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Support for Indo-Vincentian awareness

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SEARCHLIGHT today extends its hearty congratulations to the local Indian community, as it celebrates Indian Arrival Day and offers its staunch support for the Indian Heritage Foundation in its activities organized to commemorate the historic occasion. Those activities are due to begin on Thursday of this week, June 1, the date of the first arrival on Vincentian soil of so-called “indentured servants”, with the highlight being on Sunday, June 4.

The Foundation itself has been at the forefront of raising cultural and ethnic awareness about this important segment of our population since its establishment in 2006. Indians make up the third largest ethnic group in our country, accounting for an estimated six per cent of the population; but, when intermarrying and intermixing are included, about 15 per cent of the Vincentian population is considered to be at least partially of Indian descent.

In spite of their proud heritage, colonial rule suppressed Indian culture to the extent that, unlike Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, where Indian social and cultural traditions were preserved, including their original religions, Hindu and Islam, in St Vincent and the Grenadines the Indians were subjected to the same “Europeanization” as those of African and Garifuna/Kalinago heritage. In the process they have lost much of their cultural heritage, a process which the Indian Heritage Foundation has set out to redress.

Ironically, that very process of colonization has resulted in a much more homogenous native population, thereby averting the racial tensions among oppressed ethnic groups, as occurred in countries like Guyana and Trinidad (Afro-Indo contradictions) or in a country like Barbados, with a much larger proportion of its population being of European descent.

The search for the Indian “roots” of our Vincentian civilization is an important aspect of the enrichment of that civilization and our own historical and cultural development. It has long been ignored and it is to the credit of scholars like Dr Arnold Thomas and the leadership of the Foundation that this revival is ongoing. Outreach to the younger sections of the Indian population and education of the wider society will be crucial to the success of these efforts.

They compliment efforts already underway in understanding the Kalinago and Garifuna experiences, and are as essential a part of our decolonization as the “Black Power” era was for the development of black consciousness and awareness of the African experience in the Caribbean. It is vital that we embrace these initiatives, welcome them as part of building our own national identity, and seek to further integrate them into the national fabric of our society.

Indeed, we hope that the efforts in the Indian community would also provide a catalyst to other smaller ethnic groups, those of Irish/Scottish and Portuguese descent, who were also brought here in less than favourable circumstances, so that we can further integrate and strengthen our national identity and culture.

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