Indo Caribbean World
Suffer the little children. In the last month, one baby girl was burnt in her parents' backyard, three infants died in a fire and one father hanged his son and then took his own life.
In the first case, Sandra and Lawrence Reid confessed in court on October 21 that they burnt their 17-month-old dead baby girl on a pyre of tires in the front yard and invoked the spirits in an unsuccessful attempt to cure her.
Lawrence Reid, 70, a self-anointed spiritual healer, and his wife, Sandra, 33, were taken to the St Ann's Hospital for psychiatric evaulation after the court learned that they had named their daughter "F..king" after the expletive. The couple named their children Stupidee, Sammy F..king and a derogatory name for the male sexual organ.
The children, who are now being treated at the San Fernando General Hospital, were never registered at birth and have never been to school. The couple appeared before Point Fortin magistrate Rae Roopchand after they were arrested on October 18.
Police investigations began after a neighbour reported the Reids' 17-month-old daughter as missing.
Lawrence Reid told police his daughter fell ill with a high fever and he chose to treat her at home, made with galvanize and which had a dirt floor. Reid said he gave his daughter lime bud tea, which invoked the spirits in a failed attempt to make her feel better. When she died, the Reids placed her body in a crocus bag and piled garbage onto the tire to set it alight.
The couple was charged with cremating their daughter within 100 yards of a dwelling house, disposing of human remains between September 1 and 2 at Salazar Trace, Point Fortin, without a valid permit from the Minister of Local Government.
Police were told that the Reids' children survived on a diet of salted rice and yam and drank water from a pond behind their shack.
The growing incidents with child neglect followed on November 1, when three infants died in a fire while their parents, Jason McIntosh, 26, and wife Elizabeth Moham-med, 25, went to the market.
The dead children were Alexis Moham-med, four, Leslie Mohammed, three, and Jason McIntosh, Jr, two.
Their two bedroom wooden home was located about 100 metres up a hill off Morne Coco Road, Diego Martin. McIntosh told police he and his wife and their 10-month-old son Angelo left home around 4.30 a.m. to go to the Central Market in Port-of-Spain to buy produce.
"We normally carry them with us, but we decide to leave them home because of the hour we leave," McIntosh said, who added that he had no idea how the fire started.
"We were planning to leave at 2 a.m., but we get up a little late."
The children's bodies were found under a table next to the stove and gas tank in the kitchen. Their mother fainted when she got the news and had to be hospitalised.
Another episode of abuse followed on November 10, when baker Joseph George, 45, murdered his three-year-old son Jadan by hanging him.
George, who lived at Lucien Road, Belmont, was apparently frustrated at the departure of his longtime female companion. Police said there was an argument between George and his female companion on the night of November 8 and that his companion left and returned about 1 a.m. to find the house locked up.
Neighbours reported that the woman began screaming. The police were called and broke down the door to discover the two bodies hanging from the ceiling rafters.
Discover India...in Hamilton
(First of 3 parts)
By Dr. Mohan Ragbeer
Hamilton — On September 14 2001 arsonists destroyed the Hamilton Hindu temple after smearing it and a local mosque with anti-Muslim graffiti. The CTV Toronto carried the story under the banner "Mosque in Hamilton destroyed".
These two out of many occurrences illustrated to many of us the depth of ignorance in our community about things Indian. Hinduism and Islam - what's the difference? One brown-skinned person is like every other brown-skinned person. Go tell a white Scotsman that he is the same as a white from Kosovo. Or tell Jacques Parizeau that he is the same as Conrad Black! Or characterise Canada by its Toronto street people, motorcycle gangs and marijuana growers. In writing about India our press gave a female public figure extensive coverage because of all her indiscretions, yet fail daily to publicise the good works of many other Indian women leaders. You get my point.
On this basis the city of Hamilton started the Strengthening Hamilton Community Initiative (SHCI) to bring together individuals and organisations to help in the process of healing and restitution. The community rallied around the loss by the Hindus and supported the fund-raising that was necessary to bring the new and improved temple to completion. This should occur within the next four to six months.
But long before 9/11 Indians had become aware of the lack of accurate or fair information about things Indian among the general population and particularly among the major media - the press at every level, radio, television and other public information sources, but find it difficult to erase the prevailing negative stereotype, trotted out each time an Indian story makes headlines.
This stereotype is familiar as the one created by colonial rulers of India to suit their imperialist agenda. So misleading is this that many, including this writer, refuse to heed anything written or said about India or Indians by any but the most honourable or objective observer -thankfully steadily increasing in number.
I recall my high school history teacher, Mr Benjamin Yesu Das who half a century ago in British Guiana refused to teach Indian history according to the textbooks then prescribed. His researches on India (done incidentally at McGill University) had shown that most of what was then written was deeply prejudicial and false.
The stereotype is so deeply embedded in the Canadian psyche that efforts to correct or reshape it meet with incredible hurdles. Nevertheless the effort continues. So tough are the hurdles that even though the high-sounding Chair of one of the SHCI's current committees, the editor of the Hamilton Spectator, agreed that it was urgent and important to present India impartially and factually, his paper has yet to do anything tangible to begin the process of change.
Early this year a Multicultural Exhibit Committee (of which I am a member) convened by City of Hamilton's Division of Culture and Recreation, agreed that the City should take steps to improve knowledge about the City's various cultural groups. Exhibits showing phases in Hamilton's growth have been in place on the first floor of City Hall for some time. Some space in the second floor lobby was secured for a rotating display of the city's many cultures. The Portuguese community set up an exhibit from June to August. The exhibit on India followed from September to November, 2003.
The latter consists of glimpses of India and her peoples organised as three themes under the title “Discover India” -Diversity, Leadership, Spirituality and Religions, presented as writing, art, artifacts, maps, photographs, clothing etc.
Indians from local organisations representing the diversity of India and the Diaspora contributed ideas and material bearing on history, languages, ethnicity, geography, literature, art, dance, music, cuisine, fashion, architecture, science and technology, medicine, philosophy, spirituality and religions.
An opening ceremony on September 14th was well attended - Mayor Robert Wade, several Councillors, members of the Community were among those present. It included a multi-faith healing ceremony related to the September 14th arson and delightful performances of music, song and dance, from all age groups, and samples of Indian cuisine.
The exhibit has changed over the weeks, as highlights changed. The information on show is invaluable to anyone wishing to come up to date on aspects of Indian heritage.
(To be continued in next issue)
(Mohan Ragbeer, VP, Indo-Canadian Networking Council of Hamilton, 905 648 5122)