Rape of indentured Indian women on board ships to the Caribbean
Guyanese Gaiutra Bahadur – who also supported the DGH Conference where Hindutva (Hinduness) is deemed Hindu oppression of minorities – references the book in just a 3-line footnote in Coolie Woman. Political correctness perhaps? Furthermore, Prof Clem Seecharan was also well aware of Prof Shepherd’s book (his opinion is on the book’s back cover, along with Profs. Brij Lall’s and Bridget Brereton’s) ignored the central issues in order to boost his thesis that indentureship was a ’God-send’ because of alleged Hindu/Brahmin hegemonic caste system, blighted Eastern Uttar Pradesh/Bihar – over-run by ‘Brahmin goons’ – and Hindu patriarchy. Furthermore, he posits that Hindus took these ‘oppressive ideologies’ to British Guiana and applied them to the Afro-Guyanese, making them ‘untouchables’. Many Blacks in the Caribbean have internalized these Seecharan narratives, eg., Kean Gibson. (Seecharan was awarded an honorary D.Litt by UWI in 2017).
As opposed to Prof Seecharan, Fijian (late) Prof Brij Lall and UWI’s Bridget Brereton recognized the “exercise of social power and authority, through the medium of socio-sexual manipulation, by empowered males over subaltern [Indian] women.” Excerpt from my book A Mauling of Indians. In opposition to Prof. Seecharan and others who argue that indentureship was a ‘God-send’ for Indians, several commentators and historians hold a contrary, negative assessment of the indentureship recruitment processes, practices and the conditions on the ground faced by the ‘Bound Coolies’, especially for Indian women. One of these scholars who argue that indentureship was especially deleterious for Indian women is (the said) Prof. Verene Shepherd.
Prof Shepherd was unbiased
On the inside cover of Maharani’s Misery, Prof Verene Sheperd writes: “This book continues the ongoing archeological project of excavating gender-differentiated data on the nineteenth-century post-slavery relocation of bonded labour to the colonial Caribbean. In a broader context, it contributes to the genre of historical writing that focuses on the exercise of social power and authority, through the medium of socio-sexual manipulation, by empowered males over subaltern women.The book combines documentary evidence with a surrounding narrative interpretation in order to high-light the experiences of the young Indian woman, Maharani, who was raped, and died subsequently, on board theAllanshawthat sailed from Calcutta to colonial Guyana in 1885. The events on this passage from India should provide further evidence that nineteenth-century labour “migration” replicated several aspects of the Middle Passage of enslaved Africans, although it was never allowed to reach slavery’s brutal limits.” (Italics added).
Here is Prof Shepherd’s very revealing assessment of the impact of the sexploitation and violence meted out to Indians. Prof. Shepherd advances this crucial, unspoken, conclusion: “Above all, the actions of black and white men towards Indian emigrant women on the ships destined for the Caribbean demonstrated that the roots of the racist and ethnic tensions which later characterized the host societies in which Indians settled, were deeply embedded in the voyage from India and did not suddenly emerge in the region”(p. 28). This is a very remarkable position – which is essentially the same as the one I have gradually come to subscribe to as I looked into Prof. Shepherd’s uniquely ‘non-politically correct’ informational and educational revelations in Maharani’s Misery.
She further adds: “[T]he events on this passage from India should provide further evidence that nineteenth-century labour ‘migration’ replicated several aspects of the Middle Passage of enslaved Africans, although it was never allowed to reach slavery’s brutal limits” (Inside book cover). I have cited this book and excerpts from it in my 2019 book, A Mauling of Indians – Prof. Clem Seecharan’s Noxious “Revisionist” Falsehoods of Indo-Guyanese History on an array of subjects such as Hinduism, the Caste System, Aryan Invasion Theory, Hegemonies – Islamic and Europea -British rapacious colonial rule, the Catholic Church Goan Inquisition, and Indentureship).
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