I fully support Dr Vishnu Bisram, who wrote, “Amerindians, Indians, others entitled to reparations” (GT: 28-07-17). Like the callous slavery conditions, the inhuman circumstances and humiliation that the indentured servants endured must be given equal consideration.
The rhetoric on reparations reminds me of my history classes at the high school I attended in Guyana. I learned of (African) slavery and the role of the colonials as it related to Africans. Absolutely nothing was mentioned of indentureship or Indians – I mean ‘nothing’!
Similarly, in the early 1980s, the Indian presence had been ignored. I encountered a consultant in Canada who was rounding up her conclusions about music in the Caribbean. She spoke of musical genres such as ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, calypso, etc. She was surprised when I mentioned chutney and soca, and of course the prevalence of Hindi (Bollywood) music. In this conversation, however, the sector of people that should have come to the fore in the discussion on reparation are the indigenous peoples of the West Indies.
The slavery and indentured circumstances pale in comparison to what the native Amerindian population experienced in the Caribbean. The Taino people, who apparently had their origins from the Arawak tribe, were virtually wiped out from Jamaica and Cuba. Their language and culture, along with their existence, are no more. The invasion by the Europeans resulted in their eventual annihilation. Disease, violence, and a changed way of life altered the existence of the aboriginal population.
If ‘reparations’ are becoming a reality, all peoples in the region who have been affected must benefit equally.