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East Indian legacy promotes multiculturalism
Sat Balkaransingh, a doctoral candidate at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), has said that the East Indian legacy promotes multiculturalism in Trinidad and Tobago. He made this point at the Ministry of Tourism’s National Tourism Month event at the Indian Caribbean Museum, Waterloo while speaking on the theme, “Evolution of the East Indian Cultural Legacy.” The other featured speaker was Indian High Commissioner Malay Mishra who spoke on the topic, “The Impact of India’s Culture and Heritage Upon Its Tourism Industry.” “The East Indians legacy in this their motherland of Trinidad and Tobago, is one of hard work, thrift, industry, commerce, education and a learning society living in harmony with their fellow citizens.
“They are continuously involved in refashioning and repainting the spiritual, physical, intellectual, social, cultural and political landscape with their presence. In so doing, they are contributing in significant ways to cultural persistence reinforcing the foundations for a vibrant, stable, outward looking, self-sustaining economy in this our multicultural society,” Balkaransingh said. Referring to the role of Indians in the labour movement, Balkaransingh noted that the difficult conditions of work on the sugar estates, the horrible treatment and strained industrial relations meted out initially to indentured workers, resulted in their assumption of positions as trade union leaders. “Their aim was to control the direction of their destiny. There were many strikes on the estates and negotiations for better terms and conditions of labour,” he said.
Balkaransingh identified Adrian ‘Cola’ Rienzi, Bhadase Sagan Maharaj, Rampartap Singh, Basdeo Panday and Rudranath Indarsingh among the prominent labour leaders who have emerged in this country over the years. He gave new data about Indian emigration to Trinidad. He said from 1845 to 1920, 147,596 East Indians came mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, North India. A total of 147,596 came on 154 ships during 320 voyages from ports in Madras, Mumbai and Kolkata. Approximately 20 per cent or 28,000 of them returned to India after indentureship. Historical data shows that 80 per cent were Hindus, 12 per cent Muslims and eight per cent Christians.
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