful, because no one else had noticed. I do the same for Muslims in my groups, who when at a meeting during RAmadan, cannot eat until the sun has set, so I secure food for them, including meals at prestigious hotels that do not NORMALLY issue to go bags.
In my work here, I am unhindered by the narrow minds that populate the country of my birth. Praise God for that.I have taught courses in comparatie religion, and have been a frequent guestwhen Indian “saints” come to visit their flock.I will not bow and touch someone’s feet, my friends know I am forbidden to do that, but I participate in their lively discussions.
Wen a certain oil company brouht a young man to my town for further stff development, and realized that his interpesonal skills were almost non-existent(he was of East Indian ancestry and rasised by his grandparents somewhere in the countryside), they asked me to do a one-day workshop with him, to help him cope better, so for this young Trini petroleum engineer, I was the transfer point also.
My “trouble” is that I have always considered myself as having the god given right to an opinion, something that is anathema to many trini males, regardless of ethnic grouping.Women are expected to be quiet little mice in the background.
Now that I have tried to correct you, whether you take it or not, is your coice;I invite you to return to my first comment on the Cudjoe piece, and re-read my last sentence, directed specifically to dr. cudjoe, I said that I thought the title of the piece was inflamatory(perhaps it was eant to annoy. Annoyance is not effectie communication, and I wanted Dr. Cudjoe to see that I noted that. He admires my work, and has publicly said so, so I thought he would pay attention to that fact.As for ancient medical practices of the orient, I am an avid believer in them.I follow Dr. Oz all the time and I am glad he is of Turkish origins. So, you see, you are wrong about me again. Now, check the Express files for the piece I wrote on Pixie Lakhan, the sixteen year old who was walking home in penal, was abducted, and killed.
I am a woman of many parts, and I put people in their place when they try to play the fool with me.
When Ms.Bissessar appealed a few years back, to the visiting Indian Vice-president, for relief for the “Indians”from the oppression they suffer in Trinidad and Tobago; I said she was guilty of treason. I stand by that. I did say then, all the Indians should be taken off the island by the Indian Navy. The Indians that is, not the Trinis of Indian ancestry, inlcuding those in my family.
You think you understand me any better now?? When Ms. Shirvani dipnarine sent me that very offensive leter caling me an offensicve term, I sent a copy to the Express, to remind them not to make public my e-mail address, and when a male staff member of same paper said something nsty to her in eturn, I called him on the carpet for it.
You would have to live along time, my son, to be the broadminded person I truly am.There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Why does ‘Voodoo and Obeah’ never gets such a “nice” write-up in the Express as this James?
Yes, jharay cured me
Do you believe?
Ariti Jankie South Bureau
Monday, July 13th 2009
Sprinkled across the country are men and women who cure snake bite and scorpion stings, jaundice, asthma, maljo (evil eye), headaches and a majority of illnesses through healing prayers called ’jharay’.
The gift, given to special people who abstain from meat and alcoholic beverages, is invoked once a year on Divali night to perform its miracles.
Bhairo Baba of Quinam uses two sticks plucked from a cocoyea (strips taken from coconut leaves) broom. He measures the sticks evenly in length and, while reciting the special prayer, sweeps the ailment out of the body. He explained that proof of the effectiveness of the ritual healing was in the growth of the broomsticks which he measured again. The length of growth during the ritual suggests the extent of the infection removed. At 48, he has been jharaying for over 25 years.
Until the color of a man skin is of no significant to the eye race and religion will always be an issue. This racial problem is not a now thing it have always been around it is just that it cannot be hidden any more.
My brothers and sisters one love one aim one destiny.
GOD is in control and one day all this madness would come to judgement.
PEACE – I am my brother keeper
So king the Indians have their Islam and Hinduism religion, East and South East Asians mainly Buddhism , Europeans are Christians by and large , then there is Judaism for the semite folks dispersed across the globe. Tell me good fellow what is the African religion, and did the lack of one contributed to what they have become ,a once conquered, abused, scattered , and lost people, willy nilly grasping on to every ideology on earth?
I am curious, and please , do me a favor and leave out that fearful , revengeful , blond hair ,heavenly blue eyed god, that gullible African like yourself ,would swear will burst through the sky some day with fire and brimstone, to take the few chosen, good folks to a land laden with milk and honey, as long as they are prepared to remain like grateful idiots here on earth , while turning their cheeks to be repeatedly struck by tribes of lesser acumen, and resiliency. Then we might have to redefine religion, it might now be wealth and power for some.
There is a piece of music I have recently adopted as my theme song, I play it at every public reading I do, since I “found” it. It is from an album calledKuer Moussa, and is a recording made by the Benedictine Monks, at an abbey called Keur Moussa, in Senegal. It is sung in the Wolof language, which few westerners have ever hard. so, here is this group of men singing something, for a minute and a half, that no one understand. Then I tell them what it says
I am Black and Beatiful
O ye daughters of Jerusalem
(And that is why the King chose me)
I then remind my audience that there were haters even in King Solomon’s court.
What I like about this piece of music is that it is one of the ancient proclmations of the Judeo-Christian Bible,sung in Wolof, at a monastry founded by French Christians, in a Muslim country.
If ever a piece of music could make you rethink things, this is it. I recommend it strongly.
Let me also end my comments on this thread by asking that those interested in a wider view, explore the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, the reat engali poet who died the year I was born. Gitanjali #35 can be downloaded without cost and The Song of Solomon from Keur Musa can be copied for 75cents.
On April 29,2010 I read my poetry at the National Library in POS, and there would be a recording of this piece of music there.
What is odious in this entire debate, is the fact that the same people who want us to rejoice now that an Indian is the Prime Minister were venting hatefull when a blackman was in that position. Kamla was with Panday during his Hindutavea transformation of T&T. You guys need to understand that because you fool some black people you cannot fool all of us. It is a minority among us that crossed the divide, not the majority. The majority are are still watching all of this with suspicion born from their experience.
What good is it to have a Black leader if he/ she hurts the Country? Sometime our worse enimies are people who look like us who ascend to social, economic levels in society that are far from their beginning. Often these leaders separate themselves from their electoral base and the general public.
What good is it to have an Indian Leader when the main reason for such choice is prejudice. My arguments are that Manning was attacked by Indians from the day he won the election. Those same Indians now want a different standard for Kamla.
Like I said, she was part of a racist and corrupt administration, and she never disassociated herself from that lot. I will hold my positon, as will the majority of PNM supporters that did not vote for the PPP. We are not fooled.
I don’t care if Manning was attacked from the day he won the election. Cry me a river won’t you. The Indians didn’t make Manning waste money. The Indians didn’t make Manning a worthless leader. That was Manning own fault. Kamla was not elected solely out of prejudice. She was also elected for the need to remove Manning because of his inability to lead.
It sounds as if those PNM supporters you speak of are fools. They would rather maintain their support for someone who is bad for the country only because of what he looks like. How intelligent does that sound?
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