JAGAN AND BURNHAM IN INDIA

Newspaper Reports from India
November 1953-February 1954

INTRODUCTION

On 27 April 1953, the socialist oriented pro-independence People's Progressive Party (PPP) won an overwhelming victory in the Guyana (then British Guiana) general elections, the first to be held under universal adult suffrage. This victory apparently upset the plans of the British Government who had expected that the pro-colonial parties and elite individuals would have scored a victory.

But it was also clear that the colonial authorities were already perusing plans for intervention in Guyana even before the April elections. According to recently released British Colonial Office documents of the period, the Commissioner of Police had advised the Governor on the 10 April that the growing political strength of the PPP "may soon constitute a serious threat to the internal security of the Colony. . . ." He was subsequently requested by the Governor to evaluate the readiness of the Police and the Volunteer Forces to deal with riots expected to break out on the event of a PPP victory.

At about the same time, the British Colonial Office set about to plan how fast and effective would British troops in the Caribbean be dispatched to Guyana if disturbances should ever break out. And interestingly, on the 3 June, when the PPP Government was only two weeks in office, the Colonial Office requested that Governor Savage should inform the British military headquarters in the Caribbean on a regular basis of developments taking place in Guyana under the new Government.

Thus, shortly after the new democratically elected PPP Government was sworn in, the British Government began entertaining ideas to remove it from power.

Unaware of these machinations, the new Government, led by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, immediately set about to implement its programme as set out in its election manifesto. This included social and economic reforms such as the improvement of health, housing, and education, and expansion of agricultural and industrial development. The programme also involved the extension of rights to workers to choose their trade union representative through a democratic process, the expansion of secular education and land reform. The free movement of Caribbean people and the right to obtain access to new ideas, including reading material, were also among the PPP's legislative plans.

This programme was eagerly embraced by the vast majority of the people, but it enraged the elite elements including the landlords, leaders of the "big business" community, the sugar plantation owners, leaders of Christian denominations who controlled primary education, and heads of "company" trade unions and newspaper owners. The PPP Government, for wanting to implement these democratic reforms, was thereupon branded "communist" and all efforts were made by the British Governor, Sir Alfred Savage, in collusion with the anti-PPP forces, to hamper and undermine the efforts of the Government to implement these reforms.

Eventually, on October 5, 1953, the British Government, spuriously claiming that the PPP intended to set up a "communist" regime, landed a strong military force in Guyana, suspended the constitution and ousted the Government. Even though there were no violent or hostile street demonstrations before or after the troops landed, a wave of repression was launched against PPP leaders and supporters. Many were arrested and detained for long period without trial, while others had their movements restricted to their places of residence. In other cases, some were placed on trumped up charges and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

Immediately after the ousting of the Government, a few elite individuals, including those who had been badly defeated in the April elections, hustled to London to congratulate the British Government for overthrowing democracy. Efforts by PPP leaders, Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, to travel to London to protest the British action were deliberately thwarted; airlines refused to sell them tickets, and some Caribbean countries refused to admit them at their airports to make connecting flights. Eventually, they managed to privately charter a plane to Suriname where they obtained seats on a Dutch airliner to Amsterdam. From there they travelled to London where, unfortunately, they were unable to make any headway with the Conservative-led Government, and even with the leadership of the opposition Labour Party. It was obvious that in those Cold War days, the "communist" label was stuck on them and the conservative-minded political leaders just showed no interest in denouncing the trampling of democracy by the colonial power.

Nevertheless, both Burnham and Jagan addressed public meetings and trade union groups and won great sympathy for the cause of the Guyanese people.

From London, they travelled to the Indian sub-continent where they explained their case to political leaders and addressed large sympathetic crowds in major Indian and Pakistani cities.

The newswires of those days carried regular reports on the PPP leaders' visit to the United Kingdom and India, but as was expected, efforts were made to put a black-out in the Guyanese press on any positive reports of their meetings. As such, very scanty news stories of their visit to India, in particular, were reported in the Guyanese newspaper. But this was not the case in India where they were greeted profusely by the general public and where their public engagements received maximum press coverage.

This publication contains a collection of news stories from The Hindu, a leading newspaper in Chennai (Madras) during November 1953-February 1954. (An article from the Hindustan Times of New Delhi is also included). In addition, a few reports of their visits to the United Kingdom are added to the collection to give a background to the visit to India.

These reports reveal the strong influence of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian politics of that period, and at many public meetings the Guyanese leaders were advised to follow the path of non-violence and non-cooperation in their struggle against British colonial oppression.

One interesting revelation gleaned from these news reports is the previously unpublicised information that Queen Elisabeth II on her coronation actually awarded medals to the Ministers of the PPP Government "in recognition of their public work". Ironically, it was for this same "public work" that they were eventually branded "communist" and overthrown by Her Majesty's Government four months later. The medals were never collected!

The newspaper clippings containing these reports were recently made available to the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, and all efforts have been made to faithfully reproduce them here. The reader must note that the print on some of the clippings has deteriorated over time, and some words have become almost illegible. In a few places, words shown in square brackets indicate those almost illegible sections where the most approximate word resemblances have been inserted (by the editor). The dates shown below the news reports indicate the dates on which they were published in the newspaper.

Cheddi Jagan's own reflection of that historical visit to India more than fifty years ago provides a conclusion to this collection.

ODEEN ISHMAEL
Editor

February 2006

https://jagan.org/Links/jagan_...burnham_in_india.htm

@Ramakant-P posted:

He didn't know.  He invited Burnham to join his party because he said that Burnham was a brilliant Lawyer. However, Janet was against Burnham because she said that Burnham was too brilliant and she cannot trust him.

Not true. Janet Jagan was one of the biggest supporters of Burnham in the beginning. It was after he went against Cheddie that she started to oppose him. The Jagans' personal friends were a group of black professionals working in Georgetown at the time. The Dummetts, The Denbows, and the Austins knew who Burnham was. So when he was recommended by Chase.  He was endorsed by the Dummetts, Denbows and Austins.

Last edited by Prashad
@Ramakant-P posted:

He didn't know.  He invited Burnham to join his party because he said that Burnham was a brilliant Lawyer. However, Janet was against Burnham because she said that Burnham was too brilliant and she cannot trust him.

https://www.uniteguyana.org/

Go to the website above, I am uploading documents,  there is a pdf  you can download about  British Guyana from 1891 to 1966, it's good read.

Last edited by Django

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