Global INK will benefit Reunion island

January 8th, 2009 - 4:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghChennai, Jan 8 (IANS) The new Global Indian Knowledge Network, or Global INK, launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Thursday, will be of great benefit in helping an organisation from the tiny island state of Reunion near Mauritius to trace the history of its citizens of Indian origin.”Yes, it will definitely assist us,” said Raphael Tipka, who was manning an exhibition of photographs culled from government archives and family albums showing some of the Indian pioneers of Reunion who arrived as indentured labourers to work on sugarcane farms, as artisans, or as domestic workers to the then French landowners.

After Reunion first hosted a small exhibition at the annual Diaspora meet in 2003, there had been great interest in not only investing in the island’s economy, but also for the efforts of the Research Group for the Archaeology and History of Reunion Island, prompting this exhibition of largely undated photos.

“We want to find out when the Indians first came to Reunion, as we believe that they may already have been on Reunion as far back as 1637, but there are no records to substantiate that,” Tipka said.

“We are hoping that this exhibition will prompt some viewers into helping us get more information.”

Tipka was thrilled at learning that his own forebears had come from Madras, now Chennai, although he does not know how far back beyond his great-grandfather’s generation.

“It’s my first visit and it was wonderful to see so many people who look like me and share the same (Hindu) religious practices,” he said.

“My one big regret is not knowing the Tamil language which my forebears brought to Reunion so many generations ago, although there is some consolation in that it still survives with many people in Reunion now taking a renewed interest in learning not only Tamil, but also the Hindi and Urdu that our ancestors brought to the island.”

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