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The Indian Diaspora in Jamaica

Jamaica, situated in the Caribbean Sea, is ranked high in terms of maintaining the Indian culture

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map of Jamaica, www.hercampus.com
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By Pashchiema    

History of Indian Diaspora in Jamaica

  • Jamaica is an island nation in the West Indies.
  • The Indian connection with Jamaica is 170 years old. The history of Indian Diaspora started with the arrival of over 36,000 Indians as indentured workers to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917. As the Indian labourers had proved their worth in Mauritius where the conditions were very similar, they were brought to Jamaica to work, mainly in sugarcane plantations as there was unavailability of workers after the end of slavery in 1830.
  • On May 10, 1845, the first ship, Maidstone, arrived at Old Harbour Bay carrying the first group of workers from India.
  • Although, many Indians were planning to return to India but the planters and the Indian government did not encourage the return of Indian workers. During a period of time they were not allowed to leave the plantations, on pain of fines or even imprisonment
  • Even though, majority of immigrants were Hindus but Non-Christian unions were not recognised until 1956 and hence many had to adopt Christianity.
  • The final group of workers landed in Jamaica in 1914 and over half of the Indians who had arrived till 1917 settled in Jamaica and gradually the Indian community began to develop.
  • The Indo-Jamaicans went into trading and setting up their small enterprises and over the decades accountants and managers were recruited from India to work in these enterprises.
  • The Indian community grew further as they started taking up jobs as Indian expatriates such as professors, managers, supervisors, doctors and many other professionals.

 

Jamaica is located in the West Indies. Wikimedia Commons
Jamaica is located in the West Indies. Wikimedia Commons

 Indians in Jamaica today

  • As most of the Indians are descendants of indentured workers, it has largely influenced the facets of farming, medicine, cuisine and politics.
  • Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the same way as it is celebrated in India. Every year in the month of October and November, houses are cleaned and brightly lit.
  • Today, 81,500 Indians live in Jamaica which constitutes about 3 per cent of its population of 2.7 million.
  • The Indian influence on Jamaican life can be seen in the traditional Indian foods such as goat curry, rice, roti and a variety of spinach called callaloo dishes which have a become part of the national cuisine.
  • Indian workers also introduced ‘Marijuana’ and chillum pipe into the island.
  • Indian jewellery, in the form of tortuously shaped gold bangles, have become common in Jamaica.
  • 10 May is now celebrated in the country as ‘Indian Heritage Day’ or ‘The Indian Arrival Day’ and ‘The Roti festival’ which accidently coincides with Mother’s Day and is engraved in the hearts of Indo-Jamaicans.

Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication. Twitter: @pashchiema5

 

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  • Shubhi Mangla

    Glad to know that Indians in Jamaica have integrated well into the Jamaican society while preserving their culture and religion

    • Pashchiema Bhatia

      Although many had to adopt Christianity under some circumstances but today most of the migrants are still rooted to Indian culture

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Glad to know that Indians in Jamaica have integrated well into the Jamaican society while preserving their culture and religion

    • Pashchiema Bhatia

      Although many had to adopt Christianity under some circumstances but today most of the migrants are still rooted to Indian culture

Next Story

Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean