March 8, 2021

Indian Caribbean Diaspora Focus of Columbia University conference

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By Suman Guha Mozumder From India Abroad

The Indian Caribbean diaspora’s struggle, its efforts for preserving its culture and its success in building an influential community from both a historical and socio-political-anthropological perspective came under focus during a daylong conference at Columbia University in Manhattan on Dec. 2.

The conference, the “History, Present and Future of Indentured Indian Diaspora” coincided with the 100th anniversary of abolition of Indentureship and was hosted by Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS-USA) along with Hindu Yuva Chapter of Columbia University.

It was addressed by many speakers from the diaspora, including Ravi Deva, former member of the Guyanese Parliament as well Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India in New York. Indentureship to the Caribbean started in 1838 and recruitment was abolished in 1917.

Vishnu Bisram, a New York based Indian-Caribbean political analyst praised India’s contributions to the diaspora. “India has had an institutionalized caring, compassionate relationship with Indo-Caribbeans focused on culture, business, education, diplomacy and other non-political fields,” he said.

But India, he said, must develop the courage to address political issues like the racial persecution of Indians especially in Guyana, in much the same way the Chinese or Israeli government speaks out against victimization of their diasporas. He urged the Indo-Caribbean politicians to speak out against the discrimination faced by their constituents and seek India’s help to address them at global forums.

Chakravorty said India is proud of the Indian-Caribbean diaspora for its resilience, achievements and contributions to its host countries, adding that India is making efforts to connect the diaspora around the globe to India and address their concerns.

Speakers included Karen Dipnarine-Saroop, co-founder of the Green Brain Initiative, Tara Singh who presented a case for reparatory justice for Indo-Caribbeans, Sat Balkarransingh, a Trinidad-based cultural artist and economist and Guyana-born Somdat Mahabir, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health.

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