Finally, a memorial to honour India’s indentured workersJanuary 9th, 2011 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS
By Shubha Singh
Kolkata, Jan 9 (IANS) Finally a memorial will be inaugurated here Jan 11 to honour the millions of Indian indentured workers who were taken to work in plantations in the old British, French and Dutch colonies across the world.Located at the Kidderpore Depot at 14 Garden Reach, along the banks of the Hoogly River, the memorial fulfils a long standing demand from the descendants of the migrants who are now settled in different parts of the world.
A joint project of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the West Bengal government and the Kolkata Port Trust, it will commemorate the indenture migration that took place from 1834 to 1920.
Over a million men, women and children were taken under indenture contracts to the British, French and Dutch colonies in different parts of the world to work on the sugarcane plantations.
A large number of PIOs (people of Indian origin) who are descendents of those migrants have long expressed their dismay at the absence of any link in India that connects them to their ancestors.
“This is a forgotten part of Indian history. It was the migration that spread the Indian diaspora to different regions of the world - from the Caribbean to South Africa to the Pacific region,” according to Prof Martin Budhoos, a historian.
Kolkata has a particular significance as the majority of indentured workers sailed from its port till recruitment began in the region around Chennai.
Each recruiting colony set up a depot where the indentured workers were housed till a ship arrived to take them to their destination.
Most of the depots and jetties were in the Garden Reach area. Fiji Islands, Suriname and British Guiana had their depots at Kidderpore. The recruits for British Guiana were transported from the Demerara jetty in the same area.
Demerara is the name of one of the regions of British Guiana, which has lent its name to the Demerara sugar.
The commemorative plaque is to be placed on the Clock Tower at the Demerara Depot.
Various NGOs such as the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and other PIO associations had lobbied the government for several years for a memorial to the indentured workers.
GOPIO vice president Ashook Ramsaran, who has been closely involved in the memorial project, told IANS there was keen interest among the PIO community and “over 200 PIOs have registered to attend the inaugural function.”
Though entry is open to the public, advance registration is required for PIOs.
The inscription on the commemorative plaque states: “In honoured tribute to Indian indentured labourers - with due recognition and lasting remembrance of Indian indentured labourers who left these shores during 19th and 20th centuries, seeking better livelihoods in far away lands…
“For their pioneering spirit, determination, resilience, endurance, perseverance and sacrifices amidst extremely harsh conditions…
“For their invaluable contributions to lands they adopted, and for the triumph of the spirit of Indianness they maintained and passed on to their descendants.”
According to Ramsaran, a second phase of the memorial is planned as a public project to set up a museum that would be a repository of indenture history.
It involves setting up a heritage museum cum resource centre that would house records of the migration, individual emigration records, data, conditions on the plantations, books, photographs, documentaries and literature of the diaspora.
A non-governmental organisation, the Global Indian Diaspora Heritage Society (GIDHS) has been set up to plan and coordinate the museum project, he said.
(Shubha Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)
- Coming up in Kolkata, memorial for Indian indentured workers - Aug 06, 2010
- A tribute from India to the 'old diaspora' (With Images) - Aug 22, 2010
- A tribute from India to the 'old diaspora' (With Images, Lead, Superseding earlier story) - Aug 22, 2010
- Bengal may get memorial for indentured Indian workers - May 02, 2010
- Indian diaspora's beginnings to be recorded for posterity - Jul 03, 2011
- One of last survivors of indenture system dies in Rotterdam - Feb 03, 2011
- These French nationals yearn for Indian recognition - Sep 21, 2011
- Indian arrival in Mauritius through rare documents - Mar 17, 2011
- Bihar PIOs meet governor - Apr 15, 2011
- From London to Sirdargarh, a Guyanese Indian's journey - Apr 11, 2012
- GOPIO plans global Gadar centennial in 2013 - Mar 15, 2012
- Story of Indian indenture migration forgotten: South African playwright - Jan 12, 2011
- A remote French Island reconnects with India - May 31, 2011
- St Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its Indian heritage - Jun 02, 2012
- Guyana born NRI elected chief of diaspora body - Nov 29, 2011
Tags: british guiana, commemorative plaque, demerara sugar, descendents, different regions, dutch colonies, garden reach, hoogly, indenture contracts, indian diaspora, indian history, indian origin, jetties, kolkata, ministry of overseas indian affairs, port trust, prof martin, regions of the world, sugarcane plantations, west bengal government