The Hosay/Jahaji Massacre of 1884 of Trinidad: Commemorating Indian Martyrdom
"Hosay/Muharram and Cultural Space" Academy of the University of Trinidad & Tobago International Conference,
March 7-8, 2008. Exercept from Brochure:
On Thursday, October 30, 1884 between the hours of 2:30 and 4:00 p.m., at least 18 Indian celebrants of Hosay (Muharram) were shot to death, and hundreds were wounded, as they sought to assert their cultural space in the land to which they as been brought as “bound coolies.” As late as January 1885, men were still dying slowly of bullet wounds sustained in the massacre.
The shooting took place on the 10 day (Ashura) of Muharram when, as a final rite of passage, the creators of Hosay sought to pass through San Fernando, Trinidad, in order to carry their tadjahs to the sea at King’s Wharf for final disposal. But the British state would not allow that passage. In their Christian view, Hosay was heathen rabble bent only on creating mayhem and disturbing the peace. The Indians were boldly asserting a privilege which they enjoyed 1947 when the first Hosay was commemorated in San Fernando.
The Camboulay Riot of 1881: Since that time both Indians and Africans had been asserting their cultural independence with increasing vigour. In 1881 the mainly African population of Port of Spain insisted on their celebration of Carnival and refused to be stopped by Captain Baker and his police who tried to deny them their cultural space. The Cambolay Riot of 1881 led to a permanent place for our National Carnival. But in the 1880s it was seen as a barbaric manifestation of a backward race. Thus, when the Indians sought a similar assertion three years later, they were to be stopped at all costs and the person sent to shoot the Indians was the same Baker. The time has come for the events preceding and following October 1884 be put before the public in a global historical context. Hosay also practiced in Guyana and Suriname had disappeared from the cultural mapping of those South American coastal countries. No doubt the British and Dutch colonial authority sought to terminate it.