• 14 Aug, 2022

Indians inflict violence upon themselves in response to Afro aggression

Indians inflict violence upon themselves in response to Afro aggression

Indians inflict violence upon themselves in response to Afro aggression

The brutal killing of Pandit Rishi at Crabwood Creek on a Saturday night by a group of young men who made it a practice of imbibing in front of the Pandit’s home, while taunting him and threatening to rape his daughter, has been rightfully been condemned by many. Three days later the murderers were arrested and were from the village and known to the pandit and family. 

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Photo : Pundit Rishi Bharrat 

Living in Guyana in an “Indian” dominated village, I was outraged, but not shocked at the incident. In my village, every Saturday night and the rest of the weekend, it is “Rum till I die” not only on “street corners” in front of homes, but in the homes and rum shops that dot the village. Alcohol abuse is endemic in the Indian Guyanese community and has been so for generations. It is now joined with marijuana and cocaine use by the younger generation.

Interestingly, alcoholism was not an issue in village India: only some weak fermented brews were available. But in Guyana, “rum shops” were established near the sugar plantations where rum was produced, and the workers were encouraged to imbibe. Rum was actually doled out on some plantations. The less money they took home; the greater motivation they had to show up for work on Mondays.

On the plantations, Girmitiyas were supposed to be “in the cane fields, hospital or in jail” and frustrations were endemic with every aspect of their life regimented. There were “drivers” and “overseers” to push then to complete their “tasks”. The anger that arises out of frustration exploded a dozen times between 1869 and 1948 in strikes but these were all put down by “the leaden argument” after the “Riot Act” was read. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded.

In addition to being willing to perform “slave” labour, the Christian missionaries following the Colonial flag, fuelled the scorn of the ex-African slaves for the indentureds by defining the latter as “heathens” in addition to being “uncivilised”, “primitive” and “outlandish”. As Christians and “cultured”, the African was persuaded that his status, beneath the Whites and Coloureds, was acceptable since he could now look down on the “Coolie”. The view by the rest of Guyanese society defining the Indian Guyanese as “backward” and deserving of nothing but contempt is still prevalent as was witnessed in the comments on social media after the stymied election rigging attempt of 2020.

Choosing flight abroad over fight at home

The Indian male, reared to be the “man of the house”, displaced his frustrations into a retroflexive anger pattern that was eventually unleashed upon himself. From indentureship to the present the Indian Guyanese community experiences self-destructive behaviours not just with alcoholism but also suicide, far in excess of other Guyanese groups. All studies on suicide in Guyana show that the rate of suicide amongst Indian Guyanese is several times that of African Guyanese. A few years ago it, was the highest in the world. It is not that Indians are not violent as some make them out to be: they unleash their violence on themselves and on each other – as with the recent murder of Pandit Rishi.

They demonstrate resignation towards their external sources of frustration, which, after independence was systemically exacerbated by the African-dominated, racist PNC dictatorship between 1964-1992. More pertinently, the colonial African-dominated Police Force was tripled and augmented by a welter of armed forces to create one of the highest army-to-civilian ratios in the world. In such frustrating situations, there is either a “fight or flight” response and since Dr Jagan explicitly rejected the “fight” option, Indians resorted to “flight”. From constituting over 50% of the population in 1980, Indian Guyanese have dropped to 39.9% as of the last 2012 census.

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Photo : Guyana Police Force 

The closure of four sugar plantations – overwhelmingly dominated by Indian Guyanese – by the PNC immediately on assuming power in 2015 precipitated a tsunami of frustrations in those communities. The 7000 fired workers and their 28,000 family members had kept their economy and social life going. The pathologies of alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence skyrocketed, as well as “flight” through migration. It is not coincidental that Crabwood Creek was supported by next-door Plantation Skeldon, where 2063 workers were fired to join another 500 who worked for private cane farmers.

As ex-canecutter Omesh Chand, 48, said, “Me deh hay like me na got blood. Wheh we gun go wuk? Wha we go eat? Me got to look fuh job and it nah get job nowhere.”

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