A PNC-free Guyana does not free Indians from existential and social problems

Dear Editor,

Mr Boodram’s letter in SN of October 8 was virulent (‘Politics in Guyana is reactive…’)

Accused of “intellectual dishonesty” I am called upon to admit that the PNC is responsible for the genesis of “suicide/alcoholism. domestic violence” in the Indian community in Guyana.

Mr Boodram is wrong. I have been looking at this phenomenon for years. Guyana’s Indian community has perhaps the highest suicide rate in the world. Mr Boodram should bring up Ravi Dev’s column of September 30 in Kaieteur News in which the writer makes the remark without making the link with the PNC. He should also research suicide in India and its links with domestic violence. Causative factor. Then he should look at suicide rates among Indian immigrants in other ex-colonies for an understanding of the possible relation between the stresses of migration and the alienation, disorientation, confusion that it brings. He should look, finally, at the constancy of suicide rates here over the decades, including remarks by observers in the pre-PNC years. He could also break down the Indian population, victim to suicide, by age, sex, and important, religion. Then he should let us know if suicide, as a form of escape or of despair, has diminished in the 21 years of the PPP, as against the 28 years of the PNC.

At the end of this review, Mr Boodram realises that suicide is specific to certain determined segments of the population and mostly concentrated in certain parts of the country. And that while in India it is low in the northern regions from which immigrants came, it is high in the south and in certain trades like agriculture. Sanjay Subramanyam (in a quote I cannot locate) I think wrote that suicide is also high in the poverty belt from which our Indians arrived, contrary to what Mr Dev reports and what I read from other authorities.

The point made in my letter commented on by Mr Boodram, is that a PNC-free Guyana does not free Indians from the existential and social problems that lead to this distress. Voting PPP did not relieve them and us of the adaptational problems we observe. It would be useful, in a wider study, to look at suicide rates in Canada or New York, with a profile of the communities of origin of the Indian resident groups under study, etc.

Mr Boodram, wrong again, needs that cathartic, carminative, a laxative, and needs to bear in mind that his intervention causes us unease. The vitriol could hint at problems that go beyond Tarron Khemraj joining the PNC or how the Indian votes. The political discourse, from an ethno-psychiatric viewpoint may mask deeper problems at a personal or even communal level. To examine: How did the dismantling of the caste system and the degradation of the familial cocoon precipitate the responses visible in higher rates of social, spousal, and self-directed violence?

Concerning National Service and Indian females which he mentions, Mr Boodram and his associates harbour suspicious fantasies about the whole episode of our history. Occasionally, more than a quarter of a century later, one of them breaks silence and comes out beating his own drum about recognition of the role he played  and naming the same activists’ names (Ramracha, Ravi, Baytoram, Vishnu, Kanhai, etc) for their heroics in the face of a PNC demonised beyond recognition. The little show serves only to remind us that certain problems persist in certain communities.

Interesting, the existential problem goes beyond simple solutions. For none has it been a return to the Paradise Lost of Bihar or Uttar Pradesh or Pondicherry. That India is forever lost. The certainties of its social and spiritual universe exploded a long time ago. There have been small settlements from ‘returning’ black West Indians in Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, etc. But for the moment and for most of us, the journey back is mental, or cultural, or sentimental.

Yours faithfully,
Abu Bakr

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