• 20 Jul, 2024

Dr Bisram bats for Terry Gajraj and Mahadeo Shivraj

Dr Bisram bats for Terry Gajraj and Mahadeo Shivraj

Dr Bisram bats for Terry Gajraj and Mahadeo Shivraj

Veteran journalist and freedom political activist Dr Vishnu Bisram pens a commentary in support of grievances public made by Guyanese cultural artistes Terry Gajraj and Mahadeo Shivraj. No government in Guyana has ever recognized the contributions of these two artistes although lesser known ones with hardly any significant contributions to Guyana or the diaspora received national recognitions (awards) and showered with other accolades and state funds. Neither of the two prominent named artistes nor other Indian artistes received state funding as compared with performers of other ethnic groups. The two men publicly voiced their grouches in private media. Gajraj felt irked coming out publicly telling the world that he was recognized in Trinidad but never in Guyana. Shivraj followed suit.  
 
Dr Bisram, a well-known champion against injustices, spoke out against the non-recognition of the two Guyanese cultural icons. He calls for correction. He penned that now the public knows about the injustice against the two cultural artistes and others as well, and has been brought to the attention of the President, he is confident the President would act.  
 Below is his missive to the media in Guyana :  
   
References are drawn to recent commentaries by cultural icons Terry Gajraj (Guyana Baboo) and Mahadeo Shivraj complaining that successive governments in Guyana have not recognized their contributions to the nation. Others with substantially less contributions to the nation were recognized and honored with accolades and honorary doctorates. The present government would have appreciated their public service and voice and I am sure will make amends. Unless the government is aware of a problem worthy of consideration, it cannot act. President Ali would do the right thing.  
 

PPP-Government-should-be-embarrassed-at-way-national-icon-Terry-Gajraj-is-being-badly-treated
Photo : Terry Gajraj

 
The two cultural artists have been in the entertainment industry for several decades servicing Guyana and the diaspora and as such are deserving of national honors. Some time ago, I also read a commentary of a writer presenting a similar complaint or grievance purportedly emanating from the great Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Shiv was honored with street name and accolades, and last January he was deservingly given an honorary doctorate from UG; Clive Lloyd was also deservedly recognized at that graduation ceremony with an honorary doctorate.  
 
Both Gajraj and Shivraj were honored by community groups in America; the diaspora valued their contributions. They are enormously popular and made themselves available for pro bono services to benefit diaspora organizations including as well as politicians visiting from Guyana.  
 
I and several Guyanese I spoke with salute and bow to the two cultural icons for publicly making their complaints or grievance or feelings of a lack of state appreciation and recognition. Gajraj used very strong words of protest against governments.  Shivraj used mild words. They may not be ‘politically correct’ to go public; but the diaspora in NY like what they did. Sometimes, public attention leads to quicker action. Lack of recognition of Indians in not and must never be taboo subject. Both have legitimate complaints as do others who are unwilling to publicly come forward. Neither Gajraj nor Shivraj ever used the media to excoriate governments. Something must have bothered them personally and they did right to go public with their grievance. So many Guyanese have been wronged by our governments and they were reluctant to go public. The duo are outstanding entertainers and prior to now have stuck to their artistic vogue rather than use media to criticize governments to gain attention. Many outstanding Guyanese, aside from the duo, particularly from the Indian and Amerindian communities, faced discrimination and marginalization and unrecognized but opted to remain silent. Hardly any of them displayed courage, like Gajraj, to speak out against victimization or marginalization and neglect. Several came to me and complained about their neglect and ill-treatment, asking me to write about their problems but not to quote them. Terry Gajraj spoke his mind publicly and was not fearful of consequences. He, like Shivraj, are accepted as heroes for speaking out, giving voice to those who have been afraid to speak out against being wronged. They appreciate these of angst against governments. These gentlemen have received recognition from the politicians of New York and the the federal governments but not that of Guyana.  
 

Mahadeo Shivraj
Photo : Mahadeo Shivraj 

 
In terms of culture, few if any, has contributed more to ‘Guyanese’ (entertainment) culture than Gajraj and Shivraj. I happen to know of their cultural contributions as I do of Chanderpaul and Lloyd. I wrote about the contributions of all of them. I penned many reports and commentaries on their performances (as well as Shivraj’s films, plays, comedy presentations) entertaining packed audiences. I attended Gajraj’s performances in Guyana (fellow Berbician), USA (at several cities), Trinidad, and India; he was well received with loud cheering and standing ovations including at chutney concerts in Trinidad. And I encountered Shivraj repeatedly in New York and Guyana at showing of his films and comedy shows; his live performances evoked much laughter.  
 
Both Terry Gajraj and Mahadeo Shivraj are as deserving of national honors as are others who were so recognized in the field of culture or art. A young landy actress was recently honored by the government as well as UG with an honorary doctorate. As the woman herself noted, she never did anything for Guyana and never returned to the country of her birth after she migrated as a child with her family to England. She was given a grand welcome at the airport. She was granted a royal welcome everywhere. The Parliament was suspended to welcome her. But there has been noting for Gajraj or Shivraj. Where is the equality?  Why aren’t they also appreciated given that they did have been so patriotic to the nation and the Guyanese diaspora?  
 
The Ali administration has pursued policies and programs benefiting every sector of the country and has recognized the role of many Guyanese in service to the nation or to sell Guyana abroad. I urge him to do similarly to Gajraj, Shivraj, and other Guyanese whose contributions to the nation have not been credited.  I am confident the President will right the injustice that was perpetrated on these heroes.