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 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.
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.
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