• 13 Apr, 2024

A Homeland for Indians displaced by Indentured Labour

A Homeland for Indians displaced by Indentured Labour

A Homeland for Indians displaced by Indentured Labour

The stories of hardship, abuse, discrimination, murder and racial violence against Indians displaced by Indentured labour have not eroded with time. The living conditions of Indians under colonial rule dating back over 160 years ago still prevail today, this time under a new administration. The oppression and suffering imposed on Indians by the colonial rulers are now being dispensed by the indigenous majorities of countries in the post-colonial era. The indigenous majorities who are now in power and liberated see Indians who are descendants of indentured labourers as foreigners. Most Indians have lived for more than three generations in these lands which they now call home, and many have proactively participated in the liberation struggles of these countries. 

In the mid-1800s with the changing laws in Europe surrounding slavery, plantation owners in British colonies across the globe had to devise new ways around the law to acquire cheap labour to maintain high profits. Their innovation led them to the concept of bonded contracts which came to be known as indentured labour contracts. In reality, this was entrapment by contract for Indian labourers that were not versed in the English language, as a result, their lives were turned into slavery under this contract. In modern times, it has become necessary to address and rectify the perceptions of the past on indentured labour, as it has significant importance in correcting the injustice of the past and the present regarding Indians displaced by indentured labour. The term Indentured Labour needs to be redefined from one of the labour contracts to one of slavery as experienced by Indians displaced from India to work in foreign countries.

Technology advancements have brought new development that connects Indians across the globe, each sharing their own history via social media that their communities faced from Trinidad and Tobago to South Africa to Fiji. The trend of discrimination and persecution by race is all too familiar to Indian descendants of Indentured labour as they are continuous targets, often they are perceived as favoured communities by white rulers due to their determination to self-improve, their investment in their community as well as their business success. 

Reparations in the form of security and equity

While the self-realisation trend on discrimination and persecution globally amongst Indian descendants of Indentured labour is slow and mobilisation to address it is even slower, there is a growing movement that is slowly gaining momentum as communities connect across the world to share their similar stories and experiences. Some countries like South Africa experiences ethnic violence against Indians every 36 years, together with Government policies such as Broad Black Base Economic Empowerment which was initially implemented at the birth of democracy as a recourse to address the imbalance of the past, now serves a mechanism to advance the interest of the majority, with race over merit to meet this discriminatory policy’s targets. The policy places minorities at a disadvantage, which includes Indians. The enforcers of the policy at strategic levels drive personal political agendas to maintain political party dominance over the country.

The greatest threat to these communities is the elitists from within their communities with business, political or socialite backgrounds, who have aligned themselves within circles of the majority for self-benefit, some through corrupt political relationships. They often sabotage any cohesion efforts amongst Indians, acting as proxies to divide and conquer thus preventing communities from mobilising and gaining a political voice. In the event of racially incited rioting, these elitists have both the political connections and the financial means to quickly evade the violence by leaving the country while the majority of Indians will be left to face the brunt of the turmoil ahead of them.

We have many Indian academics and aspiring political leaders. Have any of them considered the future of Indian descendants displaced by Indentured Labour? Do we leave the trend of decades of racial persecution, marginalisation and discrimination unchallenged for future generations to face as minorities? Or do we take a bold step, stand up and bring change? A progressive solution would be to create an organisational platform for an interactive discussion between these communities across the world. In consultation with the United Nation and the countries responsible for the displacement, we should explore the feasibility of a homeland within the commonwealth where Indian descendants - displaced by Indentured Labour - can relocate to and become a sizable community and no longer be regarded as a minority group to face racial persecution and discrimination.

The target population should be clearly outlined to eliminate immigration opportunists from other countries; only Indians displaced by Indentured Labour and migrants (free passengers and traders) pre-1947 of India’s Independence to be considered under this programme. Only individuals identified as Indians (both parents classified as Indians) should be considered as the target population. 

While many have tabled the thought of reparation for the pain and suffering of generations of Indians displaced by Indentured Labour, the best compensation would be a safe, equitable and conducive environment that will allow these communities to grow and flourish without persecution, marginalisation or discrimination. Reparation in the form of hope and security by means of a homeland for minority Indian descendants displaced by Indentured Labour will be a viable solution to this continuous problematic situation.

Article by Vinesh Selvan, South Africa, WhatsApp  +2784 450 4892 vinesh.selvan@gmail.com