‘Time for Indians to embrace Caribbean identity’

(Trinidad Guardian) The East Indian diaspora must forge a new Caribbean identity says Surujdeo Mangaroo, chairman of the National Commission for Self Help Ltd, speaking at the Indian Arrival Day celebrations at the El Dorado Shiv Mandir last Sunday. Mangaroo said this move must not be an isolated initiative but must incorporate the whole body politic. He said, “To paraphrase this country’s first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams, who on Independence Day on August 31, 1962, pointed out that there was no ‘Mother India, no Mother Lebanon, no Mother Africa, no Mother China, but there is only one Mother, and that is Mother Trinidad and Tobago.’

20140529Time“This remains very comforting to all of us on paper, but in reality it has no merit, yet the Indian diaspora must continue to advance its cause and its existence. The movement towards the Caribbean identity can be formalised without losing its sense of nostalgia.

Home is for them is T&T, and while they would make sojourns for religious, cultural and tourism, India will always remain the home of their forefathers.” Mangaroo said the agreement signed by the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and Dr Eric Williams on the construction of the permanent structure for the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Cultural Co-operation in this country, which was inked in October 1968 remains an elusive dream, “We would hope that the newly elected government in India will bring this project to fruition.”

Mangaroo said the continuous staging of the epic Divali Nagar organised by the National Council of Indian Culture remains the cultural showcase for future generations, and it is a symbol of the Indian presence in T&T. “It knits all sections of the populace together, as during its annual presentations around Divali, peoples of all walks of life, and from all parts of the Caribbean, Europe, North America and even India converge to see a culture and a religion in full display. It is an anvil for research and duplication across the globe; although some North American communities are already having replica presentations. “Our other cultural and religious observances, such as Phagwa, NauRaatri, Ram Nawmi, Shiva Raatri, among others, continue to be observed in full glare, thus further entrenching our visibility and presence, not only for economic or business or professional reasons.”

Mangaroo said more artists and businessmen should engage with the film industry as a way of promoting the achievements of East Indians in T&T. He also believes that Divali Nagar, Ram Leela, Indian Arrival Day and chutney practices must be given full state support as is the case with Carnival and Emancipation.

The Self Help Commission head praised East Indians in T&T for their contribution to the social, cultural and political development of the nation and said they must promote harmonious relations in the country. He also appealed for the abandonment of the “politics of race” and said T&T must heed the words of our national anthem, “where every creed and race finds an equal place.” “East Indians have always fostered the ideas of peace, harmony and co-existence. The Indian diaspora must come out in full force and take a stand on any issue, national or international, regardless of the social or political consequences.”

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