British Guiana: Race War
TIME magazine, Friday, Jun. 05, 1964
Terrorist bands of East Indians and Negroes roamed British Guiana day and night last week, waging sporadic war on each other, murdering and looting, burning homes and assaulting women. Only the presence of 1,200 British troops with orders to shoot to kill prevented the ugly violence from erupting into a full-scale civil war, pitting the country's 295,000 East Indians, led by Premier Cheddi Jagan, against its 190,000 Negroes, who hate Jagan as a racist and rabblerousing Marxist.
Cats in the Cane.
Tensions have been building up for years between the two peoples in Britain's small, self-governing South American colony. Instead of seeking to calm the passions, Jagan has only fanned them higher. Three months ago, he sent his East Indian sugar workers out on a jurisdictional strike against a larger, anti-Jagan union. Cats were doused with gasoline and sent yowling through the cane fields as living torches. Jagan's 'strikers attacked Negroes in the fields; half a dozen workers died of the beatings. Retaliating in kind, gangs of Negroes went hunting for East Indians.
In the early stages, the worst of the fighting was centered in a small town, eleven miles west of the Georgetown capital. Last week the violence flared all across the unhappy colony. One night in Leonora, ten miles west of Georgetown, a band of terrorists attacked a police patrol, killed two constables and escaped with their rifles. Next morning an elderly Negro couple was found shot to death on their nearby farm. At news of the killings, a raging mob of Negroes halted a Georgetown-bound train and in a vicious melee left 17 East Indians injured, including one victim with both hands, both legs and his back broken. In Georgetown, gangs of Negroes beat up hundreds of Indians, looted Indian market stalls, robbed Indian workers, chased Indian children out of a school.
Spear in the Back.
Within hours, the situation was so far out of control that British-appointed
Governor Sir Richard Luyt declared a state of emergency throughout the colony, ordered a 7 p.m-to-5 a.m. curfew in one troubled area, and sent a hurry call to London that brought 500 more Tommies to reinforce the troops already on hand. Still the killing went on. At Bachelor's Adventure, a predominantly Negro village 14 miles from Georgetown, Negroes took up spears and pitchforks, began attacking Indians and burning their homes. A pregnant woman, mother of eleven, was killed by a spear thrust in the back, her husband was critically injured, and an Indian watchman on a sugar plantation was shot dead. In Wismar, 60 miles south of Georgetown, Negro bands burned close to 200 homes and killed four East Indians, including one man burned to death. British troops rushed in to disperse the mobs and escort 1,700 East Indians to safety.
At week's end the patrolling soldiers were desperately trying to keep the two races apart. No one had an accurate count of the toll, but so far in Jagan's strike at least 33 East Indians and Negroes have been killed and more than 2,000 injured.
[GILBAKKA'S NOTE: The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre website has the link to the above and other TIME reports on Guyana 1953-1992. We must learn a lesson from history. The politics of race is deadly.]