This hamlet of decrepit brick and neglec
Aug. 09, 1997
MCCLUSKIEGANJ, India (AP) _ This hamlet of decrepit brick and neglected gardens is inhabited by people whose mixture of identities has left them uncertain of a place in their homeland ever since Indian independence.
Timothy McCluskie, of Indo-Irish parentage, carved this niche for himself and others like him in the 1930s when the Indian national movement gained momentum.
Those who feared they were neither British enough to emigrate to Britain nor Indian enough to stay welcomed the enclave.
McCluskie sought out this spot in cool hills 625 miles east of New Delhi and named it McCluskieganj _ ``ganj'' means alley in Urdu, but translates roughly to ``neighborhood.''
Nearly 400 families of Anglo-Indians, a catchall phrase in India for everyone of mixed European and Indian ancestry, had settled here by the time the British left India's shores in 1947.
``We had dance parties, picnics and a lot of social gatherings,'' D.R. Cameron recalls of McCluskieganj's heyday.
Their status and fortune have declined in the 50 years India has been independent. Only 20 Anglo-Indian families are left in McCluskieganj, and most of the people remaining are elderly.
Homes are deserted. Weekly services at the Anglican and Catholic churches draw only a few worshipers.
``Nobody takes care of the gardens and the cemetery, `` said Robert Miller, 76.
At independence, panic gripped many Anglo-Indians who feared that the favors they had enjoyed under the British would end. Young Anglo-Indians migrated to Britain, Australia and Canada.
Nationwide, the number of Anglo-Indians has dwindled from about 300,000 in 1947 to 150,000, said Hedwig Michael Rego, who represents them in India's national parliament.
Under the Indian constitution, Anglo-Indian lawmakers are allotted two seats in the national parliament and one in each state legislature in the nine states where Anglo-Indians are concentrated. Government job quotas for Anglo-Indians already have been abandoned, and the legislative quotas end in three years.
``Who will hear our voice then?'' Rego said.
Despite their pale skin, ``the British treated us as third class citizens,'' said D.R. Cameron, a 68-year-old retired army captain who now runs a school and McCluskieganj's only guest house.
Indians treated them with contempt.
``We saw in them the remnants of the British Raj,'' said Deepak Singh, an Indian schoolteacher in McCluskieganj.
In that limbo, many families clung to their ties to the colonial rulers, speaking only English at home, striving to mimic the lifestyle of upper class Brits. Their English guaranteed them jobs in the British-run civil service and military,
Now, few know Indian languages well enough to compete in the job market, Rego said.
Cameron said Anglo-Indians depended on government jobs, failing to develop as entrepreneurs. And now they too often take out their disappointments and frustrations on one another.
``They don't like to see anyone else prospering,'' he said.
A.K. Raphael, a 78-year-old retired police officer, blames it all on independence.
``India has gone down hill since independence. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (the country's first prime minister) had very good ideas, but most of them have failed.''