Indentured Laborers to BG

Bechu came to British Guiana as an indentured laborer from Calcutta to Plantation Enmore in the early 1890’s. There was something special about this man. He was not your garden variety bound yard coolie. He possessed a unique mastery of the English language and the courage to use it to expose the exploitation and injustices of the plantation system and the iniquities of the plantocracy. From around 1894 he began writing letters to the Daily Chronicle.

Here is an example of one of his letters: “My countrymen like myself have had the misfortune to come to Demerara, the political system of which colony has very appropriately have divined and defined by Mr. Trollope under a happy inspiration as “despotism tempered by sugar.” To these twin forces, the Immigration system is as sacred as the old system of slavery in former days, and for one in my humble position to have ventured to touch it with profane hands or to have dared to unveil it is considered on this side of the Atlantic to be a capital and inexpiable offence.”

A coolie from the logies writing damning letters to the press in Georgetown was unheard of and did not fail to grab attention not just locally but as far away as London itself. Then in 1901 Bechu’s voice fell silent. He was never seen nor heard from again. The government explained Bechu’s mysterious disappearance with a preposterous nancy story about Bechu returning back to India. Surely they could not expect anyone to believe this. There was no investigation into the disappearance of this most remarkable man. Unsung, unhailed, but not forgotten; a legend never dies.

Rishi Singh