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Gandhi of Guadeloupe: Henry Sidambaram

The revolutionist who helped Indians acquire a french citizenship in Guadeloupe, Henry Sidambarom.

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a picture of the beauty of the island.

By Megha Sharma

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Guadeloupe, a French colony, lies in the south of Caribbean islands and is a group of Islands. The cause of freedom accelerated in the beginning of 20th century. All the colonies understood the need of an identity for them. Where Mahatma Gandhi became the catalyst of a successful freedom struggle in India, the widespread migration caused a lot of chaos.

The migrations initially were to earn a livelihood, which was becoming difficult in their own land. The primary occupation of being a farmer had no hope for their future survival because of the recurring draughts and even some colonial impositions on the lands. Thus, rather than owning a land they felt migration to be a better choice. However, the reality was too hard to gather. They not only had to undergo an identity-crisis, but they were asked not to even perform any religious or cultural activities of their land.

A similar story seems to inhabit this Island of Guadeloupe. A decline in the plantation productivity was seen after the abolition of slavery in 1848. Thus after 6 years, about 40,000 people were migrated to this land after a positive response of the work of Indian labours in the south-western Indian Ocean areas. A large number of these were from the South- Indian region and were bonded in a 5 year contract, after which either they could return to their origins or undertake another assignment.

Sir Henry Sidambarom
Sir Henry Sidambarom

The scenario was such that the first generation of these refugees saw themselves being devoid of any cultural background. One of these first generations is Henry Sidambaram. He was born in Capesterre-Belle-Eau of Guadeloupe and was denied the status of being the Mayor by his own party who considered his Indian origins to be a threat. It was an absurd thought for him as they were neither Indians nor did they receive any concrete French identity.

This made him later take an initiative to restore the long lost individuality. He wanted to demolish the refugees’ being in a no man’s land, devoid of a background, culture and selfhood. He triggered a lawsuit in this light to attain a French citizenship to all Indians there. He volunteered himself as a lawyer. A long battle of around 19 years (1904-1923) took him to victory. Later, in 1946 France declared the Island as a part of it, though not a Schengen entity.

He is considered a pioneer in the socio-cultural history of Guadeloupian Indians. So much so that today he is considered equivalent to Gandhi for them. In 2013, his 150th anniversary was celebrated, commemorating his significant role in establishing this movement of acquiring a citizenship and was also rewared with the Félix Eboué Prize.

an image of the ceremony that took place in 2013
an image of the ceremony that took place in 2013

This is what his granddaughter said about his contribution:

“On the death anniversary of my grandfather, Henry SIDAMBAROM whom I knew well, (I remember like it was yesterday) that day a huge crowd had gathered in the Rue de la Liberté outside his house.His body was greeted by a eulogy delivered by Mr. Auguste SAINTE-LUCE deputy mayor of Capesterre Belle Eau. Today I have an affectionate thought for my grandfather, and I am very touched by your loyalty to his memory…….The creation of the Committee Henry SIDAMBAROM whose brother is President JACQUES SIDAMBAROM helped perpetuate the memory of this great man. I hope that in the future, his ideas survive and continue on their way just as a grain thrown to the ground winds, seed, shoot, and generates harvests.

Thank you!

Camille SIDAMBAROM” (translated text)

Without him, Indians would have long forlorn in the alien cultural baggage given to them and of which they couldn’t be a part.

Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her Masters in English and has also done her studies in the German Language.) Email: loveme2010@gmail.com. Twitter @meghash06510344

  • sudheer naik

    Henry Sidambarom has fought for the rights for Indians in Guadeloupe.without him Indians in Guadeloupe would have suffered a lot

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Survey Says More Than Half of The Indians Talk to People With Opposing Views

The fieldwork was conducted from November 26-December 7, 2018

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Multiple apps are displayed on an iPhone in New York.. VOA

Amid allegations of “intolerance” of diverse opinions in the country, a new survey for the BBC’s Crossing Divides season has found that 56 per cent Indians profess to have conversations with people with opposing views on issues like politics, climate change, immigration and feminism at least once a week.

Further, 42 per cent urban Indians polled said that they felt comfortable sharing their political opinion with others even if they have a contrary view to theirs, showed the results on Tuesday, making India the fourth country with such a large proportion of population that feels at ease with political viewpoints.

The other three markets endorsing this view were Turkey (61 per cent), Mexico (45 per cent) and South Africa (43 per cent), according to the survey conducted by market research firm Ipsos.

At the bottom of the heap were Japan (seven per cent), South Korea (27 per cent) and Italy (28 per cent).

“The study shows that Indians are taking the opposing views in their stride and have figured out a mature way of dealing with them by avoiding direct confrontation,” Parijat Chakraborty, Head of Ipsos Public Affairs, Ipsos India, said in a statement.

The study, however, also showed that 43 per cent self-righteous urban Indians believe that those who oppose their views care less about India’s future.

But only two in 10 Indians (22 per cent) feel that people’s divisive views on politics are dangerous for the society.

Just as social media companies have come up with transparency rules for political ads, they should have similar features for influencers so that people can distinguish between commercial space and personal space. Pixabay

Nearly 70 per cent of urban Indians believe that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are giving a voice to people who would not normally take part in debates and social issues.

Further, 63 per cent Indians credit social platforms like Facebook and Twitter for breaking down barriers between the public and those wielding power.

“Also, majority of Indians exhort the merits of social platforms as interactive mediums. Downside being, social platforms are denounced for being divisive though,” Chakraborty added.

Also Read- Air Pollution Kills Around 6 Lakh Children Every Year, Claims UN

While 43 per cent Indians hail the positive impact of immigration on India, 20 per cent hold the contrary view, the results showed.

The findings were part of a global study carried out online among adults under 65 across 27 countries. Nearly 20,000 adults participated in the survey.

The fieldwork was conducted from November 26-December 7, 2018. (IANS)