Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will formally open an International Conference on The Indian Diaspora in Grenada and the Wider Caribbean at the end of April.

The weekend conference, from April 29 to May 1, will commemorate the arrival of East Indians in Grenada on May 1, 1857.

The conference is being organised by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC), Indian Cultural Organisation (Grenada) Inc., and the Indo-Grenadian Heritage Foundation (IHF) with support from  Belmont Estate Group of Companies, and the High Commission of India to Trinidad and Tobago.

May 1st has been officially recognised by the Government since 2009 as Indian Arrival Day.

On that historic day, the Maidstone docked at Irwin’s Bay in St. Patrick’s with 287 passengers who were brought as indentured labourers to replace the emancipated African slaves.

Over 22 years (1856 -1878), 3,033 Indians came from India to Grenada to work on the sugarcane estates.

In those days, mortality rates were high, both on the Middle Passage and on various estates where harsh treatment was inflicted by planters and supervisors.

To offer “salvation,” Presbyterian missionaries came from Canada to educate (convert) them which resulted in the sudden disappearance of Hinduism and Islam.

However, some Hindu cultural traditions were able to survive over generations, for example, “borgh” (death anniversaries) and the “mundan” (the shaving of a baby’s hair).

Indian cuisine has also been retained in the form of roti, curried goat and various types of tarkari (cooked vegetables).

In this African-dominated society, Indians now comprise 2% (1,700) of the total population of 105, 900 persons in Grenada.

Race relations continue to be harmonious to the extent that the rate of inter-racial marriages in Grenada is the highest in the Caribbean.

The Grenada conference aims to bring together academics, historians, teachers, tourism and culture workers, and other persons with an interest in the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean to discuss their research findings.

A release from the organisers say that space will be provided for less formal presentations from activists and practitioners in the field in order to contribute to the limited store of public knowledge on Indians in Grenada.

“Possible paper topics can include, but are not limited to identity, conversion, resistance, discrimination, politics, history, family histories, migration, literature, gender, orature, performance, art, sports, recreation, accommodation, survival, the media, etc”, it said.

“Preference will be given to papers which make the most references to Indians in Grenada”, it added.

Since 1975, there has been a sporadic series of conferences on the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean held mainly in Trinidad and Tobago.

There is now a plan to organise one conference every year in various parts of the region.

Conferences have already been held in St. Vincent, Suriname and Belize.

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