An inside story of how an Indian-origin PM traced her roots

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by bhramos, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

    Mar 21, 2009
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    In 1539, Mughal Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri in the famous Battle of Buxar. The entire Mughal Army was destroyed in the bloodbath. But that’s now history.


    Nearly five centuries later, Buxar is again making global headlines. This time not for war, but love and passion, which were being showered upon Kamla Persad Bissessar, the first woman Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Kamla’s forefathers stayed in Buxar, but later migrated to the Republican island nearly 122 years back.

    Or to be more precise, it was on July 18, 1889 , when Ram Lakhan Mishra, a native of Bhelpur village in Buxar, boarded a Trinidad and Tobago-bound ship Volga, from Kolkata (then Calcutta).

    However, during the three-month journey, 18 out of 555 co-passengers died on the way. Mishra was among those who survived and reached the Republican island on October 21, 1889. Mishra made Trinidad his home.

    More than a century later, one of his descendants, Kamla Persad, is the Prime Minister of the Republic. The PM of Indian origin wanted to trace her roots. So she commissioned her country’s top genealogist Shamshuddin and assigned him the job. Shamshuddin poured over thousands of documents preserved in the national archives of Trinidad and Tobago and collated other data to pinpoint Bhelpur as the village which Mishra had left in 1889.

    An important link was a Volga (ship) ticket (No 738), which Mishra had used for the journey.

    For Shamshuddin, tracing Kamla’s ancestral place was really tough. But he employed scientific genealogical methodology and checked out the data on caste, area and arrival scenario in Trinidad and Tobago. Eventually, he could identify Bhelpur in Buxar as the village from where Kamla’s great grandfather had moved out in 1889.

    Shamshuddin, who is also credited with tracing former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basudeo Pandey’s roots to Azamgarh (in Uttar Pradesh), had to work hard before arriving at this conclusion. “I came across more than 50 men named Ram Lakhan Mishra.

    After searching records in Trinidad, one was singled out on the basis of the information such as the Volga passenger seat number and the area from where he had arrived,” Shamshuddin told one of Mishra’s descendants in Buxar.

    The family tree

    Mishra was unmarried when he arrived at Trinidad. He married a local girl and had a son Chauranji Persad. “Chauranji married to Sumitra Persad and gave birth to Lilraj Persad, who later became an owner of an oil company there. The present PM Kamla Persad is the daughter of Lilraj,” said a source from Buxar, who was familiar with her origin.

    Kamla was good at studies and graduated in law before becoming the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago. Later, she was elected Member of Parliament from Siparia in 1991.

    “She was sworn in as the country’s first woman Prime Minister on May 26, 2010,” the source, who also happens to be a distant relative of Mishra’s kin, told Deccan Herald.

    So when on January 11 this year, Kamla and her 25-member delegation, who also included her husband Gregory Bissessar and other relatives, descended on this nondescript village Bhelpur in two Indian Air Force choppers, it was an emotionally-surcharged atmosphere there. Having finally reached the land of her ancestors, Kamla was in tears. And so were her hordes of kin who had heard a lot about her but had never seen her.

    “Whatever I am today is because of the genetic make up and DNA from this place of Bihar. I am the Prime Minister of my country because of the blessings of this soil and this land of our ancestors,” she said while failing to control her emotions.

    Her kin and locals showered her with silk saris, gold mangtika (head ornament), a silver crown and khoincha (a traditional parting gift containing coins and rice coloured in yellow) conventionally given to a daughter at the time of leaving her parents’ home after marriage.

    Before winding up her memorable trip, Kamla had a word of advice for the villa-gers: “Education is the key to get rid of poverty. So educate your children, including daughters. This is what my ancestors did.”

    An inside story of how an Indian-origin PM traced her roots
    Nagraj likes this.
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Return of the ‘kalkatiya’ PM

    Her ancestors boarded a ship to the West Indies from Calcutta in the late 19th or early 20th Century. More than 150 years later, Kamla Persad Bissessar, the first woman Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, is eager to retrace the journey when she visits the city next Wednesday.

    Bissessar believes her ancestors were kalkatiyas — indentured labourers shipped to the West Indies from Calcutta to work in sugarcane plantations. More than 1,47,000 labourers, mostly from Bihar and eastern UP, made the journey to Nelson Island between 1845 and 1917. Those who left from Calcutta were called kalkatiyas while those who boarded ships from Chennai were named madrasis. .....

    he 60-year-old politician is eager to visit the port from where indentured labourers or girmitiyas were shipped. She will visit the Calcutta Memorial for indentured labourers on Wednesday, officials said.

    Bissessar will also visit her relatives in her ancestral village Bhelupur in Buxar, Bihar. In Calcutta, she will also visit the Missionaries of Charity and Rabindra Bharati University.

    The first ship to set sail for Trinidad with indentured labourers was the Fatel Razack or Fath Al Razack, meaning Victory of Allah the Provider, in February 1845. The ship was owned by an Indian merchant from Mumbai as British ship owners did not wish to be involved in slave trade after slavery was banned in 1834.

    The ship reached Trinidad in May 1845. Even today, May 30 is observed as Indian Arrival Day — a national holiday in Trinidad since 1994. A memorial has been built on Nelson Island in Trinidad. About 42 per cent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago comprises people of Indian origin.

    Return of the ‘kalkatiya’ PM

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