Nearly 3% of the current population of Martinique comprises of Indians. Recently mayor of Saint Pierre, Christina Raffa, called a 3-day festival to commemorate the historical event and to thank the Indian indentured labourers who participated in the development of Martinique. It was the 163rd anniversary of their first arrival in Martinique on May 6th.
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- Martinique is one of the 18 regions of France located in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea and is an integral part of French Republic. It has an approximate population of 400,000 inhabitants and the official language is French.
- In the 19th-century, contract labourers were brought to French colonies from India. It was the time when there was a lack of labour force during 1848. More than 200,000 Indians were even brought to West Indies.
- 314 labourers landed for the first time at Saint Pierre in Martinique. Those indentured labourers were mainly from French occupied territories in south Asia such as Pondicherry, Chandnagore, Mahe and Karaikal. Some of them were even from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
- Most of the labourers were in the age group of 15 to 30. Sex ratio was 40:100 (i.e. 40 women per 100 men). Children were also transported as a part of family transportation. Indians were brought in the region to work on plantations with the promise that they will be back in India after their 5-year contract. However, that promise was never fulfilled. Some managed to return to their homelands while others stayed and became French citizens.
- Presently 3rd and 4th generations of these Indians are living in Saint Pierre. The place where the first 314 Indians landed back in 1848 was renamed as Place de I’Aurelie.
- Dhiraj Mukhia, First Secretary Affairs at the Indian Embassy of France, was also invited to that event. He mentioned that “it’s an extremely happy moment for all people of Indian origins here, that their history of their forefathers has been recognised. The biggest part of the Indian community lived in Saint Pierre.”
- Showing a keen interest in Yoga, the President of GOPIO (Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin), Martinique told that International Yoga day will be celebrated in June 2016 in Saint Pierre. It was also stated that a Yoga teacher from India will be called to help people of Martinique learn yoga.
- There was also a proposal suggested by GOPIO president of France, Mehen Poinooswamy, and Europe GOPIO International coordinator, De Pradip Sewoke, the representative of Indian embassy and Mayor of Saint Pierre for building an Indian Cultural centre in Martinique.
- The whole event ended with an Indian cultural dance show and with a lot of lively stands in markets selling Indian goods and products.
Prepared by Pritam
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