Why we must be ashamed to be Indians.
I attended a gathering in Washington DC a few months ago, the occasion being the celebration of the 145th anniversary of the arrival of ‘indentured’ laborers from India to Trinidad and Tobago [T&T]. I could not believe that we in India are largely ignorant of facets of our history that we cannot afford to forget. Though there are frequent controversies about the content of our history books nobody touches upon aspects that ought to be compulsory reading if we are to understand ourselves as a people and a nation.
The British who ruled over T&T found African slaves unmanageable and decided to import slaves from British India sometime in the 19th century. One not so fine day thousands of poor people from mostly UP. Bihar and Bengal were rounded up, given a number each, dumped into ships, not told the destination and not even told that they would NEVER return to see their loved ones.
That group was sent to T&T to work in a harsh environment to develop the marshy land that now is poised to join in the next decade the ranks of the most prosperous nations on earth.
At the function I found and learnt something very fascinating, When the Hindu priest from that country chanted the gayatri, mantra the Muslim mullah and Christian priest closed their eyes in reverence. I understood that inter marriages among Indian origin people of these faiths take place without need for conversion.
The British tried to create a wedge between Hindus and Muslims but FAILED. To this day for example Moharram is observed jointly by Hindus and Muslims in T&T.
I was thinking about this astounding facet of our history when I received a note from one of the people I met at that function. He requested me to read an article titled: THE FIGHT TO END GLOBAL SLAVERY By E.BENJAMIN SKINNER.
This article appears in the Summer 2009 issue of WORLD POLICY JOURNAL.
I summarise it for readers.
 According to the anti-slavery group – FREE THE SLAVES, there are 10 to 20 MILLLION slaves in India. The majority are in Bihar. This group defines a ‘slave’ as those forced to work, held through fraud, under threat of violence, for no pay beyond sustenance.
 World wide there are many more slaves than at any other time in history, India has more slaves than all other countries put together.
 CBI-the Indian equivalent of the FBI—says that there are a million girl child sex slaves in India.
The article laments our total lack of concern and compassion for these slaves in our midst, of the sexual exploitation of minor girls and the total meaninglessness to which the lives of these people have been reduced. Some of these slaves never see sunlight Not for them the ‘India growth story’ or the I.T. SUPERPOWER or the malls and mobile phones that we pride ourselves in.
A further twist—one of the few who have risked their lives to emancipate some slaves is a Christian priest. The article details his brave efforts that often culminated in the ‘slave’ breathing the air of freedom for the first time since birth, of acquiring skills and of leading a life of dignity-one such story brought tears of joy to my eyes even as I broke down while reading the plight of a section of our own country.
I write this with the request that you forward it to as many people as possible so that someone somewhere sits up—maybe Rahul Gandhi himself who is currently trying to emancipate dalits and works for a second Independence movement.
I cite Rahul Gandhi with a reason. His grandmother Indira Gandhi was aware of the slave phenomenon and had included it in the much touted 20 point programme. The issue was obfuscated by camouflaging it under the terminology ‘Bonded labour’.
This was not different form the British attempting to salve their conscience by labeling it as ‘Indentured labour’. Whenever we find something too painful to remember we simply choose to ignore. But if we do this we will end up repeating Is it any wonder that India is the slave capital of the world?.
My T&T friend rang me up last evening even as I finished writing this article and was in tears. He told me ‘Ravi I have a solution to India’s slave crisis. Bundle them into ships. Do not tell them where they are going, do not tell them they will never return to India, put people of all religions together and send them to any uninhabited island and forget about them. Two generations that island will become among the ten most prosperous nations in the world. Your country can then make speeches asking the Indian diaspora not to forget their motherland and to invest in India’s growth story.’
Knowing that we love to argue let me hasten to add as follows. The author of that article is a celebrated writer, the journal is widely respected .Above all remember that ‘ if we choose to ignore we will…