Jagdeo visits ancestral village, embraces grandfather’s sister
-launches web site dedicated to tracing family roots
Stabroek News
August 26, 2003

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President Bharrat Jagdeo went back to his ancestor’s village in Indian’s Uttar Pradesh over the weekend and met his grandfather’s sister in what was an emotional visit. He also launched a web site where members of the Indian diaspora can get help tracing their family roots.

According to reports in the Indian press, the people of Thakurain Ka Purwa, a tiny impoverished village about 150 km south of Lucknow, had been waiting since dawn for Jagdeo’s arrival.

“Coming here is like coming home,” Jagdeo told eager villagers who placed garlands around his neck and showered him with rose petals.

“Jagdeo’s grandfather lived in Thakurain Ka Purwa 90 years ago. The Guyanese president’s visit proved a boon for the villagers, as authorities built a road to the village and wired it with electricity within days of his arrival. Jagdeo is in India to discuss bilateral trade and business ties.

Jagdeo lit an oil lamp at a small plot of land that was gifted to him by the two dozen families who live in the village. They said it had once belonged to his grandfather, Ram Jiyawan. Jiyawan’s sister Ram Dulari, who still lives in the village, said poverty had forced her brother to leave for Guyana in search of work at age 17.

“He was right,” she said. “His grandson is today the president of a country.”

Jagdeo also launched the web portal to help people of Indian origin track down their ancestors at a specially created National Informatics Cen-tre (NIC) booth. According to a NIC official, the site www.rootsofindia.nic.in would help people settled abroad to trace their ancestors in India. ‘’If they send a query, we would ask the district administration to help them track down their kin. We would try to respond in a short time,” he said.

Apart from the President, six out of the eleven members of the Guyanese delegation are of Indian origin. Fazil Ferouz, President of Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana told UNI that while he traced his origin to Varanasi, the country’s Legal Affairs Minister Doodnauth Singh was from Chindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

The report in the DH News Service gave a more colourful if a little cynical picture of his visit:

“Poor by fortune and backward by caste, the Lonia community of Thakurayin Purwa found an identity today. When President Bharrat Jagdeo came calling, they were introduced as relatives of the head of a nation. The poor, illiterate and ignored were cynosures of all eyes which poured in from nearby villages to witness the event.

An event where the state worked overtime to hide the truth and politicians to hijack the moment. A young man whose grandfather migrated to the Caribbean country of Guyana in 1912 came back tracing the map to see the place where it all began.

It was a contrast overnight which the repair of mud-roads and cleaning of village could not hide. And yet, none cared to notice the starkness of it all. When Jagdeo was introduced to the Pradhan of his ancestral village Mohammed Ishaq, he embraced him with all his strength. A village wisehead remarked, “The man at the bottom of Indian polity is hugging a person commanding the destiny of his country.”

Ishaq was moved to tears and could barely utter a word. Jagdeo was ushered into the huge pandal erected to avoid the leaking mud-houses. At an invitation, he sat on the floor to listen to the oldest member of the Lonias, Ram Dulari, 95, who was hardly audible. “I am overwhelmed... It is an emotional moment for me... I am proud of the village,” Jagdeo said with a gulp in his throat. But he was praised for the courage of his grandfather “who took the plunge into the unknown and came up trumps”.

Emotions overflowed. And with it the contrast. “Take us all with you,” pleaded a frail Ram Dulari. Captain Satish Sharma, representing the local MP Sonia Gandhi, assured all of help to “improve the lot of the President’s relatives”. The old woman expressed happiness that “one of them” had reached so far in distance and destiny, and hoped it will prove a watershed in their age-old existence on the margins.

Jagdeo said he had plans for his village and would discuss them with the administration. Fed on assurances for years, for once, the words did not appear empty to these under-privileged. “I am sure he will do something,” remarked Shiv Prasad, one of the 24 families of poor labourers. Raja Ram was thrilled. “Our rulers don’t even look to us. Is it not remarkable that President has taken his time out to trace us and pay a visit?” For him, the visit itself was worth everything.”