Jagan did not lead Enmore Martyrs’ funeral procession

Dear Editor,

In my missive ‘Enmore Martyrs Remembered in NY’ I penned that “Dr Jagan led” the funeral procession from Enmore to Le Repentir. I received phone calls disputing this comment from individuals who claimed they were at the funeral procession in June 1948.

It is important that history be accurately recorded. I was corrected, and told that the funeral march for the five Enmore Maryrs was led by barrister at law Jainarine Singh, Dr Jung Bahadur Singh (President of BGEIA and an executive of British Guiana Labour Party), and Daniel Prabhudas Debidin. They were the chief organizers and they were supported by J P Latchmansingh who was President of the Guyana Industrial and Workers Union (GIWU) that represented the sugar workers at that time. Dr Jagan would later challenge GIWU with his GAWU.

Also in the procession were several towering figures in the struggle for Guyana independence: Constitutionalist Balram Singh Rai, Rampersaud Tiwari (who went on to become Secretary to the Cabinet for over a decade, Martin Zephyr who went on to become Speaker of the National Assembly, Pandit Oudit Narine Sharma who would lead the  Pandits Council, Pandit Ramlochan Dubey Shastri (of Apan jhaat fame and a scholar in the Hindu Shastras), Amos Rangeela (businessman with a stall in Stabroek Market), Jane Phillips Gay and Alexander Perry (both of whom were with GIWU), among others.

Dr and Mrs Janet Jagan were in the funeral procession, but they did not organize or lead it. They gave a speech relating to the shooting. Dr Jagan pledged to dedicate his life to improve the conditions of workers.

I was told initially, the organizers of the funeral procession had secretly planned to take the bodies to Parliament Square and demand independence. But the colonial administrators got wind of the plan and sent the colonial police to block the procession. Inspector Howard, with machine gun pointed at the marchers, ordered the re-direction of the procession to Vlissengen Road and towards the cemetery. Jainarine Singh, who was in front in the procession, a firebrand militant, was prepared to defy Howard’s order as the procession came to a halt. The police threatened that blood would be shed (and would be on Jainarine’s hands) if he or the organizers attempted to defy police orders. Balram Singh was able defuse the situation by calling Jainarine to the side and took him to consult with Dr JB Singh who convinced Jainarine to proceed to Le Repentir where the bodies were interred.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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