Mashramani! - in time for you - In 2002 Frankly Speaking...
Stabroek News
October 19, 2001

What's This!? There is murderous terrorism abroad in the world. The political opposition here points out hourly the imminent demise of Guyana and Trinidad. I've just raised and attracted the attention - if not ire - of Dr Walter Ramsahoye and a Gordon Burnett. And I choose to turn to Mashramani?

Yes I do. And it's not flippancy or a sense of levity merely. It is my timely - and annual - call for us to be like others, with organisation and planning. This is the time, if not earlier, to speed up the plans for staging next February's national carnival/festival of celebration - an event with purposeful objectives. In this regard, I congratulate the Ministry of Culture for the resuscitation of its National Mashramani Committee already. The formal launching of Mash 2002 takes place this afternoon at the Umana Yana in Georgetown. Commendable.

Could we not get it right this time, I ask myself in yet another year?. Why does it all come down to the last week before Republic/Mash Day? What's wrong with us? Poor planning for Mashramani is reflected in so many other facets of national life it seems. But wait! This week I learnt that it really was not, and is not, really poor planning at all.

The slothful procrastination, the wait-and-see delaying attitude is now almost a sub-culture among the non-Government official planners. I'm reliably persuaded that "the regions", that is the Regional Authorities take too much time to programme and execute their respective activities. The vital private sector tries to contend with competing national events and time?frames as their dollar is stretched in these times.

For example, business sponsors now have to decide on Diwali, the `Main Big Lime' and Christmas - before contending with the more national Mashramani. But why the wait? Why not decide now? Beginning next week, it is the Mash Committee - or "the government" that will approach those players. They will be offered certain duty-free concessions, they will be encouraged to write music, apply for assistance with steel-drums, promised waivers for Mashramani-related expenses. But will they accept in good time? Should any "Government" be blamed for late starts?

Well I won't divulge now some other initiatives that the Mash Committee has planned. I'll leave that to them. I can hint at proposals to have some grass-roots calypso tents, the plans for Mash Nite and Road March contests; involving the contentious calypsonians early on and the Committee's determination to explain just why they are taking specific approaches to particular events.

This column supports Mashramani. The writer appreciated government sponsorship from the time of the seventies - just after a government minister appropriated the whole Mashramani concept and celebration from the Linden Jaycees and brought it to Georgetown and made it national. This column also grieves - just a bit - at the "alternative Mash" now conducted by those who have decided that the February event is "their own" only.

It ends this first contribution by repeating its own idea - or dream: some enterprising soul or group should bring back six of the better Guyanese resident abroad for two gala oldies concerts. Let the guest houses and airlines grant substantial Mash concessions for the week. Share the funds with the artistes who provide the nostalgia and with the "promoters".

Actually, the Mash Committee or the private "tourism" groups should now promote Mash package tours home, with vigour. Their theme, especially to Guyanese? "come home for Mash. It's safer at home!" "Home - The safer place to be".

The Mahatma Myth?

Recall the purpose of this item: I'm honour-bound to provide the knowledgeable and provocative SWAMI (Aksharananda) with a basis for alleging that the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had certain racist tendencies against Black Africans and perhaps even an indifference for the original - but lowest-cast - Black Dalits of India. The Swami has written to enlighten me of my learned distortions but the folks who first titillated my interest sent me some literature on Gandhi in South Africa.

Please realise that whilst I will still personally regard Gandhi as an intellectual liberator, I have doubts about the Mahatma status. I also still yearn to learn more - intimately - about the Christians' Jesus. Where did this divine Being once disappear to? I ask all stern, loyal followers and believers to be tolerant. To be patient with me as I seek wisdom - even truth.

I share with the SWAMI - with retained respect - the following by Dr Velu Annamalai, a native of Tamil Nadu and currently, the President of the International Dalit Support Group: "The Western news media and their Indian allies by a massive propaganda exercise created the illusion of sainthood around Gandhi and made people believe that he fought Apartheid in South Africa, and in the process of doing so developed a new method of non-violent struggle called satyagraha. Nothing is further from the truth. Gandhi, for the major part of his life, worshipped British imperialism and too often proudly proclaimed himself a lover of the Empire. He was Kipling's Gunga Din in flesh and blood.

To understand Gandhi's politics in South Africa, it is essential to note the three fundamental trends which all along persisted underneath all his activities. They were: (1) his loyalty to the British Empire, (2) his apathy with regard to the Indian "lower castes", India's indigenous population, and (3) his virulent anti-African racism.

Gandhi was once thrown out of a train compartment which was reserved exclusively for the Whites. It was not that Gandhi was fighting on behalf of the local Africans that he broke the rule in getting into a Whites' compartment. No! that was not the reason. Gandhi was so furious that he and his merchant caste Indians (Banias) were treated on par with the local Africans. This is the real reason for his fighting race discrimination in South Africa, and he had absolutely no concern about the pitiable way the Africans were treated by the Whites. On June 2, 1906 he commented in the Indian Opinion that `Thanks to the Court's decision, only clean Indians (meaning upper caste Hindu Indians) or coloured people other than Kaffirs, can now travel in the trains.'

During the 'Kaffir Wars' in South Africa he was a regular Gunga Din, who volunteered to organize a brigade of Indians to put down the Zulu uprising and was decorated himself for valour under fire.

Gandhi said on September 26, 1896 about the African people: `Ours is one continued struggle sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffirs, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.'

Again in an editorial on the Natal Municipal Corporation Bill, in the Indian Opinion of March 18, 1905, Gandhi wrote: `Clause 200 makes provision for registration of persons belonging to uncivilized races (meaning the local Africans), resident and employed within the Borough. One can understand the necessity of registration of Kaffirs who will not work, but why should registration be required for indentured Indians...?' Again on September 9, 1905, Gandhi wrote about the local Africans as: `in the majority of cases it compels the native to work for at least a few days a year' (meaning that the locals are lazy).

Nothing could be further from the truth that Gandhi fought against Apartheid, which many propagandists in later years wanted people to believe. He was all in favour of continuation of White domination and the oppression of Blacks in South Africa.

In the Indian Opinion of March 25, 1905, Gandhi wrote on a Bill regulating fire?arms: `In the instance of fire-arms, the Asiatic has been most improperly bracketed with the natives. The British Indian does not need any such restrictions as are imposed by the Bill on the natives regarding the carrying of fire?arms. The prominent race can remain so by preventing the native from arming himself. Is there the slightest vestige of justification for so preventing the British Indians?'

Gandhi always advised Indians not to align with other political groups in either coloured or African communities. He was strongly opposed to the commingling of races. In the Indian Opinion of September 4, 1904, Gandhi wrote: `Under my suggestion, the Town Council (of Johannesburg) must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians I must confess I feel most strongly. It think it is very unfair to the Indian population, and it is an undue tax on even the proverbial patience of my countrymen.'

In the Indian Opinion of September 24, 1903, Gandhi said: `We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they (the Whites) do ... by advocating the purity of all races.'

Again on December 24, 1903, in the Indian Opinion Gandhi stated that: `so far as British Indians are concerned, such a thing is particularly unknown. If there is one thing which the Indian cherishes more than any other, it is purity of type.'

When he was fighting on behalf of Indians, he was not fighting for all the Indians, but only for his rich merchant class upper caste Hindus!

In the Anglo-Boer War of 1899, Gandhi, in spite of his own belief that truth was on the side of the Boers, formed an ambulance unit in support of the British forces. He was very earnest about taking up arms and laying down his life for his beloved Queen. He led his men on to the battlefield and received a War Medal'.

Whew! I'm sure Swami, that if you're not too livid by now, you'll be organising your response. So I'll again hold over my queries about the RSS.

Dialogue - not derogation

1) Tut-tut. What intolerance! What arrogant descent into personality-bashing. If even on a minor scale. Predictable as the response by a Gordon Burnett was, I wonder, why the excursion about (my privilege?) to "keep barking into a highly amplified public megaphone such as a newspaper provides ..."?

Even the redoubtable Dr Ramsahoye mentions "Mr Fenty's access to the media". Tommyrot! Poppy-cock and Balderdash! Where I'm concerned especially. Just check the space, the column inches granted to certain letter-writers who "lament" their inability to "get space".

I'll engage Dr Ramsahoye soon, but out of deference to journalistic propriety, I won't use this to be derogatory to anyone. Just to persuade Mr Burnett, whose views on wartime bombing must be shared by thousands I'm sure, to be more tolerant of opposing viewpoints - whatever the subject.

After all, what qualifies you to be so judgemental. I've read much about the aftermath of wars. I'm old enough to have seen your movies. I even know of American blunders of the recent past. Still I choose to say: much of the world is unfair to the America that sustains it. And even though the same Americans support your position, I reserve the right to prefer extensive bombing. Civilians must die in real war. Who are you Mr Burnett, to assess that as "silly, jingoistic, self-indulgent or frankly -ill-informed"? Sometimes the minority triumphs.

2) Please GS&WC. Please Courtney Benn. Save South! Save North!

3) Congrats Guyana - for the Red Stripe Bowl.

'Til next week!