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Guyanese History

A Brief Ancestral History...

"Kala Pani" or "black waters", represented more that uncharted territory to our forefathers, the Indian indentured servants.

From 1846 until 1917, they arrived on the shores of British Guiana via 'The Ganges', 'The Main', 'The Plassey' and other British ships to work on the sugar plantations.

After the departure of the enslaved AfroGuyanese in 1838, the labor shortage was filled by more that 248,000 of these indentured laborers.

Labor contracts were setup up in the form of an Emigration Certificate  and the duties of the emigrants were set out in  Section 38 of the Indian Emigration Act VII of 1871.

The sea journey that our ancestors endured was long and harsh, (Many even died before they arrived in British Guiana), but these deplorable conditions enabled them to form a bond which transcended the boundaries of language, caste and regionalism.

They referred to each other as 'Jahaazee'. (Root word being "jahaaz' the Urdu word for ship).

At the end of their five year contract, while many repatriated, others, including our ancestors, decided to stay on and live in British Guiana.

 

 

 

 


The repatriation fund was never distributed to these laborers but was instead used by the (then Burnham) government to build the Guyana National Cultural Center in Georgetown.

Oral history states that as late as 50 years ago, someone by the name of Sugrim Singh chartered a ship to India for anyone of the remaining migrant contract workers in Guyana who would like to repatriate.
Many took up his offer and made the trip, however, as you would imagine their expectations were quite ambitious. As it turned out at least one family that we heard of, had such a tough time re-assimilating into the society that they wrote to Sugrim and he sent money for them to return to Guyana. They were last known to be residing in La Penitence on the East Bank, Demerara.