The Nature and Nurture of Ethnic-Based Politics
Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2006
By Stephen Kangal
Any analysis of T&T politics that has evolved in the last 50 years must begin with an appreciation of a core ethnic base that supports each of the two major parties. The Indo- T&T core has traditionally supported firstly, the PDP followed by the DLP, SDLP, the ULF, the NAR and now the UNC. The core rural support group is the same- only the names and labels of the political vehicles have changed. Indian leaders have in fact been political hawkers using the expanding ethnic base to sell their political goods and reap in huge personal benefit returns without commensurate rewards being realised by the governed.
The peculiar nature and nurture of Indo- T&T- politics has been determined by the philosophies retained from the recollections of ancestral memory and the values and virtues of 6,000 years of Bhojpuri cultural conditioning. Such politics have been influenced by the principles, values and practices of both Hinduism and to a lesser extent Islam having regard to the all-pervading influence of the principles of Hinduism in all aspects of the life of the Hindu individual.
The Guru-Chela Paradigm
The paradigm that seems to fit and best exemplify the vagaries and vicissitudes of Indo-politics appears to be the guru-chela relationship that is fundamental to Hinduism. At present the shepherd-sheep model has been put forward by Professor La Guerre in a recent Sunday Guardian column. Mr. Dookeran has spoken of the puppet-strings model. There is also an underlying manifestation and precedence of casteocracy (prevalence of Brahmin leadership) in local Indo- politics.
You hear of Opposition Leader, Kamla Bissessar-Persad speaking of her adulation of her Maha-Guru in Basdeo Panday. You hear Panday referring to the symbol of the UNC as his Sita. You hear him consigning his adversaries to Banwas. The concept of the namakharam is integral to this paradigm because there must be eternal obligation to the Guru. The UNC is one's child (that must not grow up) to be protected from all assailants (poachers) as the property of the zamindar.
I think that the Hindu doctrine of Karma (cause and effect) to some extent explains the congenital docility of Indo-T&T community in accepting the status quo especially amongst the descendants of "low caste" indentured labourers that make up the bulk of the Indo-T&T population. They are not committed to using political action to promote group interests such as that which was displayed with the closure of Caroni Ltd.
The Indian does not seem to put a high premium on getting effective representation from their MP's as well as using it as a quid pro quo for their re-election. That is why compared to the African brothers and sisters Indians are not politically alert, articulate and active because of karmic persistence.
The guru is allowed to personalise the politics. He does not have to respect democratic traditions. He can do no wrong. Everything including the seat and election prospects of candidacies is owed to him and him alone. Everyone owes their political career to him and any lack of appreciation of this obligation is branded as namakharamism. It is as if he alone has all the votes and the elector has none. That is why he alone can usurp the right to forgive even if he alone was not the victim of the alleged treachery.
So far all the Indian political leaders have come from the Brahmin caste. With the return of Ramesh Maharaj are we about to continue this trend? In fact the return of Ramesh may have been prompted by this trend of casteocracy. Brahmins are very loyal to each other by divine dictat.
Morality, Ethics and Principles seem to be foreign to contemporary Indian politics. Mr. Panday seemed to have breached all of these standards with political impunity and yet they are calling for his return as if he did nothing wrong. He is still the cult leader (the swami) who exacts every ounce of loyalty and devotion (goar lagay) from the chelas. That is the nature and extent of the bankruptcy of Indian politics that is keeping back the rise of the Indian political ferment regardless of Indians having achieved literacy and education. There is a congenital inability to act in clear politically motivated and determined considerations. The Indian Radio Talk Shows are likely to dismantle this practice and to introduce more liberal views.
Whereas the Indo-T&T community after 161 years of its participation in the life of T&T has achieved emancipation/ enormous progress in the fields of commerce, education and educational management, the professions, the media, religious organisations, housing and cultural innovation/ development (Chutney, Pichakaree, Tassa , Indian Orchestration), the breaking down the rural-urban divide, in the area of politics we are still in an era of indentureship.
There appears to be a measure of cult/maximum leadership that dominates the politics. We are propping up a cult leader who can do nothing wrong and that is insulting to our newly acquired intelligence and reasoning capacity.
Recently there has become institutionalised an aversion to issues/ideas based politics (intellectual masturbation- camera focussed unity etc) while stressing appeal to the emotionalism of the grass roots. If the people were to become thinkers they will reject maximum leadership. That is why I called the current era or janaam a period of indentureship.
The Indo-T&T base has been fossilised into a do-nothing syndrome. There is a paralysis of political will to usher in the new era in the natural evolution of ethnic-based politics as happened with the transition from the PDP to the DLP to the SDLP to the ULF to the UNC while retaining the same Indian ethnic but expanding demographic base.
If anything the Indian-T&T base has unlearnt (decelerated) the politics that they learnt from their Afro-brothers and sisters. Today the entire community has had its confidence level severely blemished. We seem to be walking with down cast looks unable to mobilise the capacity or the testicular fortitude to make the appropriate strategic choices. We have sunk to a new low in our confidence levels.
It is amazing the extent to which credibility, principles, morality of political conduct have been abandoned. The guru is taunting and making fun of the Indo-electorate. He is behind the scenes manipulating the power play although he is damaged goods politically. He and he alone stands in the way of political progress of the Indo-T&T community. The community is in a stalemate with no movement lateral or vertical. He wants to keep us imprisoned in the politics of the past when we need to open up new vistas and new horizons consistent with our new social and economic status. He does not want us to become politically emancipated. He will then become outdated and be rejected as having lost his usefulness.
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