The Bombay East Indian Association
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The Bombay East Indian Association: early history
The Bombay East Indian Association was established on 26th May 1887
From an account by Mr. Joseph Baptista in his East Indian written on the proceedings before him it was stated that there were 27 persons present at the inaugural meeting held on 26th May 1887 and that of these Dr. D.A. De Monte and Messrs. Joseph Bocarro and John De Mello were the survivors. It had since been claimed that Messrs. G.A. DAguiar and A.A. Periera were also founder members. In the address presented to Dr. P.F.Gomes in 1888 on his appointment as a Knight of St. Gregory the Great, the signatories were Vice-Presidents Messrs. D.F.DAlmeida, M.C.Pereira, S.J.DAwbreo, L.M.Valledares, John Bocarro, N.DAlmeida and A.F.Baptista, Secretary J.L.Britto, Vice-Secretary John DeMello, Treasurer Joseph Bocarro, Vice-Treasurer J.A.Pereira. They evidently were amongst the personnel of the Managing Committee selected at the inaugural meeting. Among the pioneers of the East Indian Association, whose memory should be cherished were Dr. P.F.Gomes, Messrs. John Bocarro, Joseph Bocarro, J.D.DAlmeida, D.F.DAlmeida, P.A.Chaves, J.L.Britto, D.I.De Monte, M.A. De Monte, L.M.DAlmeida, M.F. Esperance, N.F.DAlmeida, Braz DAlmeida, M.F.De Silva, S.J. DAbreo, G.R.DAguiar and J.M.Gracias, Dr. D. Cardoz and Rev. D. G. DAlmeida.
The initial measure of fundamental necessity was to change the designation of the Community from Bombay Portuguese to Bombay East Indian. The former appellation confounded East Indian people with other intermingled, and it was desirable that the East Indians should had a distinct entity and work out East Indian own salvation. The altered designation, East Indian had been accepted by Government and the public.
There was much powerful opposition. A well financed journal the Portuguez Brittanico, was founded and it was intended to establish a Bomaby Portuguese Association This was successfully countered by three public meetings of the Community at Andheri on 8th March 1891.
No sooner was the proposed establishment of a rival Association made public than the whole Community spontaneously rose en masse and they expressed their most unqualified adherence to the Bombay East Indian Association and their equally unqualified and emphatic disapproval of the proposed Bombay Portuguese Association. Thus Bombay, Salsette and Bassein declared with unequivocal voice for the Bombay East Indian Association, which was then (in 1937) the legal, natural and sole representative of the Community.
The foundation of the East Indian Association was well and truly laid. The membership rose to the peak figure of 1,200.
THE RAISON DETRE of the Bombay East Indian Association
The objects of the Bombay East Indian Association were to advance the political, social, educational and economic and in short, in all conceivable manner, the welfare of the Bombay East Indian people. At the Silver Jubilee in 1912 these motives were presented in a amplified form.
THE SILVER JUBILEE OF THE EAST INDIAN ASSOCIATION
There will be a singular appropriateness in giving an account of the Silver Jubilee. It was celebrated in April 1912. A social gathering of the members of the East Indian Association and their families was organized in the Town Hall on that day. The occasion was brilliant one, bringing together about 700 persons from various parts of Bombay and Salsette. Great enthusiasm prevailed. The hall was neatly decorated and before the organ there was a large board with the motto Union was Strength
His Grace the Archbishop of Daman was prevented by illness from attending but in a letter he expressed his sympathy with the movement and offered his heartiest congratulations to the East Indian Association whose work he fully appreciated. Mr. D.F.Leao, President of the East Indian Association was in the chair. The occasion was availed of to congratulate Mr. Frank Oliveria on his being appointed Presidency Magistrate and Mr.Joseph Bocarro on his having had the distinction of Companion of the Imperial Service Order conferred on him by the King-Emperor.
Speeches were then delivered. The celebration of the Jubilee was marked by a dance which was kept up with great sprightliness till after mid-night.
Financial stringency was an eternal lament. More often than not in human undertakings, money forms the sinew of action. What East Indian forbears in the preceding generation did to equip themselves with pecuniary protection may hearten the East Indians to walk in their footsteps, though out imprint may not be so deep. The Annual Reports up tot the last published in 1920 record balances of Rs.1000 to Rs.2000. The East Indian Association depended on the proverbial philantrophy of Indian Princes. This avenue was then (in 1937) closed but other paths remained open.
A remarkable instance of generosity may be related. Mr. C.G.Whitworth, I.C.S. who was at one time Sessions Judge of Thana was a regular donor for several years. When he retired he continued to send remittance and when he died in 1918 a bequest of Rs.1000 was received for the furtherance of the education policy of the East Indian Association. The annual subscription to the East Indian Association was one rupee and from the number of members sufficient funds can through systematic collection be obtained for the ordinary expenditure including that of printing the Annual Report and Balance Sheet as required by Rule.
REPRESENTATIONS ON PUBLIC COMMISIONS
At the beginning at about the very first meeting of a Managing Committee of the Bombay East Indian Association, held on 17th July 1887 it was decided to depute Mr. Joseph Bocarro I.S.O. to give evidence before a Public Service Commission that was then holding its investigations in Bombay. A comprehensive memorandum showing the claims of the East Indian Community for admission to different branches of public service was drawn up. Under Education in Salsette and Bassein Mr. Bocarro represented the necessity of increasing primary English and Marathi Schools and that the maintenance of Portuguese teaching schools to which State aid was given was for practical purposes useless.
Mr. Bocarrow also personally gave evidence before a Sub-Committee of the Comission consisting of Sir Charles Turner as President and Khan Kazi Shahabudin, Mr. Nulkar and Mr.J.F.Fernandez, as Members, Mr. Chatfield, Director of Public Instruction, being present. The claims of East Indian people to admission to the classes of the public service into which they could be fitted such as the Customs, Salt, Opium, Excise, Telegraph and Police Departments were presented with much enlightened detail and the answers to the questions put elucidated a well reasoned plan with all the aspects of practicability, Mr. P.A.Baptista at the time the President represented the East Indian Association at the Excise Committee in 1923.
The real golden age of the East Indian Association was in [1887-1912]. In the first year of its institution when plague had started in Bombay the East Indian Association evidenced its fundamental value for collective security by attempting to obtain a Special Plague Hospital and Segregation Camp. It did not succeed but it gave a fine example of what could and should be accomplished.
Government were addressed on 1902 on the establishment of a Civil Court at Bandra which it was stated was the most populated of the principal towns in the Thana District, namely Thana Town, Kurla, Kalyan, Bassein and Bhivandi each of which possessed a Civil Court. Though the matter did not commend itself at that time to Government, it was then (in 1937) reported that a Civil court will shortly be established at Bandra.
In 1892 the East Indian Association started a Deposit and Loan Society to prevent members of the East Indian Community from foaling into the clutches of usurious money lenders. The Society still flourishes as will be seen from an account printed elsewhere.
A Death Benefit Fund was established but as it was not based on actuarial principles it had to be closed in 1901. There was also a Literary Society where lectures were delivered and debates held, but it worked only for a few years. The last item leads to the suggestion whether a Literary Society should not be instituted at the Bandra Gymkhana where in addition a Library worthy of East Indian people might be formed for the use of the member of East Indian Association.
A matter which merits imitation was that the East Indian Association organized social gatherings with a view to foster fellow feeing among the different elements of the Community, the first of which was held in 1892 at Matunga when 800 members assembled, the second at Bombay in 1902, the third at Bandra and the fourth in the Town Hall Bombay in 1909. There were also musical concerts and other entertainments.
It was pleasing to record that a brilliant indication of the revival of the idea of social gathering was given at the Social of the East Indian Association at the East Indian Hall Bandra Gymkhana on 7th May 1936. About 800 persons were present from different parts of Bombay, Salsette, Thana and Bassein. The success of the undertaking was principally due to Dr.D.A. De Monte and Dr. Mrs. Cecilia De Monte and the Joint Secretaries Messrs. Louis Rodricks and Diogo Ferreira.
At the beginning of this book there was a description of the wonderful Nine Days Fete in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of East Indian Association which thrilled thousands of East Indian people.
THE EAST INDIAN FEDERATION
The East Indian Federation, according to an account furnished by Mr. A.V.Misquitta the Editor of the East Indian Standard was inaugurated in February 1929 at a time when owing to various causes the affairs of the Bombay East Indian Association were not in a very satisfactory condition.
The main object of the Federation was to infuse a new spirit into the Community by drawing attention to urgent communal problems of the day. The Community had no journal of its own for some years, and the first undertaking of the Federation was to start a monthly journal called The Standard which, it was hoped, would be the rallying point for the scattered forces of the Community.
Mr. Leo Rodrigues, B.A. L.L.B was elected President, Mr. A.V.Misquitta B.A., M.Jour I.(London) Hon. Secretary and Managing Editor of the journal and Mr. J. Michael Pereira, Hon. Treasurer. Within a month the first issue of The Standard saw the light of day and it had since been published regularly, first as a monthly and subsequently as a fortnightly.
Thanks to the kind offices of Mr. P. T. Pereira, Proprietor of the Bowen Press, Bombay, The Standard was first printed and published there. In September 1929, the Federation raised loans and purchased its own printing press, which was housed free of charge at the residence of Mr. A. V. Misquitta in Bandra. In 1930 it was transferred to rented rooms near the Railway Station, Bandra and in May 1936 on its becoming the property of Dr. D. A. De Monte to the Antonio Da Silva High School, Dadar as part of a scheme for industrial training. The Press had trained a large number of East Indian boys who were in 1937 holding responsible posts in leading Bombay presses.
The Journal had a meritorious record of service. Besides urging the Community to realize its responsibility and the need for unity and action, it ventilated various social, educational, religious, political, agricultural and municipal grievances. An indirect result of the journals urge to action was tat the Bombay East Indian Association was much influenced. Pour parlers for an amalgamation with the Federation ensued, but some legal point or other was an obstacle in the way. Eventually in 1933 Dr. D. A. De Monte offered to pay the purchase price of the Printing Press provided he Federation Dissolved. A prominent part in effecting the desired end was taken by Mr. Remegius Dias and Mr. A.V. Misquitta, while the highest praise due to Professor J. F. R. DAlmeida, the President. The Journal was since styled the East Indian Standard and acts as the organ of the Bombay East Indian Association.
After Mr. Leo Rodrigues, Mr. J. F. Pereira was elected President and during the last three years, Professor DAlmeida was President. As the work of managing and editing the Journal became heavier, Mr. Misquitta retired from the Secretaryship and was succeeded by Mr. Paul Pereira, B.A. LL.B. During its last year Mr. M. F. Pimenta was the Secretary, Mr. J. Michael Perreira was succeeded as Treasurer by Mr. Venas DMonte and during the concluding year Mr. Eugene Pereira was Treasurer. Among its Vice President were Miss C. C. Ferreira, B.A., LL.B., Mr. John De Mello, I.S.O., J.P., Mr. J. R. Athaide, B.A., LL.B., Dr. J. H. Pereira, Mr. Paul DSouza M.A., LL.B., Mr. J. G. Pereira, B.A., LL.B., Solicitor and Mr. P. C. Gonsalves, B.A., LL.B, Solicitor and Mr. P. C. Gonsalves, B.A., Mr. Remegius Dias rendered excellent service as Manager of the Journal and Mr. Mathew Rodrigues gave valuable help in carrying on the Press.
No efforts were made to increase the membership which was about a hundred strong as it was understood that he Federation should not do anything that would jeopardize the life of the Bombay East Indian Association.
When finally the East Indian Association did make a move, it was felt that no useful purpose would be served by two communal organizations and the Federation members sacrificed themselves at the altar of unity. The East Indians may say with a just appreciation that in its brief life of seven years the Federation succeeded in its object of rousing the East Indian Association and the Community.
THE CO-OPERATION OF THE CLERGY
In the Tenth Report of the East Indian Association for the years 1899, 1900 and 1901 it was truly said that among the Members there was a goodly number of the clergy belonging t the Community and that the East Indian Association hailed with great pleasure the active support which it was receiving from them. It was stressed that it was undeniable that the clergy were the guides of the people in temporal no less than in religious matters that by their influence example and teaching they could improve and advance the social, intellectual and moral status of their flocks, that the English, Irish and American clergy took the lead in every lay movement and their example, The East Indian Association trusted, would be followed by East Indian clergy would be anunated by the same spirit which was revealed in the speech delivered by the then Archbishop of Simla on his arrival there, namely to take an active part in the moral development, the intellectual enlightenment, the social happiness, in a word, the temporal and everlasting welfare of the people.
The event had fully justified this lay ideal. As described elsewhere the priest took a prominent part in the celebration of the Silver Jubilee and their useful collaboration had been continued to [1937 ]time as evidenced by their participation in the great re-union meeting, also mentioned in another place.
PERSONNEL of the East Indian Association
The first President was Dr. P.F.Gomes. He died on the 25th December 1888. The next was Mr. L.M.Vallandares, J.P. Assistant Secretary, Public Works Department in 1890-96. Then came Mr. D.I.De Monte the famous Dinoo Patel of Bandra, in 1896-99, Rev M.F.Pereira in 1899-1909 followed Mr. D.J.Ferreira in 1902-08. D.F.Leao and in 1908-14 Dr. D.A.De Mone in 1914-20 and Mr. P.A. Baptista in 1920-30 came in succession. The last named died in April 1930 and Mr. Joseph Baptisa was elected President for the unexpired period ending 31st December 1930. He died on 18th September 1930. A sketch of his life appears in another place. Dr. D.A.De Monte became President in 1931 and was re-elected in 1935. His varied career of usefulness to the public including his own people was depicted further on in this book. Here it may be said that he was then (in 1937) the indispensable cement to bind the various constituents in the Community which compose the East Indian Association. To him the recent renaissance of the East Indian Association was principally due.
Mr. J.L.Britto with his tireless industry was the first Secretary up to 1920 as unprecedented period of 33 years. It will denote a well merited recognition of his work to record that on completion of 25 years of his Secretaryship he was presented with an address and a purse of Rs.400. The money he handed over for the endowment of prizes to the East Indian Association Schools. Mr. Britto died in March 1921. His successor from 1920 to 1932 was Mr. Jos Alex Dias, B.A., B.Sc., L.L.B., Solicitor J.P. He worked with courage in the storm and stress of the Anti-Padroado campaign in which he was a foremost combatant. Mr. Thomas Ferreira of whom a memoir was given was another section was Secretary from April 1932 to his death in April 1935. The best compliment that can be given to him was that he was a God-fearing kindly gentleman. Mr. F.X.DSilva then officiated as Secretary for about 8 months. [1937 ]Secretary from 1st December 1935 was Mr. J.S.Pereira., B.Sc. Principal Antonio Da Silva High School Dadar. He had shown his mettle by his wise guidance and able administration of the Golden Jubilee Fete.
Among the Treasurers were Messrs Joseph Bocarro, Felix Leao, F.X.Piedade, Edward Bocarro and P.A.Baptista. [1937 ]Treasurer was Mr. J.W.Gomes. B.A., Bar-at-Law, a scion of a family much honoured amongst the East Indians.
The numerical strength of the East Indian Association consisting of about 800 Members was satisfactory and it was effectively representative, as will be seen from the list of [1937 ]Managing Committee, published in Appendix K. The real issue was that almost all East Indians of education, position and influence were in the East Indian Association and this undoubtedly makes it a true corporate union of the Community.
REUNION WAS REDOUBLED STRENGTH
The final stage in the Union of the East Indian Federation with the East Indian Association was described in the paragraph relating to the East Indian Federation. The principal factor that led to this culmination and also to a confederation of all parties was a great Unity Meeting convoked on the initiative of Dr.D.A.De Monte the President of the East Indian Association and held at the East Indian Hall at the Bandra Gymkhana on 12th October 1935. Monsignor D. Remedios presided and he was supported by the Very Rev.D.De Sa, Rev. J.J.Dias, Rev. P.A.Fernandes and Rev. P. Edward Fernandes. They made a fervent appeal for unity. Mr. D.J.Ferreira struck a keynote when he exclaimed:
Let the East Indians return to East Indian Mother Association. Mr. Jos Alex Dias assured his hearty co-operation to all who were out to labour for unity in the Community. Mr. J.F.Pereira ex-President of the East Indian Federation stated that the Federation was started to put life into the East Indian Association and that this being done the former must merge into the latter. Mr. John De Mello one of the few surviving original members of the East Indian Association, Mr. Michael M.Colaco from Bassein and Mr. F.X.DSilva stressed the need for a harmonious homogeneous body. All shades of opinion were represented. Complete unanimity prevailed and the spirit remains and promises to endure.