DIASPORA AND INDIAN DIASPORA
|Dr. Hareshwar Roy|
The emergence of the concept of diaspora is fairly recent. This concept has elicited unprecedented interest among academicians and has provoked divergent responses worldwide. It has emerged as an important area of research in the departments of literature and social sciences. It is currently being used in both academic and popular discourse with a growing frequency and breadth. Yet this growth does not necessarily reflect a common understanding of the term.
How to define diaspora has been the subject of ongoing debate. While some scholars have argued in favour of identifying a closed set of attributes, others have preferred to use the term in the broader sense of human dispersal. For example, Safran maintains that diaspora is that segment of people living outside homeland. Docker defines diaspora as “a sense of belonging to more than one history, to more than one time and place, to more than one past and future.”1 The work of Brah on diaspora locates diaspora space in the intersectionality of diaspora, border and dislocation as a point of confluence of economic, political, cultural and psychological process.
uses the concept of Diaspora to argue against ethnic absolutism and unitary
ethnic culture. Stuart Hall uses diaspora to emphasize the hybrid identity
formation and the processes, experiences and practices that result from
displacements and cultural shifts. The term trans-national community is also
used as synonym of diaspora and the two-terms/ concepts frequently collapse
into one. Phil Cohen is of the view that this word has become one of the
buzzwords of the post-modern age. Clearly, a working definition of diaspora is
in order. To make its meaning clear, It is essential to sketch the spread of
the term ‘diaspora’ through a number of disciplines, pointing to some prominent
Etymologically, the term ‘diaspora’ is derived from the Greek word ‘dia’ and ‘speiro’. ‘Dia’ means ‘through’ and ‘speiro’ means to ‘scatter’. The literal meaning of diaspora is ‘scattering’ or ‘dispersion’.
The word ‘diaspora’ was initially used by the ancient Greeks to describe their spreading all over the then known world. For them this term signified migration and colonization. It has often been used to describe the original dispersion of the Jews in the 6th century B.C. or to refer particularly to the Jews living outside
among people of non-Jewish faith.
“For Jews, Africans, Palestinians and Armenians diaspora signifies a collective
trauma where one dreams of home while living in exile.”2 Palestine
Today the term diaspora has made a dynamic comeback in the debates around ethnicity, nationality and nationhood, boundaries and identity. It has returned to address and assist the understanding of migration, post migration and re-territorialization, people's multiple sense of belonging and loyalties beyond national boundaries. More recently, and with increasing frequency, this term is being used to encompass the dispersal of any group or community outside country of their origin. It implies that particular cultures survive, transform and remain relevant even when members of an ethnic community have not lived in the original homeland.
In current parlance, the above-mentioned term is applied as a metaphoric designation for expatriates, expellees, refugees, alien residents, immigrants, displaced communities and ethnic minorities. It has also been used to describe the experience of displacement and to analyse the social, cultural and political formation that results from this displacement. This term refers also to the work of exile and expatriates and all those who have experienced unsettlement and dislocation at the political, existential or metaphorical levels. Emmanuel Nelson has used this paradigm to analyse expatriate writing.
The term diaspora has now attained the full-fledged status of a concept. Today intellectuals and activists from various fields are frequently using it to describe such categories as “immigrants, guest workers, ethnic and racial minorities, refugees, expatriates and travellers.”3 It has now emerged to be a useful concept to analyse the relationship between place and identity and the ways cultures and literatures interact. Though diaspora has assumed different meanings and interpretations, since its early uses, it is currently employed to imply a wide variety of contexts, from dispersion to trade diaspora and worker/migrant diaspora. In the present day literary studies it has achieved great significance. According to this concept, different responses to migration are articulated in literature produced in the places where diasporic communities exist. Apparently a metaphorical application of the term is prevalent, encompassing a wide range of phenomenon under the very notion.
For the last four decades, many dispersed communities, those once known as minorities, ethnic groups, migrants, exiles etc. have now been renamed as diasporas either by scholars or academicians. Up to 1960, the term diaspora was confined to the extensive studies on three classical or traditional Diasporas viz. Jewish, Armenian and Greek, of which the ideal case was the first. The disciplinary application of the diaspora term to non-Jewish and non-Christian peoples and their exile situation seems to have first been undertaken within African studies. In a now classic paper, George Shepperson spoke of the African Diaspora at a conference of African historians held in
in 1965-66. Analogous to the expulsion of Jew in early times, the dispersion of
sub-Saharan Africans through colonial slave trade was called an enforced
expatriation, accompanied by a longing to return to the homeland. It was about
a decade later that a proliferation of publications gained momentum. Dar es Salaam
Since the mid-1970s, African historians deliberately employ diaspora as a concept and topic within African studies. As Harris summarises, the African diaspora concept subsumes [....] the global dispersion [voluntary or involuntary] of Africans throughout history; the emergence of a cultural identity abroad based on origin and social condition; and the psychological or physical return to the homeland, Africa. As the term took of within African studies, it also became applied within social sciences. The seminal article ‘Mobilized and Proletarian Diasporas’ by John Armstrong in 1976 investigates in general perspective migrant groups with regard to their socio-economic position and the range of tolerance or repression they faced in multiethnic states.
Various scholars within Sociology and Political Sciences took up Armstrong's approach and usage. For example, various authors in Gabriel Sheffer's by now classic volume Modern Diasporas in International Politics explicitly refer back to Armstrong's study. Sheffer, an Israeli political scientist, summarises what a diaspora is understood to mean to his opinion:
Diasporas are distinct trans-state social and political entities; they result from voluntary or imposed migration to one or more host countries; the members of these entities permanently reside in host countries, they constitute minorities in their respective host country (thus for example, Canadian of English descent are not regarded as diaspora community); they evince an explicit ethnic identity; they create and maintain relatively well developed communal organisations; they demonstrate solidarity with other members of community, and consequently, cultural and social coherence; they launch cultural, social, political and economic activities through their communal organisations; they maintain discernible cultural, social, political and economic exchange with the homeland, whether this is a state or community in a territory within what they regard as their homeland; for this as well as for other purposes (such as establishing and maintaining connections with communities in other host countries), they create trans-state networks that enable exchanges of significant resources; and have the capacity for either conflict of co-operation with both the homeland and host country, possibilities that are in turn connected to highly complex patterns of divided and dual authority and loyalties within the diasporas.4
Daniel J. Elazar regarded diaspora as ethno-religious communities, which as a catalytic minority would influence the host society. And Esman specified in his working definition that a diaspora is a minority ethnic group of migrant origin, which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin. Where as the ethnic factor according to Sheffer, is decisive, the religious ingredients would only help to strengthen some ideological, cultural and emotional identification and relation with former home country.
It would be impractical to list all the authors in disciplines such as linguistics, history or anthropology etc. who during the 1990s took up the term in order to relate it to expatriate, national, ethnic or religious cultural groups.
It is interesting to note that the early 1990s witnessed the conceptualisation and systematisation of this term. In 1991 Khachig Tololyan launched a journal named Diaspora. As an editor of this journal, he said:
We use Diaspora provisionally to indicate our belief that the term that once described Jewish, Greek, and Armenian dispersion now shares meaning with a larger semantic domain that includes words like immigrant, expatriate, refugees, guest workers, exile community, overseas community, ethnic community.5
In the 1991 inaugural issue of the journal, Diaspora, William Safran has attempted a kind of ‘ideal type’ representation of diaspora. In his popular article ‘Diaspora in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return’ he has suggested six key characteristics of diaspora and compared a wide range of diaspora situations and related homeland myths. According to William Safran, the concept of diaspora can be applied to expatriate minority communities whose members share several of the following characteristics:
§ they, or their ancestors, have been dispersed from a specific original ‘centre’ to two or more ‘peripheral’, or foreign regions;
§ they retain a collective memory, vision, or myth about their original homeland -- its physical location, history, and achievements;
§ they believe that they are not -- and perhaps cannot be -- fully accepted by their host society and therefore feel partly alienated and insulted from it;
§ they regard their ancestral homeland as their true, ideal home and as the place to which they or their descendants would (or should) eventually return -- when condition are appropriate;
§ they believe that they should, collectively, be committed to the maintenance or restoration of their homeland and to its safety and prosperity; and
§ they continue to relate, personally or vicariously, to that homeland in one way or another, and their ethno-communal consciousness and solidarity are importantly defined by the existence of such a relationship.6
Scholar like Robin Cohen has also used the same perspective formula of constructing an ideal type of a diaspora. He proposes that perhaps these features need to be adjusted and some other elements should be added to the list proposed by Safran. He indicates that the concept of diaspora denotes:
§ dispersal from an original homeland, often traumatically, to two or more foreign regions;
§ alternatively, the expulsion from a homeland in search of work, in pursuit of trade or to further colonial ambitions;
§ a collective memory and myth about the homeland, including its location, history and achievements;
§ an idealization of the putative ancestral home and a collective commitment to its maintenance, restoration, safety and prosperity, even to its creation;
§ the development of a return movement, which gains collective approbation;
§ a strong ethical group consciousness sustained over a long time and based on a sense of distinctiveness, a common history and the belief of a common fate;
§ a troubled relationship with host societies, suggesting a lack of acceptance at the last or the possibility that another calamity might befall the group;
§ a sense of empathy and solidarity with co-ethnic members in the other countries of settlement, and;
§ the possibility of a distinctive yet creative and enriching life in host countries with a tolerance for pluralism.7
Cohen has clearly attempted to move the debate forward. His emphasis on ‘strong links to the past’ pushes the debate decisively forward. Such attempt to define diaspora undoubtedly offers useful insights and correctly reflects the formative influence of a sense of loss and displacement and the primacy of the relationship of diaspora with a homeland.
James Clifford suggests that members of a diaspora maintain such characteristics as:
i. dispersal from one centre to at least two peripheries;
ii. a memory of the homeland;
iii. a belief that they will never be fully accepted in the host country;
iv. a belief in returning to their ancestral home,
v. a commitment to the maintenance of their homeland, and
vi. group consciousness and solidarity.8
Van Hear proposes more minimal criteria of diaspora. According to him they are:
The population has been dispersed from their homeland to two or more other territories; the presence abroad is enduring, although exile is not necessarily permanent and may include movement between the homeland and the host country and that there is social, economic, political and cultural exchange between or among spatially separated populations comprising the diaspora.9
Marienstrasse is of the view that the concept of diaspora is used today to describe any community, which in one way or the other has a history of migration. Peters points out that diaspora implies a decentralised relation to ethnicity, real or imagined relations between scattered people who sustain a sense of community through various forms of communication and contact and who do not necessarily depend on returning to distant homeland.
It is clear from this brief survey that the notion of diaspora is used to refer a wide range of historical and contemporary phenomena. This brief survey offers me an opportunity to push the debate forward. I think that a diaspora exists and reproduced by relying on everything that creates a bond in a place among those who want to group together and maintain, from a distance, relations with other groups, installed in other places but having the same identity. This bond can come in different forms, such as family, community, religious bonds or shared memory of a catastrophe or trauma suffered by members of the diaspora or the forebears. A diaspora has a symbolic and iconographic capital that enables it to reproduce and overcome the obstacle of distance separating its communities. Diaspora areas and territories must be gauged first in the host country, where the community bond plays the essential role, then in the country or territory of origin -- a pole of attraction -- through memory. Thus the term diaspora has more of a metaphorical than an instrumental role. On this basis the following can be identified as common characteristics of all the diaspora:
(i) Exile: Members of the diaspora or their ancestors have been forced to leave their homelands. They have been dispersed in several places under pressure (abject poverty, catastrophe, famine, disaster etc).
(ii) Alienation: Members of diaspora are completely cut off from the main habitation. They share same fate as exile, suffering and separation. They believe that they can't be fully observed/ accepted by host countries and, therefore, feel alienated and installed. They feel that they can never be in a dominant position in the host country.
(iii) Memory: Members retain a collective memory -- often a memory of pain, dispossession and trauma. They retain a rather strong identity awareness linked to the memory of the territory, of the society of origin and its history. From their collective memory they create/ articulate a vision of and for their homeland. In their displaced, distressed and homeless conditions, it is their mother country, which becomes their source of consolation, identity and imaginary home. With the loss of their home they depend on their mythical literature. To perpetuate their memory they celebrate the festivals of their own motherland and perform rituals of their own.
(iv) Diasporic Consciousness: Members continue to relate personally to that homeland and maintain a unique ethno- national, ethno-cultural and ethno-communal consciousness that can be treated as diasporic consciousness. This implies the existence of a strong sense of community and community life.
(v) Longing for Return: Segments of diasporic population sustain hope of returning to the homeland.
All these characteristics find unique articulation in the literary writings of diaspora writers. While languages, customs and traditions are distinct, all diasporic experiences share a similar sense of displacement, of seeking a sense of belonging. These experiences influence literary imagination and map literary texts. Diasporic writings are invariably concerned with exile, memory, diasporic consciousness, longing for return, alienation, nostalgia, search for identity and sense of belonging.
Diaspora can be classified into different types as:
1. Victim diasporas.
2. Labour diasporas.
3. Imperial diasporas.
4. Trade diasporas.
5. Cultural diasporas.
Each of these categories underline a particular cause of migration usually associated with particular groups of people. So, for example, the Africans through their experience of slavery have been noted to be victims of extremely aggressive trans-emigrational policies, or in the case of Indians, they are seen to be part of labour diasporas because of their involvement with the colonial system of indentured labour. It must be noted that these categories are not mutually exclusive, and at any given moment one diasporic group fall into several of these categories simultaneously, for example, the Jewish diaspora could be categorised as both a ‘victim diaspora’ and ‘trade diaspora’. Perhaps, the Indian diaspora is the only one that fits into all the analytic sub-types.
Like Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, David Dabydeen, A.K. Ramanujan, Bharati Mukherjee, Rohinton Mistry, Meena Alexander, Homi K. Bhabha, Bhikhu Parekh, Farook Dhondi, Vijay Mishra, Satendra Nandan, Uday Singh Mehta, Sudesh Mishra, Anshuman Mondal, Susheila Nasta, Agha Shahid Ali and Jhumpa Lahiri, M.G. Vassanji is also a prestigious literary member of Indian diaspora. Significantly enough, the diasporic Indian writing in English covers every continent and part of the world. It is an interesting paradox that a great deal of Indian writing in English is produced not in India but in widely distributed geographical areas of indenture (Girmit) i.e. Indian in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, South Africa, Mauritius, and the contemporary Indian diaspora in the USA, The UK, Canada and Australia. Although there are certain common resonances in the literary representations of the experience of the writers of the ‘indenture’ and the ‘new’ Indian diaspora, the responses and the narratives of the individual writers vary greatly. The above-mentioned literary members of Indian diaspora differ from each other not only in their socio-cultural backgrounds and the literary ancestries but also in their thematic preoccupations and literary style. Further, the responses of the diasporic writers to
are also varied and not always adulatory; they range from sentimentality and
nostalgia to a cynical celebration of their coming of age. However, their
diasporic condition, their sense of exile and alienation and their effort to
seek replenishment by making symbolic returns to their origins bind all this
writing into unity. India
The Indian diaspora is so widespread that the sun never sets on it, because it spans across the globe and stretches across all the oceans and continents. It is the third largest diaspora next only to the British and the Chinese. It is playing very significant role in various fields. The field of creative writing is one of them. Once upon a time people of the world were devouring the novels of Walter Scott and Charles Dickens; now, both the novel and the English language, have been enlivened in the hands of the writers of Indian diaspora -- M.G. Vassanji, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Rohinton Mistry, Bharati Mukherjee and Anita Desai.
In the Indian context, emigration has been a continuous process. It has been taking place for centuries. In pre-colonial times it was for the purposes of the trade and the propagation for religion. In the history of ancient
we come across accounts of the Buddhist bhikkhus who travelled into remote
corners of Central and Eastern Asia. To spread
the gospel of Buddha, King Ashoka sent monks to central and Eastern
Asia in the 3rd century B.C. In the 1st century A.D., during the
rule of king Kanishka, “Buddhism spread to southern India,
Eastern Iran, Central Asia, China,
Greece, Kandhar (now in Afghanistan), South East Asia and .”10
The famous Greek work Periplus of the
Erythrean Sea, a first century Greek guide for sailors, mentions Indonesia India's trade relations with Ethiopia, Rome,
Malay and . China
Maritime history of pre-colonial
India records evidence of continuous contact
between the kingdoms of the Coromandel coast and the islands of South-East Asia. According to Brian Harrison:
From at least the 6th century B.C. onwards Indian traders were sailing to those lands, and down through those islands, in search of gold and tin.11
Originally trade with South East Asia was caused by demand for spices, which sent Indian merchants as middlemen to Malaya, Java,
Cambodia and Borneo.
“The contact of the Palas with the Sailendra kings of
and the expeditions of the South Indian Cholas which vanquished the great
Indonesia Empire of Sri Vijay are repeatedly referred to by scholars.”12
Java was colonised by the Hindus between the 1st and 7th century. “The people
of Java came to share with the Indians their religions, languages, art and
architecture, their cultural mores, and legal and political ethos and forms.”13
This area was exposed to “the heaviest Indianization.”14 Brahmanical
and Buddhist influences spread through the intervening cultural areas to
islands of Borneo as well as Mindanao and the Vaishyas in the Indonesia .
They gradually penetrated even to the northernmost Philippines .
“There are traces of Indic influence in the languages, literature and social
customs in the island of Luzon .”15 Philippines
In Indo-China the kingdoms of Fu-Nan, Champa, Kamujadesha (
were greatly influenced by Indian culture and civilization. From the beginning
of the Christian era, the Indian merchants and adventurers, princes and
priests, spread the Indian language and literature, religion and philosophy,
art and architecture, customs and manners in these countries. The Indian
settlements had been widely spread all over the region by the beginning of the
Christian era. Later they grew into small kingdoms. Within two to three hundred
years nearly the whole of Indo-China and Indonesia, comprising Burma, Siam,
Malay Peninsula, Cambodia and Annam in the mainland and the islands of Sumatra,
Java, Bali, Borneo, Celebes and perhaps many others were dotted over with such
kingdoms and settlements. Some of these kingdoms like those of Fu-Nan and
Champa grew very powerful. “These contacts lasted for more than a thousand
The trade with
East Africa, however, lead to a permanent
Indian settlement there. McNeill observes: “there is some reason to think that
a colony of Indian merchants lived permanently in
from about 500 B.C.”17 At the time of Alexander the Great (356-323
B.C.) Indians settlements were in existence in the North Eastern Africa. It is
said that following the suggestions of Aristotle once Alexander conquered an Memphis, Egypt named Socotra. In
those days Indians were living there. island of North Eastern Africa
The Venetian traveller Marco Polo has a word of praise for the Gujarati and Saurashtrian merchants on Africa's east coast whom he considers as the best and most honourable that can be found in the world (Travels of Marco Polo written in 1260 A. D.). Vasco de Gama touched East Africa on his historic voyage to
He reached Malindi in 1497 A.D. and found Indian merchants in India Mozambique, Kilwa and . Mombasa
“Indian presence on the East African seaboard was quite substantial up to the beginning of the 16th century when the Western maritime powers arrived in the
The use of Indian systems of weights and measures and of Indian Cowries as
currency, a great demand for goods, all pointed to the fact that Indians were
playing a key role in the area.”18 These early migrants to East
Africa belonged mainly to small trading communities like the Ismailis, Bhoras
and Banyas of the Gujarat region. Their
counterparts covering Ceylon,
Thailand and Indonesia were mainly Nattukottai Chettiars of
Chettinad in the Tamil region of South India.
Before the Portuguese arrival in the Indian Ocean the merchants of Gujarat, Malabar, Coromandel and
Bengal looked to the east, to the Indonesian archipelago,
for direct voyages organised with their own shipping and capital. From the 16th
century the orientation was suddenly reversed and turned westwards, towards the
Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Hindu
merchants were to be found all through the Middle East
in the 17th and 18th centuries.
the sacred Hindu scriptures
prohibited crossing the seas. Thus there was no large-scale emigration until
the 19th century. Indian emigration during the 19th and early 20th centuries
was unprecedented. It was the European imperialist expansion that created
condition for emigration in large numbers. Due to this India India witnessed massive movements of people from
to other parts of the world. Broadly three distinct patterns of Indian
emigration are identifiable during the colonial period. They are: India
(a) Indentured labour emigration;
(b) Kangani and maistry labour emigration, and;
(c) Free or Passage emigration.
New plantations, industrial and commercial ventures in European colonies created the need for large supplies of labourer. With the abolition of slavery in the British, French and Dutch colonies respectively in 1834, 1846 and 1873, there was a severe shortage of labourers working in sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, and rice and rubber plantations in the colonies. To fulfil the enormous demand for cheap labour the colonial authorities introduced indentured system in
in 1834. Under this system
millions of indentured Indian labourers were taken to the various colonies. The
overwhelming majority of the labour emigrants were recruited from India North India.
Indenture was a signed contract to work for a given employer for five years. During this period the emigrant was entitled to receive a basic pay, accommodation, food rations and medical facilities. At the end of five years, the emigrant was free to re-indenture or to work elsewhere in the colony, and at the end of ten years, depending on the contract, he was entitled to a free or partly paid return passage to India or a piece of crown land in lieu of the fare. The prospective emigrant had to testify before a magistrate that he understood the terms of the contact. Unscrupulous methods were used to dupe ignorant country folks. Under this system only the young and physically fit persons were taken. The indentured were very rarely more than thirty years old. Majority of the recruits were young males. Females were few. “Although the government of
India, supported by the colonial office,
stipulated that there should be forty women for every hundred men, ships often
with less than this percentage.”19 “The shortage of women affected
both indentured and free labourers.”20 India
Indian labour emigration under the indenture system first started in 1834 to
Uganda and . Later
the labourers emigrated to Nigeria Kenya,
Tanzania, Guyana, New
Zealand, Hong Kong, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Grenada,
St. Lucia and St. Vincent
Natal, St. Kitts, Japan
and Surinam, Jamaica, Fiji,
Thailand. Under the indenture system some 1.5 million persons from various parts
of the country migrated. Canada
The indentureship was a new kind of slavery. Most of the immigrants under this system were the victims of deception subterfuge. Many Indians were lured to the city by the Arkatis (agents or labour contractors or middlemen) who promised them relief from the misery of their lives and substantial pecuniary gain; and indubitably many were kidnapped or otherwise tricked. Among many other reasons, it was the scourge of casteism, poverty, famine and social discrimination that compelled them to fall into the trap of the British and to travel in search of a better land. These ‘girmitiyas’, a corruption of the word ‘agreement’, were initially bound to serve for five years, it being understood that the planters would pay for their passage, and at the end of this term the indentured labourers were to receive their freedom. If they wished to do so, they could return to
expense of their employer, or they could settle in their new homeland, and gain
the rights accorded to free men or at least such rights as coloured people
could expect. The Europeans almost never adhered to these agreements. India
and Madras Indian men, and much
smaller number of women, especially in the first few decades of indentured
migration, were herded into ‘coolie’ ships, confined to the lower deck, the
women subject to the lustful advances of the European crew. Many Jehajibhai
(shipmates) as they called themselves did not survive the long and brutal
‘middle passage’; the bodies of the dead were, quite unceremoniously, thrown
overboard. The hardship of journey became a metaphor of their journey of life.
More cruelties awaited on their arrival to the plantation. The working day was
unduly long. The idea of a rest day was inconceivable. The labourers found
their movement severely curtailed. They were caged within the walls of
plantation. They were completely cut off from the main habitation. Discipline
was enforced with an iron hand. They lived in appalling conditions, in the
barracks and lines formerly inhabited by the slaves. When their indenture was
completed, some immigrants stayed on the plantation while others moved out into
the rural communities. They combined subsistence farming with wage labour.
However, most of these migrants and their descendants did not return home
though the indenture system was terminated in 1917 due to anti-indentureship
campaign by Indian nationalists. When the indentured system was brought to a
halt, nearly 1.5 million Indians had sold themselves into debt- bondage. Calcutta
With the loss of their home and absence of motherland, these Indians depended on the Gita, the Ramayana, the Hanuman Chalisa and the Mahabharata as Satendra Nandan explains:
We lived by such stories, our ancient epics- first our grandparents, then our mothers and fathers, now our political leaders. Our fate in
had echoes of the Ramayana:
exile, suffering, separation, battles but no return.21 Fiji
Very often they compared their exilic life with that of Ram's banishment from Ayodhya and thereby gave their act as something sacred and heroic. In
Trinidad and other island countries we find these Indian
celebrating Diwali, Ugadi, Holi and Thaipusam. Thus with her flora and fauna and
festivals largely loomed in the Indian communities’ imagination. Their preoccupation
with everything that is Indian gave them several names that had one thing
common to them, India .
Some of these names are: “Children to the India Ganges”,
“Forgotten Children of India” and “Empire's Banar Sena.”22 In their
displaced and homeless conditions it is their mother country that
became their source of consolation, identity and imaginary home. India
Another system prevalent to get the contract labour was Kangani system. “The Kangani system prevailed in the recruitment of labourer for emigration to
and Malaya.”23 The word ‘kangani’
is an anglicised form of the Tamil word ‘kankani’ meaning overseer or foreman.
The kanganis were Indians who were employed by the plantation owners to recruit
labourers in .
“They were men with some capital who advanced money to the prospective coolies
for travelling and settling down on a plantation.”24 A variant of
this system, called the ‘maistry’ (derived from Tamil ‘maistry’, meaning
supervisor) system was practised in the recruitment of labourer for emigration
to India .
It was more or less similar to the kangani system. Under these systems the
kangani and maistry recruited families of Tamil labourers from villages in the
erstwhile Madras Presidency. In contradictions to indenture labourers, coolies
under these systems were largely free. They were not bound by any contract or
fixed period of service. “During the period 1852 and 1937, 1.5 million Indians
went to Burma Ceylon, 2 million to
Malaysia and 2.5 million to .”25 After
1920 the kangani system of labour recruitment discontinued due to fall in
demand for the Indian labour. Burma
cease after the abolition of indenture and other systems of organised export of
labour. Emigration to East African countries namely India Kenya,
Uganda and Tanzania, Natal ( South Africa), Burma,
Malaysia and during the
late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries present a third pattern: ‘Free’
or ‘Passage’ migration. Under this pattern trader, artisans, bankers, petty
contractors, clerks, professionals and entrepreneurs emigrated. Though
initially indentured labourers from Fiji India
were brought to East Africa to build the Mombasa railway, most of the present
Indian population of Kenya, Uganda and arrived after the
railway-stimulated opportunities for trade and industry. Unlike the indentured
labourers who belonged to mainly lower castes, the traders belonged to the
upper castes. They included Baniyas from United Provinces, Marwari from
Rajputana; Chettiars form Tanzania Madras, Pathans from and Gujaratis
and Punjabis. These emigrants were not officially sponsored. They themselves
paid their ‘passage’ and they were free in the sense that they were not bound
by any contract. North West
A new and significant phase of emigration began after
became independent. The large scale and steady emigration of doctors,
engineers, scientists and teachers to the developed countries like Britain, the
USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is essentially a post-independence
phenomenon, and particularly so of the late 1960s and 1970s. This pattern of
emigration is often described as ‘migration of talent’ and ‘brain drain’. Those
who migrated during this phase held from urban middle class families and were
well educated and professionally trained. They formed the new Indian diaspora
and maintained a close ties with the places of their origin. India
The emigration of skilled and unskilled Indians on a large scale to the West Asian countries is also a post-independence phenomenon. The demand of the expatriate labourers rapidly increased in the oil exporting countries of the Gulf and
North Africa. Thus during the 70s and 80s there was
unprecedented immigration to the Gulf due to the oil boom. “There were only
14,000 Indians in the Gulf in 1948.”26 “By 1971 their population had
risen up to 40,000.”27 Presently, Indian population in West Asian
countries is vast.
Now, latest type of emigration is in process. Under this type the software engineers, management consultants, financial experts, media people and other professionals are migrating to the developed countries. They are considered to be the cream of
. They are
very mobile and keep very close contact with India in terms of socio-economic
In many diasporic situations, especially in multiethnic polities and where the people of
numerically significant, the question of their image and identity has been
critical. In the colonial phase, the British stereotyped Indian emigrants as
‘coolies’. Even when the upwardly mobile Indians became professionals, the
prefix ‘coolie’ was always attached to their professional designation. In South
Africa M. K. Gandhi was often called ‘the Coolie Lawyer’. Similarly, the
traders of the East African coastline were called ‘passage Indians’. “The
meaning was that they were travellers, sojourners, not settlers or immigrants.”28 In the literature
on the subject we also come across references to such expressions as ‘East
Indians’, ‘Girmitiyas’, and ‘the Asians’. What gives a common identity to all
members of Indian diaspora is their Indian origin, their consciousness of their
cultural heritage and their deep attachment to India . India
1. John Docker, The Poetics of Diaspora (
Continuum, 2001), p. vii. London
2. Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (
: UCL Press), p. 26. London
3. Steven Vertovec, “Three Meanings of Diaspora: Exemplified among South-Asian Religions”, Diaspora, Vol. 6 (3) (1997), p. 277.
4. Gabriel Sheffer, ed., Modern Diaspora in International Politics (London: Croom Helm, 1986), p. 39.
5. Khachig Tololyan, “The Nation State and its Others: In Lieu of a Preface”, Diaspora Vol. (1) (1991), p. 4.
6. William Safran, “Diaspora in Modern Societies: Myth of Homeland and Return”, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies (spring 1991), p. 83- 4.
7. Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (London: UCL Press, 1997), p. 26.
8. James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (London: Harvard UP, 1997), p. 251.
9. Nicholas Van Hear, New Diasporas (London: UCL Press, 1998), p. 6.
10. Jyoti Barot Motwani, “Early and Classical Overseas Overtures of
Global Indian Diaspora: Yesterday, Today
and Tomorrow, ed., Jagat K. Motwani (New York: Global Organisation of
People of Indian Origin, 1993), p. 119. India
11. Brian Harrison, South-East Asia: A Short History (
, 1966), p. 10. London
12. Hugh Tinker, The Banyan Tree: Overseas Emigrants from
(London: OU Press, 1977), p. 1. Bangladesh
13. B. D. Arora, “Indians in Indonesia”, Indians in South-East Asia, ed., I. J. Bahadur Singh (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1982), p. 119.
14. Quaritch H. G. Wales, The Making of Greater
A Study in South-East Asian Cultural Change ( : 1951), p. 195. London
15. Ajit Singh Rye, “Indians in the Philippines”, Indian in South-East Asia, ed., I.J. Bahadur Singh (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1982), p. 144.
16. V. M. Reddi, “Indians in
and Their Problems”, Indians in South-Asia, ed., I.J.
Bahadur Singh (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1982), p. 155. Indo China States
17. William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1963), p. 210.
18. Niranjan Desai, “The Asian Influence in
East Africa”, Global
Indian Diaspora: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, ed., Jagat K. Motwani (New
York: Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, 1993), p. 119.
19. J. Geoghagan, Note on Emigration from
1873), p. 49. Calcutta
20. Brinsley Samaroo, “Two Abolitions: African Slavery and East Indian Indenture ship”, India in the Caribbean, ed., David Dabydeen and Brinsley Samaroo (London: Hansib Publishing Ltd., 1987), p. 30.
21. Satendra Nandan, The Wounded Sea (Australia: Simon and Schuster, 1991), p. 88.
22. Satendra Nandan, Lines Across Black Waters (Adelaide: The Centre for Research in New Literature in English, 1997), p. 10.
23. R. Jayaram, Cast Continuities in
A Study of the Social Structure of Three Tea Plantations (Bombay: Popular
Prakashan, 1975), p. 6. Ceylon
24. Ravindra K. Jain, South Indians on the
in Malaya (New Haven: Yale UP, 1970), p.
25. Kingsley Davis, The Population of
(Princeton: Princeton UP, 1951), p. 104. Pakistan
26. C. Kondapi, Indians Overseas, 1838- 1949 (Madras: OUP, 1951), p. 528.
27. Hugh Tinker, The Banyan Tree: Overseas Emigrants from
(London: OUP, 1977), p. 12. Bangladesh
28. Ibid., p. 3.