Mar 14, 2013 News
Yesterday marked 100 years since the Rose Hall Riot in East Canje Berbice, which led to 15 sugar workers losing their lives on March 13, 1913. The workers were all shot by the colonial police on the high bridge leading to the Rose Hall Estate because they protested and refused to work on days for which they were granted leave.
Harvesting season ended on January 27, 1913 and the Administrative Manager told the immigrant workers that they were to clean their surroundings.
On January 28, the Manager reportedly changed his mind and ordered them to go to work because he had some planting to do. Some were inclined while others were dissuaded from following the orders. The following day, the workers visited the Immigration Agent in Berbice who went the next day to visit the Administration Manager about the situation.
Seven men were served summonses to attend court. The Manager asked that they pay the cost for the summons. The workers agreed but to pay it in installments but the Manager rejected the suggestion. The problem escalated from this point.
Efforts were made to transfer five immigrants who were considered the ring leaders in the protest and refusal to work. One of them was inclined to go but was pulled away. And the protests intensified as the workers refused to do any work on their ‘leave’ days.
Eventually, on March 13, 1913, the Inspector- General with a large force of police went to the Reliance Police Station, collected the arrest warrants and proceeded to the No. 8 Yard. The immigrants grew furious and armed themselves with sticks and bottles.
The noise was too loud so they [the immigrants] could not have deciphered what the police’s intentions were or what the police were saying to them. The immigrants could not hear the purpose of their visit due to the noise. The Riot Act was read by the Colonel to them that failure to stop their protests will result in shooting.
And it so happened that fifteen workers—14 men and one woman— were killed. Their bodies were transported in jute bags on donkey carts to the New Amsterdam Hospital. Forty- one workers were injured. The dead were: Badri, 26; Bholay, 33; Durga, 72; Gafur, 27; Jugai, 30; Juggoo, 37; Hulas, 25; Lalji, 45; Motey Khan, 26; Nibur, 75; Roopan, 25; Sadulla, 23; Sarjoo, 21; Sohan, 33; and the lone female Gobindei, 32.
An Inquiry into the events was ordered by the British Government but found no one at fault. The results stated that nobody was to be blamed for the incident. The conclusion was that there was failure of the protestors to heed the police warnings and that the colonial police only went to arrest the five ringleaders of the protest. Some 100 bullets were used in the shootings.
A special commemoration event at Rose Hall will be planned shortly, and a temporary plaque will be unveiled.
The fifteen workers that were shot are now known as the Rose Hall Estate Martyrs.
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