Alexander Village wants to reclaim Deepavali peace

Danny Ramdeen, a member of the mandir, said that so far this year they have sent a letter to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). Letters, he said, will also be dispatched to the Home Affairs Ministry and Police Commis-sioner again this year. Hindus are not the only ones affected by the Deepavali night chaos and Ramdeen stressed that if security is not provided for Alexander Village on Satur-day then residents will be forced to exercise their democratic right by picketing outside Rohee’s office.

“If they don’t do anything to help us,” one resident said supporting Ramdeen’s comment, “we will be in front of the Ministry of Home Affairs the first working day after Deepavali and we will chant ‘Rohee must go’.”

Alexander Village is a small community. It has four streets which run from east to west and a cross street which runs from north to south intersecting them. Residents said that because of its size the community is easy to secure and they related the “terrible experience” they had with police last year.

It was only after several hours of making repeated calls to the police that four officers finally showed up last year, Ramdeen recalled, and 19 persons were arrested. However, those persons were subsequently released on bail and they were never charged.

“The police didn’t do anything at all last year and they use indecent language when we spoke to them. They asked us what we wanted them to do,” Ramdeen explained.

Terror

Doris Narine, 79, today, lives opposite the mandir. Last year, the woman said, becoming increasingly upset as she spoke, was sheer terror for her and there was nothing that she could do but pick up her phone and call people who lived nearby hoping to get some sort of support.

She was forced to place spikes on her front fence in previous years to keep the revellers out but this didn’t work last year. Narine spent her holiday too afraid to even look out the window as strangers who came from as far as Bee Hive  broke into her yard, sat on her front steps and set stalls up in her front yard to sell food and drinks.

“Something got to be done about this,” the woman said. “I am an old woman and I live alone and what these people are doing to us is terrifying…I am a sick woman and if anything had happen to me there would be no one there to do anything.

Ramdeen explained that the streets are so crowded on Deepavali night that residents who drive are forced to park their vehicles that night. The only way to get out of the village that night is to push through the thick crowd of strangers and in many cases, he said, this is not a wise decision since many people have been robbed this way.

Meanwhile, another woman who lives next door to the mandir said that her fence was destroyed last year after hundreds of revellers climbed on it to get on the mandir’s shed. This year, she said, she had erected a high concrete fence in the hope of keeping the strangers out.

“I put up a big concrete structure this year to keep those people out because I tired of all this nonsense we does got to put up with,” Savitree Alfred said.

Another resident who lives in First Street recalled that three years ago a chair was ignited after someone threw squibs into his home. Had it not been for quick thinking and action, he said, his entire house might have gone up in flames.

Gerhard Ramsaroop, a mandir member who lives in Third Street, said last year was a testing time for him and his wife. Their first child, not yet a year at the time, was subjected to the constant blasts as squibs were lit and a stream of noise made by revellers as they talked, laughed, argued and used foul language.

He was one of many who were forced to leave with their children for a short period of time while things “settled down” in Alexander Village. However, while Ramsaroop is willing to stay another year and fight, some residents have been talking about selling and moving to a more “peaceful” location”.

“Many people,” one woman pointed out, “can’t even come out on their verandahs for fear of being pelted with squibs and other devices.

War zone

Many described Alexander Village as a “war zone” on Deepavali night. The problem, Ramsaroop pointed out, has reached such a state because it was allowed to grow by authorities.

The only possible solution, he explained, would be to have steady police patrols in the village this Saturday. However, he noted that if the police feel they are unable to deal with the problem then the army should be called in to help.

There has been talk that some of the bomb throwers live right in the village. Residents yesterday admitted that it was villagers, non-Hindus in most cases, who began encouraging the strangers in the community on Deepavali night. They further said that residents have also been “fighting fire with fire”.

A resident of First Street related that one year things got so out of hand there they were forced to use squibs and firecrackers of their own to clear their street of the strangers who’d ganged up there.

“Although we don’t want to do it the braver ones amongst us are sometimes forced to take action into their own hands,” one man explained. “If they come in our yard and throw a bomb at us what’s stopping us from throwing a bomb at them while they’re on our property?”

Ramsaroop stressed that this was not the way to handle the situation and if some intervention is not afforded soon then the issue could quickly develop into something more dangerous.

Alexander Village, as many residents reminisced, was once one of the most beautifully decorated communities in Guyana. It has long since lost that reputation because of the revellers but residents are determined to reclaim the title.

“On Good Friday we respect the Christians on their holiday and likewise for Ramadan the Muslims receive due respect from us,” several mandir members pointed out. “We know these are religious days for them and we try to give them the peace they need to observe it…all we are asking for is the same respect.”

Several residents also pointed out that there have been no other reports about other Hindu communities facing similar fates on Deepavali. Their frustration was evident as they questioned why Alexander Village seemed to be “the target”.

“We are limited in our ability to pass on our culture to our children on Deepavali and it is sad to know that we cannot share with them what we experienced here in the old days,” one woman said shaking her head. “We only hope that this time the police will listen to our call for help.”

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