Many Guyanese were acquainted with Bhojpuri Hindi
Stabroek News
March 20, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I was recently looking at Dr Richard Allsopp's Mittelholzer Memorial lectures published in 1998. Putting aside the fact that Dr Allsopp's political positions are partisan, I was suprised at the faulty scholarship of the following paragraph:

"When Guyanese national unity collapsed in 1953", wrote Dr Allsopp, "there arose, out of a language the nation scarcely took any notice of, a dialectical cousin of Hindi called Bhojpuri, a phrase challenging national unity with the nation of racial loyalty: "apan jaat naa bhulaiba", `don't forget our kind; the first two words of which (meaning `our kind') rapidly and widely rooted as a slogan of Indic racial loyalty in British Guiana".

Dr Allsopp's statement could not bear scrutiny for the following reasons:

(A) (i) At least half or more of the people of Guyana were fully acquainted with Bhojpuri Hindi since it was a spoken language which was heard all the time throughout the countryside in all Indian places of worship. (ii) There were also regular radio programmes in this language from the 1930's when radio first come to Guyana. (iii) when the franchise was extended in the 1940's, official writings in this language instructing voters were widely carried (iv) most Indian films from the late 1930's had a good deal of Bhojpuri Hindi in them and many of the religious ones were in pure Bhojpuri Hindi. (v) Whenever there were sugar estates strikes/riots, the police always carried big banners written in this language. (vi) In Suriname where the linguistic and racial positions are similar in many ways to Guyana, Bhojpuri Hindi (known as Sranami Hindi) is one of that country's national languages.

Accordingly, it is very inaccurate for Dr Allsopp to say that in 1960 Bhojpuri Hindi was a language the nation scarcely took any notice of when indeed it was so integral a part of the nation both socially, culturally and historically. Or could it be that Dr Allsopp's concept of the nation excludes those half or more of the Guyanese who have contact with Bhojpuri Hindi?

(B) Further, Dr Allsopp makes a serious error when he boldly says that "apan jaat" means "our kind." The word "apan" or "apna" in Hindi means "your" not "our." The common usage meaning "our" is "Hamar" or "Hamara" deriving from "Ham" (we).

(C) Predating "apan jaat" by over 10 years was the slogan "Black fuh Black" which was widely used in the Critchlow/Stafford legislative election of the 1940's. Reference to the widespread use of the slogan could be found in the court records of the election petition case which followed that election. Perhaps Dr Allsopp was not aware of this slogan which challenge national unity with the notion of racial loyalty more than a decade before apan jaat.

Yours faithfully,

R. Williams