THE INHERITANCE: THE INDENTURE EXPERIENCE – A BRITISH COLONIAL BLEMISH OR BLESSING
Chapter 4 The Indenture System: Transplanting of Indian Peasants
This chapter analyses the Indenture System that began on the back of the American slave trade. The transplantation of illiterate and rustic peasants caught in the web of push factors such as famine, draught, unemployment, the designs of the recruiting agents to fill the quota for the colonial planters, particularly the scarce commodity of single females, and their arduous journey to colonial outposts is a poignant, pulsating story of human endeavour and survival. In spite of the transgressions, the recruits for Fiji enjoyed comparatively better conditions. The author blames the sensitive public opinion in India and the conservative sections of the Indian National Congress for the premature end of the Indenture System that curtailed the growth of Indian Diasporas.
Chapter 5 Dark Shadows of the System
In spite of the positive attributes, the system had several ghosts in its cupboard. The chapter describes the scourge of the indenture. These were the excesses of the recruiting regime, the treacherous passage to the sugar colonies, the fragility of the female genre and the inclusive format of the ‘girmit’.
Chapter 6 The Indian Indenture in Fiji – ‘Girmit’
The chapter describes the pros and cons of the Indenture experience and pinpoints the collateral advantages for the Indian peasants on the lines of the Salisbury Despatch of 1875. The Indenture System at least provided an avenue for the displaced and poverty-stricken peasants to gain a measure of wealth and political influence unheard of in rural India. In this context, the rural citizenry of India perceived the ‘girmitiyas’ (indentured labourers) and their descendants as ‘Aryan Avatars’.
Chapter 7 Post-Indenture Political Awakening
In the post-Indenture period, the ‘girmitiyas’ branched out in agricultural and artisan pursuits and laid the foundation of the prosperous sugar industry in Fiji. Their descendants goaded by the new band of Indian missionaries, artisans and lawyers began to clamour for socio-economic and political rights that pushed the Fiji Indians in a dominant position in the post-Independent Fiji. Their passage to ascendancy, strewn with internecine conflicts ignited by immature nascent leaders, ended in a political disaster in 1987. The Indians failed to cut their umbilical cord with India and in the process were isolated from the military, an important plank of power. Socially, unlike other sugar colonies such as Mauritius, Trinidad, Guiana and Surname, Fiji Indians maintained their cultural moorings and developed their own koine language, ‘Fiji Hindi’. With the emphasis placed on education, the descendants up scaled the communally inclined native Fijians. The social distance and economic disparity between the Indians and the Fijians did not auger well for the nation.