By Stephen Kangal
June 07, 2022
Indians came here to increase sugar production reaching 200,000 tonnes in the 1960’s and not to decrease the cost of sugar production as their wages/conditions were set. They were deceived into believing that they were coming to “chalay chinee”. We cannot be misled by Cudjoe’s Afro-centric lenses because the jahajees were already versed in sugar cultivation in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. What did the Indians think or have in their minds as they embarked from Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta bent to Trinidad after enduring the Indian Famine of 1850’s? They survived the “Kala pani” and the “pagal samundar” en route to create a better life for us. They worked for a mere pittance that was superior to what they left in UP and Bihar and did not come on their own to compromise the high wage demands of the apprentices.
The “apprentices” were never even remotely in the cultured-impregnated minds of the Jahajees. They had a vision to change their fortunes by hard work isolated in sugar cane estates without thinking much of the host community who were now free to also gravitate to urban settlements and leave the Indians to toil in the hot sun and rain. They accepted the prevailing socio-economic conditions and strikes were few and far. They knew their ultimate life objective taught to them by the Ramcharitarmanas.
I reject completely the thesis of Cudjoe that Indians had no say (pawns of the plantocracy) in their journey and settlement in Trinidad because they belonged to a higher almost ancient moral and religious order that made the visit to Trinidad a dictat of karmic prescription. They transformed their liabilities into huge assets with their Koran and Ramcharitarmanas?
Why does Cudjoe not stay out of fowl business and desist from trying to implicate our ‘pitris” (Bhagwan bless their souls) for being strike breakers or low wage earners and fan Afro-Indian antagonism in the 177th Anniversary of the Indian occupation of the cane-fields and “apprenticeship abandoned barracks” in rural Trinidad and made huge astronomical success of it contributing to the GDP of T&T.
No one with a beating human heart must seek to desecrate and obfuscate the innocent cherished memories of our loving devoted ancestors who toiled unremittingly to make a way for us their descendants and whose souls and spirit we incarnate and celebrate every Indian Arrival Day in a very emotional outpouring of love and deep appreciation of our jahajees and jahajins. They were not “strike breakers” nor “scab labour”. They were our loving nannies and nannas who we remember forever as shown below.
Please do not desecrate their legacy that they bequeathed to the Indian Community.
The African commentators appear to see “Indian Arrival Day” as exclusively an historical event. They use subjective history and intellectual dishonesty to interpret and position the celebrations because Indians are perceived to be dumb and intellectually challenged. They will not find the time to get into the psyche of the Indian Arrival Day mindset and 30-year celebratory event to appreciate that it is not history-driven and conceptualised.
That is why they refuse to use the word “Indian” because we all indeed arrived historically. It is indeed 90% a celebration of T&T ancestry—the “psycho-sociology of arrival” remembering the selfless love, missionary spirit, achievements, land-sense, thrift, maternal economics, conquest of adversities, mud huts, cow and bull carts, “bhajhee and bhat” and pure devotion of our “pitris” and the sacrifices they made and hardships they suffered while making the perilous journey to Calcutta and the “kala pani” crossing to Chinidad and Guyana.
Indian Arrival that is unique to the Indian Community of T&T and Guyana is a celebration of what transpired and was achieved post-1845 until May 30th 2022. Cudjoe must find time to appreciate this reality. It is in fact a celebration of “Indian gratitude” to all and sundry and how our “pitris” and “jahajees” dealt with the hostility and anger of the host community post-1845 without hatred for anyone including the purveyors of the indenture-ship system. It is time to extend real appreciation to diversity and not tolerance and try to take on board the diversified “Indian personality” that is almost 8,000 years in the making in the Indus Valley and the plains of Caroni planting “katharee” and bodi and baigan here quietly but focused on family cohesiveness
That is the germ of Indian Arrival Celebrations even before it was declared a public holiday.
3 thoughts on “Indian Arrival Day Celebrations Not Historically Driven”
Well thought our article in the vein of Brinsley Samaroo. A more indebt look is need to fan out the morass of indifference and selective memory. Yes the stories need to be told before all is lost to the next generation, whose obsessions with computer gadgets has earned them the term “lost generation”.
How duplicitous and deceitful you are Mr Kangal. Had you read “Capitalism and Slavery” by the Great Eric Williams? a sense of light would have illuminated the Darkness that have Historically resided in your “Anahata Charkra” your Truth is non-existent move away from the Carnalism of your Lower state. Your “COMMENT” is written for the likeminded, the meaning of the name KANGAL is very demeaning, ONE should not seek re-incanation having your present mindset?. Should we expect anything better from you?. You and your Clump have shown no solidarity, the past 5 generations on the plight of the Africans/Apprentices, the children of these very same Apprentices, were the one that taught you in your Alma Mater. A Hater is a Hater, and like a RAT, it was also brought here by the White Man. Never in his wildest dreams should the African expect the Indentures of similar mind to have any VIRTUE, it has not existed in their harmonious accord. They continue to change the narrative, and they did change to this DAY, the relationship of worker/employer. Our Ancient Cousins from South Asia, have historically stand for Nothing, while fall for Anything and everything, that’s what SCARBS do, they always go LOW. Today, it has come full circle in every day life. Indentured Employers have refuse to pay their own, proper wages and benefits, as they encourage the ILLs of generational past. Our Dravidian Brothers and Sisters don’t see it your way Mr KANGAL, neither our Great orator, Mr Shashi Kapoor. Stop HATING Mr KANGAL. REPARATIONS FOR THE AFRICANS NOW now now now…And stop stealing and occupying the LANDS.
What you have posted is not a proper refutation of Dr. Cudjoe’s piece. The historical records in fact reveal a combination of factors that fuelled the desire for indentured workers post-emancipation. This included loss of labour after some of the formerly enslaved acquired land and grew their own crops. Others engaged in trade or found alternative means of supporting themselves. Apart from this, a major concern was the demand for better wages from ‘free’ Africans. Indians were therefore brought in, in part, to ensure that wages remained low and to reduce the bargaining power of Africans.
Here are a few extracts that support the various arguments:
Extracts from: “Plantations, Proletarians and Peasants in Colonial Asia”
Edited By H. Berstein, T. Brass, E.V. Daniel
“Attributing indentured migration generally to a ‘distaste by free labourers to bear the non-pecuniary costs of production upon the plantations’, Engerman [1986:277] implies that everywhere and at all times free labour was unwilling to undertake plantation work under any circumstances. Such a view overlooks the fact that planters employed unfree contract/indentured labour because locals were exercising not an absolute but rather a relative unwillingness to work, and withholding their labour-power in order to secure improvements in pay and conditions for the application of this commodity on the plantation itself. In other words, the object of employing unfree labour in such circumstances was to compel free locals to accept plantation work conditions and pay levels that they would otherwise have rejected.”
“Yet others are Trinidad, where over the 1891-1909 period sugar planters also managed to hold down labour costs by importing unfree indentured migrants specifically with the object of undermining the bargaining power of local free workers (Ramesar [1984:60,65]), and Surinam, where the same considerations applied (Emmer [1984: 98]).”
“Similarly, had they not been able to use unfree indentured workers as strike-breakers against a local plantation workforce of ex-slaves which had withdrawn its (free) labour in pursuit of higher wages in Jamaica during the mid-1850s, planters would have been compelled to raise pay levels for locals by 25 per cent (Tinker [1974: 217-18]). In this respect the situation in Jamaica was no different at the turn of the century, when local workers who wanted to remain free and were thus unwilling to accept the terms and conditions imposed on indentured labour (to whom they referred as ‘slave coolies’), complained that the presence of the latter undermined their own bargaining power and prevented them from earning decent wages on the plantation (West Indian Royal Commission [1897, Appendix C – Part XIII: 306, 330, 331, 418).”
Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838-1918 (Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture)
by Prof Walton Look Lai (pages 5 and 10)
A commission of enquiry appointed in 1842, under the chairmanship of Lord Stanley concluded, inter alia,
“the diminished supply of labor is caused by the fact that some of the former slaves have betaken themselves to other occupations more profitable than field labor; but the more general cause is that the laborers are enabled to live in comfort and to acquire wealth without, for the most part, laboring on the estates of the planters for more than three or four days in a week, and from five to seven hours in a day; so that they have no sufficient stimulus to perform and adequate amount of work…
…this state of things arise partly from the high wages which the insufficiency of the supply of labor, and their competition with each other, naturally compel the planters to pay; but it is principally to be attributed to the easy terms upon which the use of lands have been obtained by negroes … Many of the former slaves have been enabled to purchase land, and the laborers generally are allowed to occupy provision grounds, subject to no rent, or to a very low one; and in these fertile countries the land they thus hold as owners or occupiers not only yields them an ample supply of food, but in many cases a considerable surplus in money, altogether independent of, and in addition to, the high money wages they receive”
“The years 1847-48 were also years of a financial collapse in Britain and the crisis of the ailing sugar industry doubly heightened, as credit sources in the metropolis dried up temporarily, with the collapse of many merchant houses engaged in West Indies. West Indian trade and finance, including their branches in the West Indies. Wages dropped dramatically in Trinidad and British Guiana. In the latter colony, a racially bitter resistance waged by Black workers in a strike lasting three months (January to March 1848) failed to arrest the downward trend in wages.”
Planters, Owners and Apprenticeship: The Dawn of Emancipation
By Sebastian Foltz
“Planters had opposed emancipation, in part, because they believed that it would destroy their profit margin. They used economics to defend the need for slavery. ‘They believed that they would be unable to afford to pay ex-slaves for work that they had previously done free. The change would severely hurt planters’ income. After the initiation of freedom many changed their mind and determined that emancipation may even be better than slavery. Others could not accept that slavery was over. They either refused to employ ex-slaves, except at the most menial wages, and under the most slave-like conditions, or they petitioned the British government for new imports of indentured workers from Africa and Asia.”
Reshuffling the pack: The transition from slavery to other forms of labor in the British Caribbean, ca. 1790-1890
By Michael J. Craton
“East Indian migration stemmed from the ability of the Indian subcontinent to fulfill the absolute need for labor in the new plantation colonies, a need which was exacerbated by the comparative ease with which the “creole” ex-slaves were able to obtain lands and set up “free villages” of their own and were consequently unwilling to toil on the plantations save when they wished to do so, for adequate wages. After 1834, Guianese and Trinidadian planters sought voluntary labor recruits wherever they could: from Portuguese Madeira, China, and Africa. John Gladstone, the future Prime Minister’s father, tapped a new source of migrants in the south eastern and central regions of British India. Gladstone found that “hill coolies” could be persuaded to agree to work under indentures for five years, for nine to ten hours a day compared with the apprentices’ 7.5 hours, for monthly wages that in effect (along with free housing and some issues of food and clothing) were equivalent to the going rate for two daily tasks (Adamson 1972:42; Checkland 1971).”
Systems of Domination after Slavery: The Control of Land and Labor in the British West Indies after 1838
By O. Nigel Bolland
“Four years after their ‘emancipation’ in 1838, the former slaves of British Guiana protested against their conditions and their unfair treatment by the planters who sought to bind them to labor on the estates. When the planters introduced certain rules and regulations, which were intended to regulate the quality and quantity of work, and to reduce labor costs by lowering wages and abolishing customary allowances of free medical attention, housing, and provision grounds, the workers complained to the stipendiary magistrates and stopped work.”
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