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Newly arrived Indian labourers in Trinidad. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • The External Affairs Minister chaired the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Panel Discussion which documented the history of migration and achievements of Diaspora in Girmitiya countries
  • Girmitiyas’ is the name given to generations of all those Indians, who were driven out of their motherland to serve as indentured labourers in the British colonies
  • The history of migration and the tale of rising up to success from the pitiful conditions in the alien lands is an inspiring chapter of history that needs to be remembered

NEW DELHI, August 24, 2016: The External Affairs Minister chaired the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Panel Discussion VII in New Delhi on August 22, which documented the history of migration and achievements of Diaspora in Girmitiya countries. PBD is a conclave of the Indian Diaspora organised by the Ministry Of External Affairs. Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr V.K. Singh had opened the exhibition on documenting the history of migration of Diaspora in Girmitiya countries.

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‘Girmitiyas’ is the name given to generations of all those Indians, who were driven out of their motherland to serve as indentured labourers in the then British colonies of Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, the Caribbean Islands and many other colonies. The word ‘Girmit’ is a mispronunciation of the word ‘agreement’. But in this case, it refers to the agreement between the British and the Indian labourers that turned out to be a trap which resulted in an endless cycle of torture and suffering. To fight for their cause, Mahatma Gandhi coined the word ‘Girmitia’ and called himself ‘Pehla Girmitia’ or the first Girmitia.


Minister of State for External Affairs Dr V.K. Singh opens exhibition in New Delhi on documenting history of migration of diaspora in Girmitiya countries Image Source: mea.gov.in

The indentured labours had to live a life full of complete hardships. The food was rationed and they had to face imprisonment and sometimes even corporal punishment if they failed in the tasks that were allotted to them. When the so-called agreement expired, they were free to leave but at their own expense. As a result, many stayed back, slowly assimilating themselves into the local community and becoming part of the alien lands. The years of hard work in the barren lands and years of enduring the pain and poverty also produced results as they were blessed with prosperity and abundance.

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From whatever left, these people had tried to set up small businesses in the town. Those who fought against all the odds paved the path of relief for their descendants. Over time, some of them became the heads of the governments in those countries, representing the nation and becoming the symbols of triumph over all predicaments.

The history of migration and the tale of rising up to success from the precarious conditions in the alien lands is an inspiring chapter of history that needs to be remembered.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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