‘Indian diaspora faces discrimination even after 163 years in Trinidad’

May 31st, 2008 - 1:02 pm ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port of Spain, May 31 (IANS) The ethnic Indian community in Trinidad and Tobago continues to face racial discrimination even 163 years after immigrants from India first came to the country to work on sugar and cocoa plantations, former prime minister Basdeo Panday said. Speaking on the Indian Arrival Day, which is celebrated annually on May 30 - the date on which the first batch of 230 Indians came to this Caribbean archipelago, Pandey said the indentured workers had “made sacrifices and endured hardships so that future generations would have a better life” but the struggle for equality and dignity is far from over.

Over 145,000 workers from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were brought to Trinidad and Tobago between 1845 and 1917 to work on sugar and cocoa plantations following the freeing of African slaves. Today, there are over 500,000 people of Indian origin in the country in a population of just over a million.

Panday said that while the Indian community in Trinidad had moved up the socio-economic ladder, it still faces inequality and racism.

“We must express our disapproval for that which is wrong. We must not abandon the ideals and dreams of our forefathers. We must repay their sacrifice in the spirit in which that sacrifice was made,” he said.

Panday served as prime minister from 1995 to 2001 and is the only person of Indian origin to occupy that position. He is now leader of the opposition in parliament.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning told the nation that young people can learn a great deal from the experiences of the Indian indentured labourers.

“We must focus the minds of our young people on the experience of our Indian ancestors, which teaches us that there are no shortcuts for success. Discipline and dedication determine achievement,” he said.

Congress of the People leader Winston Dookeran said: “The Indian Arrival Day is an opportunity for a new reflection and a new thinking and a new vision for all the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago.

“We must envelop another formidable legacy beyond the crushing burden of oppression and inequality, and eke out a common humanity.”

A series of cultural and religious programmes, including a prayer meet by religious leader Santnarayn Maharaj and a show by the National Council of Indian Culture, have been planned across the country over the weekend to celebrate the Indian Arrival Day.

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