Indian indentured labourers a story of success: Diplomat

Washington: Indians who had to migrate to several parts of the globe as indentured labourers showed a remarkable resilience and became successful despite enduring many hardships, a senior Indian diplomat in San Francisco has said.

Referring to the hardships that the indentured labourers faced in their months-long journeys by sea, Indias Consul General in San Francisco Venkatesan Ashok said the lack of medical, food and living conditions were no different from slavery.

Despite the hardships, the indentured Indian labourers showed a remarkable resilience and became successful, he said at an event marking the centenary of the abolition of indentured labour from India to Fiji, Mauritius and the Caribbean.

In his keynote address to the “Girimityas: History of Struggle, Present Status and Future Potential of Indentured Indian Diaspora” organised by the Foundation for Indian and Indian Diaspora Studies, Ashok also said that the Indian government was “actively engaged” with its large diaspora spread across the globe.

Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP) general secretary Shyam Parande termed the journey of this diaspora as a journey from struggle to a success.

Noting that the migration started when the British needed workers after the end of slavery in around 1840s, Parande said the recruiter tricked Indians into this system, promising gold in the land of Sri Rama (Surinam) but in reality exploited them as bondage workers.

Invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Parishad said the former Prime Minister in his first pravasi Bharatiya day address had said that every Indian who went outside India carried a small Indian within them.

“Similarly this Indian diaspora who are also called as Girimityas also carried Indias culture in the form of Tulsi Ramanaya, Hindi language, food and practices,” he said.

Ex-Consul General of Fiji Narayan Raju said that the Fijian Indian community was proud of their heritage and India.

He emphasised that the Indian government should do more efforts to connect better with the diaspora countries and people.

The Indian indenture system was a system of indenture, a form of debt bondage. As many as 3.5 million Indians were transported to various colonies of European powers to provide labour, mainly for sugar plantations.

It started from the end of slavery in 1833 and continued until 1920. This resulted in the development of large Indian diaspora.