Mother India's Shadow Over El Dorado: Indo-Guyanese Politics and Identity 1890s-1930s

Mother India's Shadow Over El Dorado: Indo-Guyanese Politics and Identity 1890s-1930s

By Clem Seecharan
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Book Description

Multiple constructions of India, as homeland, have been central to the shaping of Indo-Guyanese identity. An imagined India – part fact, part fantasy – has continually woven into the Indo-Guyanese consciousness a rich, elevating perception of self: an antidote to the deflating image of the ‘coolie’ that lingered when the last Indian indentures were cancelled in 1920.

In Mother India’s Shadow over El Dorado: Indo-Guyanese Politics and Identity, 1890s-1930s, Clem Seecharan reconstructs the circumstances surrounding the development of Indo-Guyanese nationalism. He assesses the impact of the Golden Age of the Ramayana; the glories of ancient India unearthed by British scholars/administrators (Indologists); and Gandhi’s virtual deification in his campaign for India’s freedom. An India seen to be in revolt against imperial rule inspired several Indo-Guyanese intellectuals, such as Joseph Ruhomon, Peter Ruhomon and J.I. Ramphal, to popularise an image of Mother India that bolstered Indo-Guyanese self-esteem.

Drawing on a range of primary sources, the book presents a comprehensive picture of the ‘many Indias’ Indo-Guyanese (Hindus, Muslims and Christians) embraced in countering the ‘coolie’ stain, while seeking to belong in creole society. On the flip side, the consuming El Dorado syndrome in Guyana bred a discernible triumphalism among Indo-Guyanese, manifested in the Colonisation Scheme of the 1920s and the associated ideas of creating an ‘Indian colony’ or a ‘Greater India’ in Guyana. This kindled a resilient fear, among African-Guyanese, of Indian economic and political domination which still haunts the country.

Seecharan handles these complex issues lucidly and authoritatively. Mother India’s Shadow is indispensable in comprehending the smouldering ethnic insecurities of contemporary Guyana.

Table of Contents
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part 1: The Shaping of the Indo-Guyanese People, 1890s–1918
    • Chapter 1: Amnesia and Myth in the Making of the Past
    • Chapter 2: Indology and the Awakening of India
    • Chapter 3: India’s Awakening and the Imagining of the ‘East Indian Nation’ in British Guiana, 1890s–1918
    • Chapter 4: India’s War Effort and Indo-Guyanese Identity with the Empire, 1914–19
  • Part 2: Finding a Voice: The British Guiana East Indian Association, 1916–25
    • Chapter 5: The Origin of Indian Politics in British Guiana
    • Chapter 6: The 1916 Political Watershed: The Egerton Recall
    • Chapter 7: Finding Their Feet: The General Elections of 1916
    • Chapter 8: The 1916 Watershed and its Aftermath: The British Guiana East Indian Association and Factionalism, 1919–25
    • Chapter 9: Indians and the Franchise: Embracing the Representative Principle, 1921–25
  • Part 3: The British Guiana Colonisation Scheme, 1919–29: An ‘Indian Colony’ Aborted?
    • Chapter 10: The Origin of the Colonisation Scheme and Local Responses, 1919
    • Chapter 11: The Origins and Context of J.A. Luckhoo’s Idea of an Indian Colony in British Guiana
    • Chapter 12: The First Nunan-Luckhoo Deputation to India, 1919–20, and the Response of the Nationalists
    • Chapter 13: The Pillai-Tivary/Keatinge Deputation to British Guiana, 1922
    • Chapter 14: The Second Nunan-Luckhoo Deputation to India, 1923–24
    • Chapter 15: The Ruimveldt Shootings (1924):The Colonisation Scheme and African-Indian Relations
    • Chapter 16: Maharaj Singh’s Deputation to British Guiana (1925) and the Death of the Colonisation Scheme, 1925–28
    • Chapter 17: Governor Guggisberg’s Idea of Colonisation, Andrews’s Sojourn and ‘Racial Balance’ in British Guiana, 1928–29
  • Part 4: Indians and Constitutional Change, 1916–28
    • Chapter 18: Racism, the Ruse of Development and Constitutional Change, 1916–24
    • Chapter 19: Governor Thomson, Race and a New Initiative to Suspend the Constitution, 1925
    • Chapter 20: Indians and the Suspension of the Constitution, 1926–28
  • Part 5: Indian Nationalism and Indo-Guyanese Identity, 1920–29
    • Chapter 21: Gandhi and Indo-Guyanese Pride in Mother India in the 1920s
    • Chapter 22: India’s Emissaries and Indian Identity in British Guiana – The Early 1920s
    • Chapter 23: The Context and the Impact of Mother India’s Luminaries in British Guiana: Jaimini and Andrews, 1929
  • Part 6: The Anatomy of an Awakening: Intellectual Images of India in Indo-Guyanese Thought in the 1930s
    • Chapter 24: Peter Ruhomon and Indian Identity in British Guiana
    • Chapter 25: Bifurcated Nationalism: African and Indian Identities in the 1930s
    • Chapter 26: J.I. Ramphal (‘Akbar Shah’) and the Education of Indian Girls, 1932–33
    • Chapter 27: J.I. Ramphal and His Encounters with J.B. Cropper: The Making of His Rebellious Temperament
    • Chapter 28: J.I. Ramphal (‘Akbar Shah’/ ‘LalaLajpat’) and the Sustaining Vision of Mother India, 1931–37
  • Part 7: In the Shadow of the Motherland: Indo-Guyanese Political Imagination, 1936–39
    • Chapter 29: Indian Opinion and Indo-Guyanese Identity on the Eve of their Centenary, 1936–38
    • Chapter 30: Mother India’s Achievements and the Making of the Indo-Guyanese, 1936–37
    • Chapter 31: The Indian Centenary in British Guiana and the Location of Indo-Guyanese, 1938–39
  • Conclusion
    • Chapter 32: The Legacy of an Illusion: El Dorado and the Race Question at the End of the 1930s
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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