Dwarka Nath’s history is not reliable on unclaimed remittances during Indian indentureship

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to respond to a letter captioned ‘Unclaimed remittances of the indentured used to build National Cultural Centre’ by Mr Christopher Persaud in SN on May 24. The letter attempts to answer a question I posed in this same newspaper a week earlier: whatever happened to the unclaimed remittances during Indian indentureship in British Guiana? The gist of Mr Persaud’s letter is that the unclaimed remittances were used by Mr Forbes Burnham to build a National Cultural Centre for Guyanese, which was against the wishes of post-independence Guyanese Indian leaders. Mr Persaud apparently got his source from Dwarka Nath’s book, A History of Indians in Guyana. Towards the end of his letter he implied that this was “a sordid chapter” in Guyana’s history.

While I appreciate Mr Persaud’s effort to answer my question, I am not totally convinced by his views. This is why. Burnham might have used “indentured funds” to a build a National Cultural Centre against the wishes of Indians in Guyana but I am not sure if these funds were in the colonial banks owned by the British and Indians in India. Most funds went missing in transit to India via Britain. How much of these funds came back to British Guiana is open to speculation. The second reason for my scepticism is that Dwarka Nath’s history of Indians in Guyana raises a red flag. Confidential sources told me that he might have fabricated his findings because the sources he used went missing. Therefore to rely on Nath’s sources to answer the question on unclaimed remittances might not be the safe and sound route, although it cannot be ruled out.

This is really the problem with the written history of Indians in Guyana. Some of the published information is not factual. For example, we are told that about 239, 909 Indians or thereabouts being brought to Guyana during indenture. However, there is not one study conducted to justify this figure. It remains a mystery as to where this figure came from and who first published it. Yet, this figure has been used repeatedly.

Yours faithfully,

Lomarsh Roopnarine