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South Indians of Fiji bound in their cultural shackles

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Although the data shows the first ship from Madras to Fiji namely the Elbe III reached Fiji on May 22, 1903, South Indians came to Fiji before 1903 as part of an indenture system, who are famously known for their spicy and delicious delicacies in their wedding ceremonies.

In Fiji, the Sangam has contributed to the Fijian society to a great extent, especially in the education sector. Speaking at the 2013 Annual Sangam Convention Jai Ram Reddy said: “Today Sangam runs 21 primary schools, five secondary schools and one tertiary institution, namely the nursing school in Labasa. Some 10,000 children attend Sangam schools which are open to students of all races without any discrimination whatsoever. Today you will find people educated in Sangam schools in all walks of life, in all profession and occupations.”

“Many have made a useful and significant contribution to our national life.”

This is the 90th year since the onset of the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam (TISI) which was formed on May 24, 1926, in Nadi. The Vision of TISI is: “To be a dynamic socio-economic, cultural and educational organisation developing its members to achieve Sangam aspirations through constant interactions and education”

Sadly, little interaction has been made with its members on language promotion of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam and its culture to some extent. Due to the Sangam School’s location among other factors like personal choices, not every South Indian in Fiji attends its schools. Thus, the promotion of culture and language is not to be restricted to Sangam schools only.

Due to the school’s lack of recognition among individuals as well families, the phrase of its mission which states: “To educate and inspire Sangam members to recognise their identity and contribute to the development of a dynamic society in its cultural heritage,” is rather arguable.

Often humoured about the culture and their accent, South Indians in Fiji are unable to handle the mockery. Lack of understanding their own culture also adds to it. This could be the fault of parents not forwarding the knowledge imparted from their ancestors or of Sangam for their lack of awareness generation.

There are evidence of people wanting to explore their culture but are unable to due to various obstacles involving mockery and under confidence. Young people desirous of maintaining the culture exist in this society who need the appropriate guidance to instill confidence in them.

Notably, in Fiji, writings in the newspapers are inclined towards one particular faith more than any other. Upon analyzing, no significant articles have been published on Hinduism continually, in the last three years. However, there is a certain faith writer seeming to have the blessings of the media since his articles find its way in the mainstream media for publication each week.

A few key things could be implied by this. Firstly, is it that we do not have capable writers to discuss on Hinduism or South Indian culture? Secondly, is it that the local media places emphasis on one religious denomination even though Fiji is a secular state?

The TISI needs to show its media presence and has constant interaction with its members in order to maintain its vision and mission. Acquiring media presence is also a significant way of promoting multiculturalism in a pluralistic Fiji.

Language and cultural preservation were one of the key reasons for the establishment of TISI. South Indian languages are apparently dying a slow death. The 2005 Annual Report (Clause 6.5) of TISI states, “Considerable difficulty is being experienced in this area (Language Development). Whilst our schools, especially primary schools, provide teaching of Tamil and Telegu in their school curriculum, however, there has been a general apathy from our members towards the teaching of these languages”.

The report further talks about the parent’s lack of interest: “This lack of interest from parents and children alike has led some school management to downgrade the importance of teaching these languages in schools managed by them. There are very few qualified teachers employed to teach Tamil and Telegu. Those teachers employed are paid very low salary”.

In 2005, it was revealed that in the 20 primary schools managed by TISI, out of the 4940 students, 1765 took Tamil classes and there were only 489 learning Telegu. The TISI, by updating its website, needs to show improvements or downfalls in language maintenance in order to analyse figures.

The South Indian community’s famous folk dance called “Ti-ri-ku-tu” which means stories from the religious books told through dance and song holds considerable significance during various ceremonies in Sangam temples.

However, its essence of imparting knowledge from epics such as Mahabharata, Ramayana is now restricted for entertainment purposes only. This can be the result of the present performers lacking clear pronunciation, speech delivery and their inclination towards Bollywood songs and satirical humour. Due to the migration of veterans who mastered in such art, the folk dance is presently dying a slow death. (The Fiji National University)

(picture courtesy: richardsonandcopp.com)

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US Government’s International Religious Freedom Report 2016 lists Growing Attacks on Hindus

The report lists growing number of attacks against Hindus in India as well as abroad

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Attacks against Hindus
International Religious Freedom Report. Facebook
  • On Tuesday, the US government released its State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016
  • The report lists the growing attacks against Hindus in India as well as abroad
  • Particularly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Malaysia, the attacks against Hindus is common

US, August 17, 2017: On Tuesday, August 17, the US Government released its State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR) for the year 2016. The report lists growing number of attacks against Hindus in India as well as abroad.

The report, released by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, particularly talks about the growing number of assaults on Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Furthermore, there were also mentioned incidents of assault against Sikhs in Denmark and France.

ALSO READ: 2017 Hindu Human Rights Report Released by Hindu American Foundation (HAF): Here is What you Need to Know!

Interestingly, the recent incidents of Gau Rakshaks of India are also presented in the report. It has highlighted the increasing attack against individuals from minority groups by cow-protection activists.

In Bangladesh especially, there has been a sharp increase in the attacks against Hindus who constitute the religious minority of the country. This can be attributed to the presence of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

The IRFR also reports an incident from October in Bangladesh. Over a Facebook post that some may find offensive to Islam, more than 50 Hindu families and over 15 Hindu temples were ruined by hundreds of villagers. This attack claimed the lives of 25 people.

The report has also recognized Pakistan government’s inability to help safeguard the rights of religious minorities, particularly Hindus. But a larger problem that exists in Pakistan is the forced conversions of Hindus and Christians.

ALSO READ: Forced Conversion of Hindus in Umerkot and Tharparkar Districts

There have also been offenses against the Sikh community present in France and Denmark. In France, Turbans are banned in schools, offices, and other public spaces. In Denmark, court judges are prohibited from wearing the turbans. These bans include the religious symbols as well as crucifixes.

In England and Wales, 1,055 crimes against other religions such as Hindus, Sikhs, and few Christians were recorded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the US government report.

From April-November 2016, eight Hindu temples were vandalized in Malaysia. Hindu leaders of the country have alleged that the police is ignorant of the problems.

US Government released its State Department's International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR) for the year 2016. Click To Tweet

Zakir Naik, controversial figure in India, was warmly received by the Malaysian government as Hindus protested his speaking tour. Zakir Naik’s speech is always intended to insult Hindus and promote extremism. Bangladesh, on the other hand, had banned Zakir Naik’s Peace TV Bangla as it was spreading extremist ideologies.

In Fiji, three Hindu temples were desecrated in 2016. In Mauritius, no religious violence took place despite the growing tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

This report by the US Commission has come under heavy fire from the Hindu American Foundation. The leaders of the foundation have asserted that the International Religious Freedom Report was outsourced to writer and activist Dr. Iqtidar Karamat Cheema than being written by the staff of the US commission. The Foundation’s allegations have raised questions about the nature of credibility of the commission.

Furthermore, the Foundation claims that the author has cited “alternative facts.” Also interesting to note is that Dr. Cheema has been honored by several Pakistani government bodies previously who has supported separatist agendas.

–  prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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Girmityas’ Legacy of Slavery: Indian Diaspora in Fiji Marks 100 years of Indian Indentured Servitude system

On 14th May of 1879, the British colonialists took the contracted laborers from India, transporting a mass segment of the population to the Fiji archipelago

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Indentured Laborers taken from India. Wikimedia

November 9, 2016: History says, the last ship that sailed from India was the ‘Sutlej V’- on 1916. It arrived in Fiji on 11th November. November 2016 marks the 100 years of the of British Indian Indentured Servitude system in Fiji. The arrival of the last Girmit ship ‘Sutlej-V’ from India to Fiji was at the Albert Park, Suva in Fiji on 9th November 2016

To mark the 100 years of Indian Indentured Servitude System, Indian Diaspora in Fiji organized amazing centenary celebrations today. This was followed by the police band of Fiji, who led a float procession. Needless to say, that the events and the functions have wonderfully served the purpose of the celebrations.

The Indo-Fijian community dates back its history to the time of 1879. That year marks the historic arrival of the indentured laborers from India to Fiji. On 14th May of 1879, the British colonialists took the contracted laborers from India, transporting a mass segment of the population to the Fiji archipelago. The first ship, “Leonidas”, hit the shores on Fiji and marked the beginning of a long period of heavy labor, struggle and unmentioned tortures!

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Albert Park, Suva, Fiji Islands. Wikimedia Commons
Albert Park, Suva, Fiji Islands. Wikimedia Commons

The system of bringing the laborers got popularized as ‘Girmits’, mispronounced from the original term “agreement”, which had the Indians bound in a contractual labor to the foreign lands under the British rule.

Fiji saw the arrival of total 87 voyages in between 1879 and 1916. The history of the Girmitiyas is well narrated in a documentary concerning the indentured laborers. ‘Calcutta to the Caribbean- an Indian Journey’, directed by Gideon Hanumansingh, portrays the plights of the Indians who got transported to the Caribbean and post the abolition of slavery, started working in the sugar plantations.

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Post the historical sail of the ship ‘Fatel Rozack’ that carried 217 Indian men and women and reached the port of Trinidad on 1845, the voyages followed and about 1, 43,939 Indian indentured laborers got shipped to Trinidad in the course of the next 72 years. The majority of the workers, that is 2, 40,000 were shipped to Guyana, 36000 to the land of Jamaica and smaller numbers of the population to Grenada, Martinique, St. Vincent and St. Lucia.

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The contract-bound laborers were taken from various states across the country that included- Bengal (through the port of Calcutta), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Oudh. In the earlier times of the transportation, laborers were taken from Chennai as well. The workers mostly belonged to Hindu faith and a few of them were Muslims.

History records the torture, struggle and the painful lives of the doomed laborers. A contract that got them cursed for lives. Their journey and their laboring period tell us a lot about slavery. The multiple numbers of voyages that carried the indentured Indians to the foreign lands are cataloged in history. The National Library of Australia holds the record of a proper catalog of the pass-numbers and the year and date of all the ships that carried the laborers. It includes names of ships like- Leonidas, Berar, Syria, Howrah, Ganges, Bruce, Allanshaw, Jamuna, Arno, Virawa, Sangola, Mutlah, Chenab, Sutlej and many more.

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Fiji to organise Concerts on Hindu Epic Ramayan: Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan fame actor Arun Govil to attend the event

Arun Govil, who played Lord Rama in the Hindu mythological television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo have collaborated to perform the concerts

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  • Arun Govil ,Sumeet Tappoo and leading musicians from Indian film industry likely to attend the event
  • The world tour will kick start at FMF Gymnasium in Suva on September 23, and at Prince Charles Park in Nadi on September 25
  • Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism

Sept 21, 2016:

“To be happy always is something which is difficult to achieve. That is to say, happiness and sorrow alternate in one’s life and there cannot be uninterrupted happiness alone.”

-RAMAYANA

Two concerts focussing on the Hindu holy text Ramayana will be held in Fiji by the end of September, this year. Popular Arun Govil of Lord Rama fame in the Dayanand Sagar’s television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo likely to have collaborated to perform in the concerts.

Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism and therefore a variety of Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali are celebrated here. Over time, Fijians have open-heartedly absorbed these Indian cultures and celebrate them with great enthusiasm and fervor.

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Hindu Holy texts- Ramayana and Mahabharata have entrenched a very important position in the lives of Fiji people, Hindu community in particular. The admiration for these Hindu epics have lead to a dedication through these concerts.

The concerts will feature  Ram Katha by Govil and a Bhajan Sandhya by Tappoo and Govil will also speak about the stories from the Hindu book and its relevance and message for modern society while Tappoo with six leading musicians from the Indian film industry will be singing devotional songs (bhajans).

Ramayan, where Lord Rama meets Bharata. Wikimedia

The source of entertainment for the people of Fiji are mainly Hindi movies and Hindi songs. A large number of video CDs, DVDs and cassettes of Hindi movies and songs are found in the common markets. Therefore it can be said that Indian Diaspora living in Fiji have found a home away from home.

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The duo will be going on the world tour at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva at 7:30pm on September 23, followed by the second concert at Prince Charles Park in Nadi from 6pm on September 25.

– by Yokeshwari Manivel of NewsGram