It's simplistic to say Indian leaders have failed

Stabroek News
June 27, 2001

Dear Editor,

In a recent column (Cassandra's Corner, 06/03), the columnist asked when would an "Indian David Hinds" come forth and announce that Indian leadership since the 1950s has failed, and that Indians regarded Buxton as a justification for Albion. I believe he is wrong. Below I deal with the first issue. The second will be dealt with in another letter.

The 50s and 60s showed Dr. Cheddi Jagan as a towering Caribbean figure. To say that Indian leaders since the 50s have failed is to suggest that they have never succeeded, for in what other period have there been Indian leaders other than since the 50s? Between 64 and 92, Indian leadership has not failed Indian people as much as the national leadership from an inept PNC regime. Since 1992 (notably from 1997), much of the PPP/C's energy is being used to fend off the immaturity of the PNC/R instead of fulfilling mandates, so a proper analysis seems impractical thus far.

Before I continue, consider this: in 1986, as a student at QC, I attended the usual weekly House Meeting (A House) one morning. The House Master (Mr. Frederick) was absent so a new teacher (who was Indian) chaired the session and, instead of ending it traditionally with the "Lord's Prayer," she had us say "Om twaa maya mataa." The experience was abruptly shocking even for Hindus who found themselves uttering this supposed "pagan" chant. Embarrassed, some could only mumble as if it was a prohibited omen from Hell. Of course, many Black students heckled.

This example dramatises what Indians have tolerated for decades; it explains why they refused to associate readily with national symbols (Golden Arrowhead etc.), Burnham?affiliated programs like Mass Games, or appreciate the PNC banning food items (flour, etc.) essential for religious functions like jandhis. Were these the works of Dr. Jagan or Mr. Yesu Persaud? While they accounted for at least 50% of the populace, Indians rarely heard Lata Mangeskar over GBC's airwaves, at nightclubs, popular bars, or at school fairs. Instead, Indians were filtered inside?out with R&B, Soca, Calypso and of course, "English" music. Was it Mr. Ishri Singh who caused this?

Everyone knows that Indians play cricket so when community grounds (developed under the Jagan admin.) became "cow pastures" due to PNC neglect, Indian men suffered socially, not the Chinese or Portuguese or Blacks who played squash, field hockey, and soccer at DCC, GCC, and the National Park. When community centres such as the one in Diamond, EBD, closed, there was no more table tennis or boxing, only a walk to the beer garden. Was this the will of the Hare Rama Hare Krsna movement (Uitvulgt, WCD)? When Eid or Phagwah came and there were black outs, and so, no religious music, was it Ms. Lakshmi Kallicharran who ran GEC?

Indians have never failed to criticise their own, although the deaf ears of the PNC made it appear so. Indians started the "pandits are bandits" slogan and today, there are more Indians criticising the PPP/C (supposedly the "Indian" party) than there are Blacks who dare criticise the PNC/R. Indians have always fussed about things, and it is only those who believed Indians to be the silent type who are suddenly "shocked"at Albion.

I would be wrong to say that Indian leaders lack shortcomings or that Indian communities have no room for improvement?as the recently publicized report on suicide shows. But I would be really wrong to lay the blame for Indians' problems at the feet of men in dhotis or Dr. Jagan. On the contrary, the PNC could not care less what happened to Indians?it knew of all the abuse types, but also knew that the best way to subjugate Indian people was to have them self?destruct.

So, Cassandra needs to write from the forefront instead of a "corner" when he's writing about Indians, especially now, because most Indians do not live quietly in corners?not anymore.

Yours faithfully,
Rakesh Rampertab.