• 24 Jun, 2024

Indo Caribbeans at International Indentured Conference for Fiji Girmit Day celebrations

Indo Caribbeans at International Indentured Conference for Fiji Girmit Day celebrations

Indo Caribbeans at International Indentured Conference for Fiji Girmit Day celebrations

A number of Indo Caribbeans are participating in the global indentureship (Girmitya) conference that will be held on May 12 and 13 in Fiji. A number of other activities are also planned to commemorate Girmitya Day or Indian Arrival in Fiji.
This year will be the first national public holiday for Indian Arrival or Girmitya Day. Indians activists lobbied the government for a national holiday. The Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka campaigned in last year election on a promise to make it a holiday and has now delivered. He has formed a coalition with two other parties, one led by an Indian.
Indians first arrived in Fiji on May 14. The Girmit Day celebration and holiday is on May 15th and will be held at various locations throughout the country . The main attraction will be at Albert Park in Suva, the capital city. The government has allocated funds for national celebrations.

Photo : Dr. Ganesh Chand

Deputy Prime Minister Professor Dr Biman Prasad says four days of events are being planned to mark Girmit Day celebration.

 Girmit Conference Chair Dr Ganesh Chand says around 150 scholars locally and from abroad are also expected to arrive in the country to participate in the two day international conference on Girmit Day. This writer, Vishnu Bisram, historian Dr Clem Seecharan, Prof Baytoram Ramharack, and a few other Guyanese are participants. The Fiji government is hosting us. Some Trinis, Dr Primnath Gooptar and Dr Radica Mahase and Surinamese are also presenting papers.

The conference will be at USP or University of South Pacific with participants coming from the Caribbean, North America, India, Australia, UK, New Zealand and other countries. Several Guyanese studied at USP. Some Guyanese also taught there. This writer delivered guest lectures in multiple trips to Fiji over the last three decades.

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a fourth generation Indian. His great grandparents from both his mother and father’s sides were born in India -- Gurbatore from Ghaizpur, Amru from Azamgarh, Sau from Chapra, Mangri from Mau, Bhuri and Bhura Singh from Bharatpur, among others. They all came at different times to then British Guiana (1880s and 1890s) to work on sugar plantations as indentured laborers. After serving ten years, they were freed laborers. They remained on the colony rather than returned to India, married and had children. They used the savings from indentureship to purchase landholdings to cement their ties to their adopted land. They were not given free land. Vishnu Bisram is ninth of twelve children of Gladys and Baldat, rural farmers, she also was a seamstress and he a taylor and they attended to a kitchen garden as well. Vishnu attended the St Joseph Anglican (called English) primary school from 1966 to 1972. In 1972, he passed the annual nationwide Common Entrance exam winning a scholarship place to attend the government Berbice High School in New Amsterdam, some 17 miles from his home village of Ankerville, Port Mourant. He declined the placement scholarship and opted instead for the private Chandisingh High School to which his family pad to pay a tuition. He entered for eight subjects at the Cambridge University Exam in 1977. Vishnu migrated to the USA in 1977 to further his studies. He enrolled at the City College of City University of New York September that year at age 17, studying Bio-Chemistry and also completing a major in Political Science. After his BSc in Bio-Chem, he pursued graduate studies in International Relations earning a MA. He went on to complete multiple post graduate degrees including doctorates in Economics, Sociology, History, Political Science and Educational Administration. Dr Bisram taught for over forty years in various subjects in the US. He also served as a newspaper reporter and columnist for over four decades and is a well-known pollster in the Caribbean region. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling extensively around the globe to research and write about Indian communities. He published countless articles on various subjects in the mass media, journals, and books. He also organized international conferences on the Indian diaspora and presented papers at many conferences. He was a guest lecturer at universities in Mauritius, India, Fiji, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, USA, and other countries. He is a well regarded political analyst on American and Caribbean politics. He makes him home in Guyana, Trinidad, and America and travels frequently to India.