The East Indian Indentured Immigrants have redefined and shaped the history and cultural ethos of Guyana with their resourcefulness and sacrifices, to establish a progressive and democratic society for the benefit of all Guyanese. Many unsung East Indian heroes were martyred for challenging the abominable treatment and inhumane conditions that were synonymous with the slave-like conditions that characterised the oppression and abuse that were meted out by the colonial plantation owners to the “coolies”, as they were demeaningly called.
These indentured (coolies) immigrants, notwithstanding, endured, and found the courage and resolve to refute and challenge the unfair and punitive labour practices and discriminations of their colonial masters, to become one of the foundational pillars of the present-day robust Guyanese society.
They forged bonds of integrated kinship with all the races and working-class citizens of Guyana, and became an integral link in the demands for Independence. Indeed! no doubt, the East Indians’ arrival in Guyana has redefined the landscape with the synthesis of a homogenous and forward-thinking society. Today, Guyanese are a proud people, of which the offspring of the Indentured Immigrants are one of the cornerstones of this great nation.
A May 2, 2022 letter signed by several hundred persons to Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali requested that the Government consider that “May 5th be designated as “Indian Arrival Day”, to mark and commemorate this undeniably momentous and significant historical event that has paved the way for the birth of a dynamic and distinctive society.
“It is a long-overdue acknowledgment to recognise the tremendous contributions of people of Indian origin to the unique history, vibrant culture, and economic progress in Guyana”, stated Ashook Ramsaran, President of Indian Diaspora Council International. Ramsaran continued, “We also recognize the invaluable contributions over several generations that persons of Indian origin have made to the diverse culture and economic development of Guyana”.
The organisers of the petition stated that this petition does not, in any way, diminish the many contributions of other ethnic groups in Guyana, in particular the descendants of African slaves, brought to then British Guiana against their will, yet persevered under inhumane conditions.
Further, it should be noted that several countries with significantly smaller percentages of people of Indian origin celebrate Indian Arrival Day as a national holiday, e.g., Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and others.
Ramsaran and Ramnarine Sahadeo Jr (Toronto, Canada) collaborated on the petition, garnering signatures in Guyana, USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Reunion Island, France, and India.