Skip to main content

Ethnocide in Caribbean island filmed following award winning docufilm on Jamaica's anti-colonial Indian roots

By Rajiv Shah
International awards winner for Best Feature Documentary Linda Aïnouche for “Dreadlocks Story” (2014), which shows how Indians are entangled in the Jamaican society, and how Hinduism was a source of inspiration for the Rastafari movement, is all set to release her new documentary, “Marooned in the Caribbean”, which aims at documenting the awful desolating living conditions that Raizal people, the native inhabitants of San Andres Archipelago, endure.
Sons of slaves, these islanders have fallen prey to what the Colombian government calls Colombianization. “It’s a process”, according to her, “which kills the Raizal culture; it’s the killing of the Raizal soul. Colombianization subjugates Afro-descendants of San Andres to an ethnocide.”

Explorer, director and producer, Linda Aïnouche writes exclusively for Counterview:
***
Linda Aïnouche
Nobody escapes from blood and thunder in Colombia, and definitely not in the archipelago of San Andres, situated closer to Managua and Kingston than Bogota. The Raizal people are excruciatingly persecuted by their government, are martyred for their lack of visibility; they unintendedly become the victims of neglect.
In recent months, I went several times to San Andres to meet the islanders for recording their voices smitten by the depths of despair and tears. Going back and forth on a scooter, a small camera on my backpack, to meet one Raizal person after another, I have tried to capture the oppressive and harsh slices of life, full of pangs and emotions, their voice, their vision, and their struggle for existence.
As an anthropologist and an explorer of remote areas of the world, I have tried to exhibit how the Raizal of San Andres cry for their pain, fearing disappearance. It’s a violation of their human rights, loss of their culture and territory, and the unfairness they are subjected to in name of geopolitical and political strategies.
Their abandoned and isolated Caribbean islands to the rest of the world hold the worst of a bunch of miseries (drug, trafficking, gun smuggling, prostitution, robbery, bribery, kidnapping, repression), where, inexorably, police are thieves in the streets. “Marooned in the Caribbean” seeks to capture this reality of the Raizal people, who are fiercely mistreated, whilst their islander identity is ceaselessly getting perishing.

Contextualization

The San Andres archipelago is inhabited since the 16th century, although it barely exists on geographical maps. Is it because it looks too tiny to be shown, or is it willingly hidden for concerning affairs?
In the mid-1960, the Colombian government initiated a Secret Plan – so it is called – for the archipelago, which has ultimately come to be effectively implemented. The intention was to reduce the Raizal people, their culture, their territory, their rights and identity to nothingness. One of the worst aftereffects of this is, within a couple of decades, the archipelago has become a lucrative touristic destination for the State of Colombia, whilst the Raizal people continue to be abjectly forsaken and dispossessed by their government. As a result, they have today become a minority on their own land.
On November 19, 2012, the Raizal lost a good amount of their territory in the sea, which has been bequeathed to Nicaragua in the aftermath of a trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and one of the justifications for doing it was that the archipelago was uninhabited. The question is, why did the Colombian government allow this? Today, while living on the island, the sea and the soil, the Raizal are fighting a losing battle to preserve their territory.
In 2000, UNESCO declared the San Andrés archipelago a Seaflower biosphere reserve in order to help protect its ecosystems from overexploitation and other direct threats. And yet, nowadays, the coral reef has been fully destroyed, the massive garbage in the sea from tourism is uncontrollable, and coupled with overpopulation on the islands, global warming continues to cause irremediable damages to the environment.
Documenting the reality of the Raizal and efforts to dehumanize them in the mainstream Colombia is, in a way, continuation of the theme pursued in the “Dreadlocks Story”, which concerned how Indian settlers live in Jamaica. “Marooned in the Caribbean”, like “Deadlocks Story”, tells the story of how social justice is denied in the Caribbean.
“Dreadlocks Story” covered a large period of time under the British Colonial era, which ended up in the middle of the 20th century, in 1947 for India, and in 1962 for Jamaica, whereas “Marooned in the Caribbean” compiles the present – hidden – colonial treatment that the Colombian government imposes on the Colombian fellow citizens on their territory.
Although Rastas were persecuted, the Rastafari movement emerged in Jamaica, initiated by Leonard Percival Howell, the founding father of the Rastafari. Howell published his prominent teaching in 1930s under a complication of texts signed by the nickname Gangun Guru Maragh. People could not pronounce this name, so they have shorted it in Gong.
The 'First Rasta' is the facto another title given to Howell who was the first man who spoke Rastafari in the island of Jamaica. Now, the Rastas are being progressively accepted in Jamaica, as well as in the Caribbean basin; they are, in fact, present all over the globe today.
The system of indenture labour system that enslaved Indians came to an end in 1921, although the last boat arrived in Jamaica in 1917. The indentured labour system – put in place in the aftermath of the Atlantic slavery to replace the emancipated African slaves with the indentured Indians on colonial plantations overseas -- came under widespread attack in the early decades of the 20th century.
MK Gandhi’s involvement in the movement for the abolition of indenture, following the abolition of the Atlantic slavery, has been called the “second abolition”. It helped launch his political career in India. Yet, ironically, the campaign against indenture occupies an obscure and undigested role in the scholarship on Gandhi and modern India.

Demagogic stance

The Colombian government exercises violation of human rights on its population at a time it is internationally claiming to participate in a national peace agreement. This is unfolding when the Raizal people are reduced to being bullied, are forced to deal with smugglers, which is hanging like a Damocles’ sword hanging over their head.
“Marooned in the Caribbean” seeks to remind one that the Raizal people are not just images and numbers, but individuals with families, friends, and lived stories of loss, hope and anxiety. It follows some of the themes developed in “Dreadlocks Story”, which became an excellent pedagogical tool for drawing parallels with the Indian indentureship system in the Caribbean, the fight of the Rastafari and the cultural, and the social process that emerged from the atrocious European imperialism.
It articulated the trajectory of cultural, internal and external encounters, that prompt an ongoing articulation of the Rasta identity. It was a successful and intriguing addition to the literature and visual discussions of this archetypal community. “Marooned in the Caribbean”, on the other hand, aims at representing the Raizal people as helpless victims in need of more attention, seeking to be turned into an effective, empathetic community of marooned people in the West Caribbean basin against the backdrop of oppressive violence of the administration.

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.