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The Legacy of Indian Indentured Labourers in Mauritius



  Jan 08, 2024

The Legacy of Indian Indentured Labourers in Mauritius



In “The Indentured and their Route,” Bhaswati Mukherjee delves into the British Empire’s ‘great experiment’ of indenture, a form of bonded labour that followed the abolition of slavery in 1833. This historical transition marked the beginning of a new form of servitude. The first ship from Kolkata arrived in Trinidad on 30 May 1845, carrying Indian immigrants and starting a significant chapter in history.

The book details the transportation of 1.5 million Indians to Mauritius and other countries for labor in plantations. These indentured workers, often illiterate, were deceived into signing contracts (girmits) and transported under false pretenses, believing they were heading to nearby locations like Tapas Island. Their real destination: distant lands for hard labor on plantations.

Mukherjee’s narrative emphasizes the cultural resilience of these laborers. Despite oppressive conditions, they maintained their cultural identity through language, music, and religion. Indian women, facing severe hardships and abuse, played a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage and passing it to future generations.

An interesting aspect highlighted is the large-scale immigration to Mauritius from various regions, including India, China, and Southeast Asia, between 1830 and 1910. This led to a significant Indian diaspora, influencing the cultural and political landscape of countries like Mauritius and Fiji.

The book also discusses the Apravasi Ghat in Mauritius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a symbol of these indentured workers’ struggles and histories.

Mukherjee’s work is not just a historical account but a narrative on the quest for identity and the complexities of cultural assimilation and preservation among the Indian diaspora. Her book is a critical contribution to understanding this often-overlooked chapter of colonial history and its lasting impact on the cultural and social fabric of nations.

SRIRAM’s


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