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Indian diaspora in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is a French territory in the West Indies and is host to about 55,000 people of India origin, mainly Tamil Diaspora

By Sudheer Naik

Guadeloupe is situated in Northern Caribbean and is a French speaking Island. In mid 1860’s, around  45,000  people  were  brought to this Island  by  French government  from  south India  as  human  resource for working  in  Sugar plantations.

When the British government adopted a policy against hiring people from other territories, the French government immediately stopped bringing people from India. Due to this, Indians had to face a lot of hardship and  around  9000 people  left the island through 28 ships .But  hundreds  of  them  had to  stay  back either to start a new life or was because their bond documents  were  burnt  by their officials so as to make them stay in the Island.  Indians who  became  businessman and  land  owners  chose  to  stay  back.

When Indians were brought to the Guadeloupe Island they were forced to speak in French and English irrespective of their mother tongue. They were also forced to change their names and convert their religion to Christianity. Those who refused to do so were sent to prison. Finally, a treaty was signed for overseas citizens of India between the French government and Indian government which was a relief and would benefit the Indians on the Guadeloupe island by reducing their hardship to

In 1904, Henry Siddamborom filed a law suit demanding french citizenship for Indian workers in Guadeloupe. He was an employee of Basse-Terre organization and was the defender in the case. He fought for the rights of Indians against French government. The case lasted for 20 years and the judgment was in his favor.Finally french citizenship was issued to the Indians in Guadeloupe Island. Every year the anniversary of  Henry Siddamborom is celebrated by Indians and he was considered has “Gandhi of  Guadeloupe.”

Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe has a total population of about 400 K (400,000) and approximately 55,000 may be people of Indian origin, or Indo-Caribbean. In Guadeloupe most of the Indians are of Tamil origin and the Island is one of the largest Tamil bearing population in Caribbean. There are several assosciations formed by Indo-Guadeloupe to promote Indian culture.  Among these associations the largest association consists of 300 members and 2000 associates.. This association is named as L’ACGAI (Association Culturelle Guadeloupéenne des Amis de l’Inde (The ACGAI ,i.e., Guadeloupe Cultural Association of Friends of India ) and was established in 1971. You may visit its Facebook page here and website here.

Association Les Amis de l'Inde
Association Les Amis de l’Inde

Indian origin Guadeloupe people have shown increasing interest to re-discover and re-cover their Indian history, heritage and culture.

As a part of this Hindu temples were built across the Guadeloupe and they started studying their own language to safeguard their culture and traditions. Indians in Guadeloupe are so remarkable that even though their languages were abolished by the french government they were able to maintain their culture, tradition and religion. They celebrate all types ofI ndian festivals such Diwali, Pongal, Mela and god of coolie is also celebrated.

A temple in Guadeloupe. Image source: FB page of Association Les Amis de l'Inde
A temple in Guadeloupe. Image source: FB page of Association Les Amis de l’Inde

In 2011, contacts were established by Indians to the people of Guadeloupe by sending  Minister of Overseas Indian affairs  Vayalar Ravi. Michel Narayninsamy,president of Guadeloupe Global people of Indian Origin (GOPIO) stated that desertion and segregation  are still continuing even after 158 years.

Sudheer can be reached via Twitter @sudheer96283369

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