September 2021 \ Diaspora News \ COVER STORY—DIPLOMATIC COLUMN
Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean–Past and Present

Arrival of Indian indentured workers to the Caribbean ...

By Dr (Amb.) Gauri Shankar Gupta

Contemporary Realities

Today the progeny of these indentured workers from rural India account for over 40% of population in Trinidad and Tobago (6,00,000), Guyana (3,27,000) and Suriname (1,48,000). They also form a noticeable percentage in Jamaica, Guadalupe, Grenada and Martinique. Though numbering less than 2 million across all the Caribbean Islands, they occupy positions of considerable power and influence. Courage and perseverance of these rural folks in this long and difficult journey against ethnic and religious discrimination and economic deprivation has paid rich dividends.

For the last few decades, their political and economic influence has been on the rise. Since the 1950s the West Indians have become more assertive and started questioning discriminatory practices. In 1950s the Hindu and the Muslim marriages were legally recognized and their festivals received national acceptance. Slowly their participation in political life started taking shape. Prominent figures like RudranathCapildeo in Trinidad, CheddiJagan in Guyana and JagernathLachmon in Suriname made a visible impact on the political life of their respective countries. Following independence of these countries in the 60s and 70s West Indians formed their political parties and have been contesting elections. CheddiJagan was the first West Indian to serve as Premier of Guyana during 1957-64 and subsequently as President during 1992-97 followed by Donald Ramotar who served as President from 2011-2015. In Trinidad BasdeoPanday became the first West Indian to serve as Prime Minister from 1995-2001 followed by Kamala PersadBissessar who served as Prime Minister from 2010 2015. Noor Mohamed Hassanali served as President of the country from 1987-97. Political scene in Suriname has been somewhat different due to involvement of the armed forces. Nevertheless JagernathLachmon, Errol Alibux and Jules RattenkoemarAjodhia have left their imprint on the political landscape of the country.