Plenary Session IX

9 January : 1230-1315 hrs

˜Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya Countries: Link to past for a shared future."

Session Brief

Session Coordinator : Mr Ashok Das, Joint Secretary (LAC), Ministry of External Affairs

Speakers at PBD :

  • Dr Vishnu Bisram, Academic Specialist on the Indian Diaspora, Guyana
  • Mr. Kantilal Jinna, Chief (National) Librarian, Government of Fiji, Fiji
  • Mr. Mookeshwar Choonee, Ex Minister of Art & Culture, Mauritius
  • Mr. Maurits S. Hassankhan, Senior Lecturer at Anton de Kom University, Surinam
  • Mr. Jean Regis Ramsamy, Journalist and Writer, Reunion Island
  • Mr. Ravindra Dev, Sanghachalak of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha, Guyana
  • Mr. Mohit Prasad, Professor of Pacific Literature, Film Diaspora & Postcolonial Studies at University of South Pacific, Fiji
  • Mr. Krishna Lal Jumna Gokool, President of 1860 Heritage Foundation & President of GOPIO South Africa, South Africa
  • Mr. Munish Gupta, is a Journalist-turned Media and social enterprise entrepreneur, USA
  • Prof. Ajay Dubey, EC Member & Academic Coordinator of ARSP, India
  • Mr. Narayan Kumar, Director & Convenor, Diaspora Affairs Committee of ARSP, India
  • Mr. R. Dayakar Former Ambassador of India, India
  • Dr. Bindeshwar Ram, Member Research Advisory Committee, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India, India..


  • Dr Vishnu Bisram, received his formative education in Guyana before migrating to NY to further his studies. He has a multi-disciplinary undergrad and post grad education in Natural and Social Sciences, Humanities and Educational Administration, earning Doctorates and Master's Degrees in various subjects. Dr. Vishnu Bisram was also trained in Journalist writing for over 35 years and is a regular columnist. He is widely known in the Caribbean and US as a psychologist and as a political analyst, developmental economist, and an outspoken advocate for Indian Diaspora interests. He was elected in various student leadership positions including President, Vice President, and Treasurer at the undergrad and post-grad student governments. He has been an avid promoter of India in the US and Caribbean and engages in volunteerism and philanthropic activities to help improve lives of depressed communities in India and the Diaspora. 
  • Mr. Maurits S. Hassankhan, is a Head of the History Department, Faculty of Humanities, Anton de Kom University of Suriname. He is a historian whose expertise is in the fields of Migration & Diaspora, Ethnic relations and Democracy in Plural Societies. His focus areas are: Indian indentured labor and the History and Culture of Indians in Suriname. He promotes interdisciplinary and comparative studies of scholars of different countries and continents. Together with Sandew Hira, he produced a database of Indentured laborers in Suriname, which is mainly being used for genealogical purposes (searching for roots). His last publication consists of a series of four edited books on the Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labour, published by Manohar (Delhi) in 2016. He has been member of Parliament from 2000 to 2005, and Minister in the cabinet of Suriname from 2005 to 2010.
  • Mr. Jean Regis Ramsamy, is a Journalist (senior reporter) at Reunion Premiere branch of France televisions Group, Paris (France) and St Denis. He mostly performs missions and reports on social, politics and culture. For thirty years, he has specialized on the history of Indian indentured labors on the island and their descendants. He would like to prove how they work hard to promote their children for a better life. On this topic, he published several books (Indian jewellers in Reunion, Turquoise or first batch to Reunion island).
  • Mr. Ravindra Dev, is the Sanghachalak of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha( Guyana). By profession, he is an attorney-at-law (NY) with a background in economics. He returned to Guyana as an "Indian Rights Activist" and was leader of the "Rise Organize and Organize" (ROAR) movement in Guyana. He has studied and written extensively on ethnic politics in plural societies, and continues to write a weekly column in the Guyana Times. His focus in panel presentation will be on the importance of archiving the records on Indian Indentureship so that the creation of a necessary narrative on the place, contribution and legitimacy of People of Indian Origin (PIO) in their Diaspora countries will be fact based.
  • Mr. Mookeshwar Choonee, Former Minister of Arts and Culture and Ambassador, Mauritius. He is presently International Coordinator- GOPIO International (Mauritius Registered). His experience as Minister of Arts and Culture and High Commissioner of Mauritius to India has allowed him to pioneer many firsts in connecting, partnering and engaging the Indian Diaspora, particularly the descendants of the Girmitiyas with India. He has participated in previous PBD events in India and most countries of the Diaspora, including the French Speaking one as a Speaker. As an eminent Overseas Indian he is recognized for his contribution to worthy causes and achievements in keeping the flag of India high. After successfully convincing UNESCO to recognize the "Indentured Labor Route Project" he wants to focus on a better understanding of the dynamics of Girmitiyas and ensures that India and the World look at them and their descendants differently.
  • Mr. Kantilal Jinna, is retired from Fiji Government Public Service, Australian Public Service and Australian Capital Territory Public Service. He  is the Chief Librarian, Government of Fiji Library Service of Fiji; Asst. Director Publishing Australian Govt. Publishing Service; Asst. Director publishing Australian Bureau of Statistics, etc.  His main areas of expertise are Corporate and Business planning for Government Departments, agencies and Business Organizations; offering community service to Hindu Council of Australia etc. He holds his Master's degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Administration from Leeds and NSW. His significant focus areas are: Research and publication of experiences and achievements of post indenture Indian immigrants; Impact of the Indian Diaspora on the countries of their indenture and subsequent impact on their social, economic and political status, etc. He was honored with President of Fiji Award for community Services; Achievement Award 2014- Outstanding Community Workers Canberra India Council Inc. of the Australian Capital Territory and many more.
  • Mr. Krishna Lal Juman Gokool, is a President of the 1860 Heritage Foundation from 1986. He is former member and President of Gopio South Africa and instrumental in planning of the World Hindu Conference in 1994 by Dr YashwanthPatak, AnithMaharaj, and Krish Gokool (Vice-President). He is involved with the planning of the 150 years commemoration of the Arrival of Indentured Indians to South Africa and part of the Consultive Business Forum, established in 1992. He is currently Chairman of the 1860 Heritage Centre in Durban which is made up of the Museum, Reference Library and Archive. 
  • Mr. Munish Gupta, is a journalist-turned media and social enterprise entrepreneur. He had his honors degree in Physics and diploma in Mass Communications & Advertising and has pioneered many firsts in 30 years in print, radio, television and new media in India, USA and globally. He is a leader of the Indian Diaspora, forging partnerships especially from PIO countries. He regularly interfaces with policymakers in India and Diaspora countries and uses it to undertake bold initiatives. He created the first-ever online Global Indian Diaspora Network on his digital media platform called PIO TV (
  • Ambassador R. Dayakara joined the Indian Diplomatic Service in 1976 and retired in 2010.  In his long diplomatic career, Ambassador Dayakara held extensive interactions with the Indian diaspora.  As the Head of PIO & NRI Division in Ministry of External Affairs (2002-2004), he was instrumental in institutionalizing some of the key recommendations of the High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora and was a principal coordinator in organizing the first and second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) events and in formulating the guidelines for Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards. He was a panelist in several PBDs including the one at Gandhi Nagar (Jan 2015), where he was panelist in the first ever session on Girmitayas. He has toured the Caribbean countries and interacted with senior officials and PIOs in Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Surinam, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Martin and Guadeloupe. He represented Government of India at the 150th Anniversary of Indian Immigration in Guadeloupe and St. Martin. He is currently the Senior Vice-President of Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP).
  • Dr. Bindeshwar Ram, has vast experience of research and editing skill as well as taping of source material on Diaspora from British, French and Dutch archives. He has been a research professor to the University of Leiden, Amsterdam, Pavia, Mauritius, Paris and published papers and books on diaspora. His field of specialization is social, economic history of Asia and Latin America, Africa and diaspora studies and editor of international journal, Indian Historical Review and also recipient of gold medal by the Bulgarian Govt. for his outstanding contribution to cultural exchange programmes.