The South Asian Times

21 May 2018 18:53 PM

NY consulate event commemorates abolition of indentured labor

By South Asian Times

New York: Among dozens of countries where Indian diaspora lives, Mauritius has a pride of place. People of Indian origin constitute nearly 70% of the island-nation’s population. At least 50% of them are Hindus. Multiple languages of the subcontinent are spoken in the country  situated in Africa.

The Indian Diaspora Council, a city-based nonprofit body, organized last week an event titled “100th Anniversary Commemoration of Abolition of Indian Indentured Labor” at the Consulate General of India.

Vishal Lutchoomun, a representative of Mauritius at the UN, traced the history of Indians in his native land since 1834 and their inherent bonds with the motherland.

“We have a vast majority of Mauritians whose origin is in India. Such languages as Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali are spoken, aside from English, French and Creole,” he said. “Cooli Ghat, which symbolically represents Indian indentured labor from India, is a landmark in our country. In 1987, it was declared a national monument.”

At the request of Indo-Guyanese luminary Pandit Ram Lall, present at the event, and others, Lutchoomun delivered a part of his speech in Hindi/Bhojpuri to the surprise of many in the audience.

Professor Marina Budhos, a noted historian and an award-winning writer on the diaspora, was another important speaker at the March 3 event. “My father worked here at this consulate shortly after Indian independence. His actual surname was Buddhu, not a great name. On the suggestion made by some, he changed the last name to Budhos and that’s how I became so,” the Indo-Guyanese recalled.

Dr Tyran Ramnarine, also from Guyana, studied in England and the US. He worked in  NYC Department of Education and is currently working on a book “Surviving on a Sugar Estate.” He said the British took over Bengal in 1757 and captured Delhi later.

“Well before independence, India had a share of 27% in global wealth. Shortly after 1947, it just had 3%,” the expert pointed out.

The Indian indentured labor spanned from 1834 through 1917, when it ended in most Britain-ruled countries, including South Africa where it was abolished in 1910. A larger four-day convention in this respect is scheduled to open on March 17 in Trinidad. Another one in New Delhi is planned next month.

Ashook Ramsaran of the diaspora council played a prominent role in organizing the New York event.

Update: 12 March, 2017