Bechu: 'Bound Coolie' Radical in British Guiana, 1894-1901

Bechu: 'Bound Coolie' Radical in British Guiana, 1894-1901

Bechu: 'Bound Coolie' Radical in British Guiana, 1894-1901

Bechu: 'Bound Coolie' Radical in British Guiana, 1894-1901

Excerpt

It is difficult to accept that mere "reduced circumstances" drove Bechu into indentureship at the relatively late age of 34, in 1894. As a resident of Calcutta, with an inquisitive mind, he would have been aware of the continuing exit of 'bond coolies' to the sugar colonies. The vessels had sailing from that port since the 1830s; the depots for the various colonies were located there; colonies of destitute returnees, who had failed to readjust to their villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, had settles there. Bechu had never worked in a field; he could have had no illusion about indentureship and the character of plantation labour.

It is not possible to say whether e was ever married, whether he had left a wife or any children in India. However, in British Guiana, as he wrote in January 1897, when he was 36 years old, he had "no wife, children, or any other 'encumbrance'". His bachelorhood and his passion for justice for his compatriots enabled him to be the rebel in a society where power was comprehensively stacked against the indentureds. Not encumbered by responsibilities to a family, he had the space to be less circumspect, to be bold, to dare to challenge the authorities even while a 'bound coolie'. His fortitude was also evident after his indenture was terminated in February 1897. Bechu did not see the need to hide behind a pseudonym -- a practice which correspondents to the press at the time rarely deviated from. Indeed, sometimes, he gave his address as 14 Water Street, Georgetown, possibly his place of employment. The premises of . . .

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