Former President Bharrat Jagdeo is right in stating that the CoI into ancestral land and the entire way the matter is being handled will worsen ethnic relations (Guyana Times, August 27).
Scholars I have spoken with say no group other than Amerindians have rightful claim to ancestral land title.
The definition of the term ancestral land refers to an original entitlement, possession and occupation of land by an indigenous people. Since Afro-Guyanese, like Indos, Portuguese, Chinese, and Mixed, are immigrant groups, they cannot make a claim to ancestral title. The Amerindians have ancestral land rights because they are considered the native people, and they are custodians or guardians of the ancestral lands.
A few Africans claim that their ancestors came to Guyana before the Amerindians, and thus have ancestral title. They quote discredited research from some writers who also say Africans went to outer space hundreds of years ago, and that Africans had nuclear bombs long before whites.
Some Indians also feel that Indians had space shuttles hundreds of years ago. All of those who peddle such idiotic claims need to get a reality check. Neither Africans nor Indians had space shuttles or nuclear weapons hundreds of years ago.
Indians, Africans, and others have had to acquire title (purchase or being given by the state) to land post slavery, since they cannot make a claim to ancestral land. These groups were brought to the colony to do the work of the white colonial rulers, and they subsequently acquired land. Some squatted on land after slavery ended because they could not afford to purchase land. Some freed Africans bought land with savings from the apprenticeship period. The mere fact that Africans bought land after slavery renders moot any argument that Africans have ancestral right to land.
There are some who assert that Indians and Portuguese took away African lands during or after indentureship. There is no evidence to support such a contention, and it never happened. Research reveals that Africans owned more land than Indians and Portuguese during the indentureship period. The Indians bought land from Africans and the planters during and after indentureship.
It is worth noting that land was never given to Indians during or after indentureship. In exchange for a return passage to India, a plot of land was disbursed to some Indians (a fraction of one per cent of the 239,000 who were indentured) that were much less in value to the return boat passage of about at that time. Thus Indians were cheated of that . And in many cases, the land was virtually useless (and abandoned) and hardly worth a few dollars. This fraud gives the descendants of the ancestral victims a right to make a claim for land as compensation.
The fact that Indians purchased or leased land from Africans for farming during and after indentureship suggests that Africans owned more land than Indians, and supports the argument that Indians did not take anyone’s land. Land was deeded by the colonial state to Indians and others who purchased it. Those who make a claim to land or a village or estate would have had a deed.
Had Indians pooled their return passage, savings and financial incentives for re-indenture (in excess of million at the time), they would have been able to purchase over 125 estates (of roughly 500 acres each estate) similar to how Africans bought a few estates.
It is time to end this charade of ancestral land claim, and leave the Amerindians with their rightful land, rather than worsen racial division of country.