Ummid Assistant

Applications open for Manmohan scholarship at Cambridge

IIM-Trichy to offer short courses too at Chennai centre

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home History

Unearthing history: Indian workers killed 110 years ago in Suriname

Thursday November 22, 2012 05:40:32 PM, Shubha Singh, IANS

New Delhi: An archaeologist's plans to locate the graves of Indian indentured workers killed 110 years ago in Suriname has revived interest in a long buried episode in the history of the Indian community in the South American nation.

The 1902 workers' uprising or the Marienburg massacre was one of the significant events in the Indians' struggle for their rights in Suriname. Dutch colonial forces had fired at striking agricultural workers at the Marienburg sugar factory killing 24 workers, whose bodies were later dumped in a mass grave.

Indian indentured workers were taken to Suriname, then a Dutch colony, after the abolition of slavery in Dutch territories. Between 1873 and 1916, about 35,000 Indians were recruited to work on the sugarcane plantations in Suriname.

Archaeologist Benjamin Mitrasingh plans to excavate in the grounds of the Marienburg estate using modern technology to locate the mass graves. Dr Mitrasingh made it clear that he did not plan to exhume the bodies; he just wanted to locate the graves.

"The community wants to know where the graves are. I want to locate the graves and place a marker on them," Mitrasingh said in an in e-mail interview to IANS.

The location of the mass grave of the workers has remained unknown all these years. According to oral history in the region, the colonial soldiers had dumped all the bodies in a pit that was dug along the train track that carted the sugarcane to the mill.

The pit had been covered with a layer of lime to prevent stench and to help decompose the bodies quickly. No one was allowed to go anywhere near the area.

The presence of lime in the soil should show up in aerial surveys, it is believed, as it would have rendered the soil infertile and also changed the texture and colour of the soil. The graves are likely to be in a barren stretch of land within the thickly overgrown vegetation along an unused rail track.

Marienburg was a sugar plantation when it was bought over by the Netherlands Trading Society (NHM) which set up a central sugarcane factory to cater to all the sugarcane plantations in the region.

A 12-km rail track was laid, the first railway in Suriname, to bring the cut cane to the sugar factory. At one time, the Marienburg sugar factory and its sugarcane plantation were among the biggest businesses in Suriname. The Marienburg factory finally closed down in 1986 and was later opened to the public.

Conditions on the sugar plantations in Suriname were distressing. Workers complained of low wages and high workload with penal punishments for not completing assigned tasks, especially when the price of sugar crashed in the international market.

In 1902 the workers at Marienburg went on strike protesting against the very low wages. During the agitation, the Scottish supervisor, James Mavor was chased and killed by a group of angry workers.

Massa Mewa as he was known was accused of cutting wages of workers, mistreating the workers and harassing the women. The Dutch authorities sent in the army to restore order and in the ensuing operation 24 workers were killed.

The Marienburg incident has long agitated the Indian community in Suriname. Persistent demands from the Indian community resulted in a monument being erected in July 2006 to commemorate the workers' uprising.

The Marienburg story has always remained one of those subjects simmering just below the surface.

"This story is one that I learned about when I was still in high school in the history class in the 1980s. It is part of the country's history but I imagine it did not get a lot of traction before Suriname gained independence in 1975," said Marvin Hokstam, editor of Devsur.com, a premier news website in Suriname.

"There is so much about Suriname's history that remains hidden because it got suppressed. Every so often lately, something that was obscured by the colonisers is unveiled," he added.



(Shubha Singh can be contacted at shubhasingh101@gmail.com)


 

 
 




 


 

Home | Top of the Page

Comments

Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of www.ummid.com

Comments powered by DISQUS

i

I

More Headlines

Asparagus can keep diabetes away

Court acquits two in 1996 Delhi blasts; slams police

Assurance to parliament on FDI not violated: Anand Sharma

Trinamool's no-trust motion on FDI rejected

India to test ballistic missile interceptor Friday

Mars rover team may reveal major discovery soon

After death of 140 Palestinians, heavy losses ceasefire in Gaza

2012 Gujarat elections: Congress releases first list

Parliament logjam on FDI imminent but UPA hopeful of a smooth session

UK school hires proof reader to check teachers' mistakes

 

Top Stories

Parliament adjourned over differences on FDI

The winter session of parliament started on a disruptive note Thursday with both houses being adjourned shortly after proceedings began.  

PM seeks cooperation of parties before winter session

Will it be another unproductive parliament session?

 

  Most Read

After 140 deaths, ceasefire in Gaza

Appreciating the efforts made by the UN, the Arab League, Qatar and Turkey, Amr said Egypt was committed to its historical role in the Palestinian issue, and that his country believes in the necessity of a fair solution. 

Israeli aggression raises anger in Arab world

Trinamool's no-trust motion on FDI rejected

The Lok Sabha Thursday rejected the Trinamool Congress's bid to move a no-confidence motion against the government over its policies, including allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Sudeep Bandopadhyay of the  

 

  News Pick

Stop arresting innocent Muslim youth, says SIO

Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) will take out a march to parliament in New Delhi Thursday to demand an immediate end to arrests of Muslim youth in "false cases". 

Nationwide protest, Parliament march against arrests of Muslim youths

Meritorious Assam student Ratul Khan finally gets US visa

Seven students, who had topped in the exam this year, were selected by the government as part of a Deba Kumar Bora Memorial exposure trip to National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

PUDR demands compensate for arrested Palghar women

The People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has sought compensation to the two young women who were arrested for their Facebook comments against  

CPI-M blasts Shiv Sena, demands action against Palghar police officials

Kasab hanged and buried in Pune jail

Four years after India's most wounding terror strike, Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the three-day bloody siege of Mumbai, was Wednesday  

Mumbai Muslims welcome Kasab's execution

Had Kasab not been caught, terrorists might have passed as Indian Muslims: SC

Supreme Court upholds Kasab's death sentence

Kasab should be sent to gallows: Pak Interior Minister

 

Picture of the Day

President Pranab Mukherjee at the National Education Day 2012 function to commemorate the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in New Delhi on November 11, 2012.

(Photo: Sanjiv Misra)

 

Recommend the story to your friends

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

RSS  |  Contact us

 

| Quick links

News

 

Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant

 

National

Science & Technology

RSS

Scholarships

About us

International

Health

Twitter

Government Schemes

Feedback

Regional

History

Facebook

Education

Register

Politics

Opinion

Newsletter

Contact us

Business

The Funny Side

Education & Career

     

 

 

Ummid.com: Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange

Ummid.com is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

2012 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.