Tears on Indian Arrival Day

The protesters are against the Point Fortin Highway passing through Debe to Mon Desir. For over three hours, the women, cold and wet, sat in the heavy rainfall in front the entrance of venue—Parvati Girls’ Hindu College— chanting bhajans and praying for an audience with Persad-Bissessar.

She never acknowledged them. When Persad-Bissessar arrived around 12.30 pm, the women were standing on the side of the road with placards, shouting “re-route.” She drove past them. Even as Persad-Bissessar called for national dialogue with all sections of society on diversity in her address, she did not mention the protesters.

When Persad-Bissessar was ready to leave ASP Deonarine Basdeo asked the women repeatedly to move but they refused. As the female police officers began lifting and moving them to the side the women broke down in tears. Kublalsingh was also lifted, but kept restrained. Thinking that the Prime Minister was in her official PM 1 car, the women began hurling insults, accusing her of betraying and destroying Indian people, as PM 1 left the venue.

However, PM 1 stopped in front of the venue. Then minutes later, the Prime Minister, surrounded by women, children and a few of her ministers, walked from inside the compound to PM 1, bypassing the protesters without looking in their direction. Asked why PM 1 was moved from the venue to the road, ASP Basdeo said he was told the PM was coming to speak to the protesters. “I don’t know what happened.”

Kublalsingh, however, said the Prime Minister had no intention of speaking with them—it was just a ploy to remove her safely from the venue. “But she will not be safe and the Government will not be safe. We will launch action after action after action for seven days, seven years or seven months until they stop the Mon Desir to Debe Highway.

They cannot stand the force, the tempo and the force of women that is why she had to leave in disgrace. She is disgraced from now into perpetuity because she has betrayed her people,” he said.

Before the Prime Minister had arrived, protester Shereen Boodhai, told reporters they were seeking a meeting with her. Boodai said they had written the PM over a month ago and attempts to contact her were unsuccessful. “We are here to remind her about the suffering of the people that today we are celebrating the Indian Arrival Day—167 years since our forefathers came to the shores—but at the same time some 300-plus families are being set back if this highway passes there.” Boodai said.

She said it will destroy everything these families and their forefathers had worked for. Yesterday’s annual event was hosted by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and attended by thousands.

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