Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 27th 2013 Contents A29
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3RD 4TH & 5TH FORMS
The emigration of Indians to Trinidad started
under an indenture system in 1845. An indenture
means a contract. It bound Indians to accept
certain conditions. Strictly speaking, it was an
illegal and fraudulent contract, because most
Indians were ignorant of the provisions. In
many cases they were trapped or kidnapped
and transported to Trinidad without even being
told the name of the island.
The indentureship lasted from May 30, 1845,
until 1917, during which period about 143,900
Indians were brought to Trinidad. The pro-
portion of Hindus among them was approx-
imately 85 per cent.
Dr Eric Williams, first prime minister, in his
book Inward Hunger, attempted to stereotype
the Hindu and Indian when he wrote: "There
was no question that the Indian occupied the
lowest rung of the ladder in Trinidad. Cribb d,
cabin d and confin d in the sugar plantation
economy, from which other racial groups had
succeeded in large part in escaping, the few
who did escape to the Mecca of Port-of-Spain
were concentrated on the outskirts of the town
in a sort of ghetto popularly known as Coolie-
Town ---today St James, a bustling suburb of
the capital---which tourists interested in Oriental
scenes and ceremonies were advised to visit in
order to see the Son of India in all phases of
Oriental primitiveness. "
Albert Gomes in his book, Through a Maze
of Colour, was even more explicit in his descrip-
tion of treatment meted out to Indians. "The
Coolies, as the East Indian indentured labourer
was stigmatised---came in for a special share
of public sadism. They swarmed the streets of
downtown area where their services as beasts
of burden could be cheaply secured to carry
tremendous loads on their heads for long dis-
tances. Ragged, unwashed and underfed they
roamed the streets under constant barrage of
jeers, sneers and obscenities from every side."
Under the colonial government, the Hindus
did not expect that former slave masters and
now overseers of these "ragged, unwashed and
underfed" ancestors of ours will ever be per-
mitted to become educated entrepreneurs and
leaders in this land. A number of Christian
churches were encouraged and financed to pro-
vide some limited educational opportunities to
our ancestors. But the cost was always that
they should abandon their religious and cultural
traditions. Conversion was the price for edu-
The Hindu community was only offered the
opportunity of self-education in 1952, when
the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha was created
by Act No 41 of that year. The Hindu education
board was formed under the leadership of
Bhadase Sagan Maraj and a dramatic attempt
was made to build schools and provide edu-
cation to the Hindu community.
Hindu schools were established in places like
Debe, Penal, Rousillac, Felicity, Bejucal, Caroni
Village, Tamana and other abandoned Hindu
villages across Trinidad. And although Dr Eric
Williams described them as "cowsheds," the
Hindu population has been transformed from
these humble schools.
Prof Selwyn Ryan, in his Express column of
May 12, 2012, wrote: "Also on my list, for very
different reasons, is Bhadase Maraj. Bhadase
built schools where there were once cow sheds,
and though we scoffed, many Hindus were
helped to get onto the education escalator as
a result. We see the results now, but could not
see them then."
He continues: "An objective list would also
include Sat Maharaj. Many deplore some of
what he says and disclaim him as a spokesman
for Hindus, but he has been in the trenches
using various mechanisms, the courts included,
to fight cases on behalf of his constituents."
A number of present-day academics at UWI,
St Augustine appear not to understand this
self-transformation of the Hindu, despite colo-
nial and political suppression.
Prof Theodore Lewis, in the Express of May
14, wrote: "The school system has also become
a proxy for the political system. Hindu, Muslim
and Presbyterian primary schools are outper-
forming government, Catholic, Anglican and
other schools, on clear evidence. It means that
the children and teachers in these schools are
working harder, and that success helps to fulfil
the prophesy of high expectations. I think we
will find that in these schools we do not see
the same level of teacher dysfunction that we
see in others.
"There is a strong religious dimension to
them that helps to inculcate discipline. There
is also an attendant ethnic identity dimension,
that probably is taboo to talk about, that comes
with the tacit exclusionary nature of the school
populations on the count of religion and geog-
The Maha Sabha does not appreciate Prof
Lewis assertion that the school system has
become a proxy "for the political system." It
is an historical fact that under Dr Eric Williams
and the PNM, we Hindus were denied an equal
opportunity to educate our children. But even
under a hostile government our schools, our
teachers, our parents and devotees across the
land worked to convert our cowshed schools
into the successful teaching/learning institutions
that Prof Lewis has now become alerted to.
This transformation did not take place under
a Basdeo Panday administration nor a Kamla
Dr Eric Williams, first prime
minister, in his book Inward Hunger,
attempted to stereotype the Hindu
and Indian when he wrote: "There
was no question that the Indian
occupied the lowest rung of the
ladder in Trinidad. Cribb'd, cabin'd
and confin'd in the sugar plantation
economy, from which other racial
groups had succeeded in large part
in escaping, the few who did escape
to the Mecca of Port-of-Spain were
concentrated on the outskirts of the
town in a sort of ghetto popularly
known as 'Coolie-Town'---today St
James, a bustling suburb of the
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