On 25 November, 2017 the Minister of State for
External Affairs Shri MJ Akbar, and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of
Netherlands HE Mr Alphonsus Stoelinga, unveiled the plaque in the Dutch
language that was installed by the Netherlands government at the base of the
Mai Baap Memorial at the Suriname Ghat at Garden Reach, Kolkata. The Dutch
embassy paid homage to the large Indian-origin community in the Netherlands who
had emigrated from Suriname after its independence.
The ceremony ran from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm and the
occasion was graced by the Chairman of the Kolkata Port Trust Shri Vinit Kumar,
the Joint Secretary of the Overseas Indian Affairs Division at the Ministry of
External Affairs Shri Amrit Lugun, the Honorary Consul of Netherlands to
Kolkata Shri Namit Shah, and the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago Mr Dave
Chandalal Persad. Members of the Consular Corps in Kolkata were also invited
along with scholars, media persons, and travel writers who have been writing on
the significance of the legacy of the indentured system in Kolkata.
The Ambassador of Suriname HE Aashna Kanhai laid a
wreath at the memorial to pay homage to the ancestors of the Indian diaspora in
Suriname on what happened to be the national day of Suriname, marking its
independence from Netherlands. Ms Kanhai recounted the memories of her
grandparents who set sail from the same Suriname ghat in the 19th
Surinamese origin singer Raj Mohan’s recordings of a
Bhojpuri song retelling the story of the Indians in Suriname, and a Bengali
song that is very popular in Suriname : “Ami Chinigo Chini Tomare” were played
at the event.
The memorial is a replica of Mai Baap memorial in
Paramaribo that marks the spot where the first group of indentured labourers
from India landed in Suriname in 1873. The Mai Baap memorial at Kolkata was
first installed by the Surinam government inaugurated in 2015 by the Hon’ble
External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj, the Hon’ble Governor of West
Bengal Shri Kesari Nath Tripathi, and the Hon’ble Finance Minister to the Govt
of West Bengal Shri Amit Mitra.