Has been looking at suicide phenomenon for years

Dear Editor,

Vishnu Bisram pens in your Nov 24 issue that I have no right to explore the implications of the call by Dr Ramharack for more activism by more Indian intellectuals (‘Bakr speaks only for himself’). He runs away from the question as to the real grievances of the group by retorting that I should first list African grievances. As I have insisted, these Indocentric thinkers are mouthing slogans and have no substantial issues and cannot go beyond the buzz words emerging from the years the PPP was out of office (fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties) that they have been repeating. Note the failure to enumerate the points of suffering which they use to rally Indian sentiments.

Thus the call for rolling out the “identity” is usually embedded in the politics of grievance that has been the dominant mode in our electoral psychology since the anti-colonial struggle. Many are trapped in a posture that increasingly appears outdated, provocative and, as we saw during the last elections campaign, simply a cheap tactic to mobilise the flock.

I do not believe that the cultivation of a ‘persecution complex’ by any group or person is to be applauded. We all know of the move to win over a portion of the PPP voters some years ago by one Indian identity group rolling out a vague list of grievances while accusing the PPP of not being pro-Indian enough. It is more of the same that we are expected to endorse. Mr Bisram and the others will find, in their corner of the ring, enough of those still with the emotional and cultural need for a self-affirmation based on a condition grown out of a ‘sufferers’ self-perception that can only be called ‘heritage politics.’ To require approval of all in the audience is simply delusional or daring.

Earlier this week Annan Boodram accuses me of misquoting him and claims that he has never made the link between suicide in the Indo-Guyanese community, a causative link, and the presence of the PNC. He claims we never had an exchange of letters on the subject. He forgets he is writing in a time where newspapers are archived and consultable. In fact in October 2013 there was an exchange between us on the topic. In case Mr Boodram has forgotten the content of this exchange I will quote below the lines from a letter SN published at that time in which I mention some of the points of the exchange:

“Mr Boodram’s letter in SN of October 8 [2013] was really virulent…

“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 [2013] 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, [and] 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 Boodram, is that a PNC-free Guyana does not free Indians from the existential and social problems that lead to this distresss. 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 should research in his own personal archives before making himself appear conveniently forgetful.


Yours faithfully,

Abu Bakr

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