June 2015 \ Diaspora News \ Indian Arrival Day
Celebrations in Trinidad

By Paras Ramoutar

Amidst the colourful spectacular, parades, speeches, moments of solemnity, prayers and reflection in communities and nationally, Trinidad and Tobago celebrated a milestone occasion on May 30, 2015 marking the 170th anniversary of the arrival of East Indians principally from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Between 1845 and 1917, approximately 148,000 East Indians traversed the choppy seas for three months to come here with the sole purpose of enhancing the economic and social conditions, mainly arresting the decaying agricultural capacity.

President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr Justice Anthony Carmona, whose wife Ms Reema is of East Indian extraction, in his message, pointed out that East Indian culture is characterized and driven by a deep sense of spirituality. “The teachings of Indian holy texts have instilled and embedded in our citizens, positive social values such as humility, respect for elders, sacrifice, hard work and vision. These are essential tools for any nation on its path to meaningful progress.”

President Carmona noted that the East Indian way of life, has notonly survived but, has soared over its 170 years of existence, entering mainstream culture without losing its quintessence. “The mores of East Indian influence continue to maintain their vibrancy and rightful place in the Republic. The eclectic music, spicy foods, colourful dress, ideals and values, endemic to East Indian culture, continue to buttress and support the international uniqueness of Trinidad and Tobago culture, easily recognizable throughout the world,” President Carmona said.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the first woman and a Hindu, whose forebears were sourced from Bihar, in her address, pointed out that the East Indians remain one of the pillars of this model nation. “Victory came not by summoning the things that defined our ethnicity, but rather the things that defined our humanity.” She said that while the emotional connection to India remained strong, Trinidad and Tobago became the new home to which we pledged our hearts and passions. Ms Persad-Bissessar pledges to continue her work to deliver a political system where merit and ideas are fully driving forces of the nation’s politics, without referring to the pending general elections due by September 14.

Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs and leader of the Congress of the People, a major partner in the People’s Partnership Government, Mr Prakash Ramadhar, a respectable criminal lawyer, said that, “the East Indians remain a pivotal and integral part of the multicultural nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and there continues the urgency for all peoples, Indians, Africans, Chinese, Syrians and Europeans to work as a single unit. There is no option for any one or group of people, other than all of them, to work in concord and harmony”.

One of the highlights of the Government of India participation was the presence of the UP Folk Group led by Shri Jeetendra Parashar. Their presence on several stages across the country was co-ordinated by the Indian Council for Cultural Co-operation (ICCR), the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Co-operation and this country’s Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.

The Mere Desh Committee (My Country) now led by the beautiful and enterprising Ms Savitri Praimsingh and which has been in existence for 25 years now, said that, “East Indian culture must remain at the pinnacle of the nation’s asset at all times because culture defines one another”. Ms Praimsingh has taken over the leadership of her father, Mr Ajit Praimsingh who passed away in February 2015 at the age of 62.

Every year, the Committee recognizes several young and old persons from the East Indian diaspora for maintaining and enhancing culture in all its form. The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, the premier Hindu organization, led by Satnarine Maharaj has hosted several religious and cultural functions which culminated on May 30 at the Parvati Girls’ College in Debe, South Trinidad. The National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) the epicentre of Indian culture, hosted a grand celebration on May 30 with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as its Chief Guest. There were dances by the Kaizan Shakti Dance Group, Prem Shakti Dance Group, the internationally-acclaimed Dil-e-Nadan led by Raymond Ramnarine, Jhaal Ramayan, Nagara Dance and Kajari Bhajans.

Public Relations Officer of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), Mr Surujdeo Mangaroo, said that the Indian diaspora must continue to claim permanence as they have arrived and have fully settled here. “The East Indian must never forget that it has to work with other groups in the enactment of a Caribbean civilization. The Indian diaspora worldwide is now a potent force, and we in Trinidad and Tobago must maintain this balance,” Mr Mangaroo said.

Mr Vishnu Boodhai, President, Caparo Hindu Organization which annually holds national spotlight, said that, “Hindus and East Indian culture must soar at all levels of the society as in it is a way of life for all mankind”. It hosted its celebration on May 24, 2015 where it honoured three national figures: Inspector Ajit Persad, Inspector Sahadeo Singh (posthumously) and 102 year old Heerah Dass. Among other honourees were former Prime Minister, Mr Basdeo Panday and now Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Winston Dookeran.

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