South African Indians to invite Bachchan, Rahman to celebrate 150 years since landing

February 10th, 2009 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh BachchanDurban, Feb 10 (IANS) Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Oscar-nominated award-winning music director A.R. Rahman are among the Indian dignitaries who are to be invited to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival here of the first indentured sugarcane labourers from India on Nov 16, 2010.

South African Indian cultural, religious and political leaders have formed a united front to plan the anniversary celebrations.

A steering committee formed here includes the President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee; the President of the South African Tamil Federation, Mickey Chetty; Ahmed Vally Mohamed, chief trustee of the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere, the Juma Masjid here; KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council Chairman Bishop Rubin Philip; representatives of the provincial government; and Krish Gokool, president of the 1860 Heritage Foundation.

Gokool had initially been reluctant to join the steering committee after he had already announced plans last year to continue the work started by his father, Jumna Persadh Gokool as the 1860 Settlers Association to mark the centenary in 1960 of Indians first landing on the shores of this coastal city.

Gokool said he was happy to join the initiative after he received assurances that the project had the support of the office of the premier of the province.

“By joining hands and uniting we will definitely ensure a successful celebration,” Gokool said.

Emphasising that the group was only a steering committee, Trikamjee called on South African Indians from all over the country to join in.

“We will be inviting big business to also get involved, but want to stress that this will be a non-profit venture, with any profits being ploughed back into community ventures such as support of education in rural areas to leave a legacy for another 150 years,” Trikamjee said.

He was hinting at the fact that the early Indian settlers had seen education as a priority, building their own schools and even bringing teachers and religious leaders out from India to ensure a better life for their children despite the hardships of first the colonial British and then the white Afrikaner apartheid era. Today the literacy rate among South African Indians is 100 percent because of their pioneering efforts.

Both Mohamed and Chetty called for all religious, linguistic and cultural communities to stand together to ensure a common voice.

Durban Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo said one of the projects which would be funded by government would be the unveiling of a statue to commemorate the arrival of the first Indians in the city.

The 1.2 million South African Indians today are descended from those indentured labourers and “passenger” Indians who paid their own way to start businesses here in waves of immigration that was halted by the apartheid-era government in 1948. Only four decades later was immigration from the subcontinent permitted again with the advent of the first democratic government in the country.

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