NEW! The Making of Indian Indentured Labour

Gaya Vaidyanathan's picture

With apologies for cross-posting:

Announcing a new episode of Scrolls & Leaves, a 3D-sound world history podcast, in collaboration with the Archives at NCBS and the Yale-Mellon Sawyer Seminar.
New Episode! A Gripping Saga of Indian Indentured Labour

Where to Listen: Podcast app: Click Here | YouTube: Click Here | Website: Click Here (use headphones for immersive sound)

When the British Empire abolished slavery in 1833, it found that African slaves would much rather not work on its colonial plantations — even for a salary. It had to find a new source of labourers and hired workers from India, Java, China and elsewhere. India, especially, was a major source as the nation was a British colony.

In this episode, we join Brij Lal, a renowned historian of the Pacific Islands, as he tells the story of Indian indenture and his scholarly research over many decades to understand the labourers, or "girmitiyas". Girmitiya stems from the word "girmit", or agreement. It refers to the agreement that the bonded labourers signed before being shipped to colonies.

Lal's grandfather Mangre Lal left India in his 20s for Fiji. His family eventually settled there, and like many Indo-Fijians, they retained a deep-rooted sense of Indian identity.

This episode also features interviews with Indo-Fijian poet Sudesh Mishra, and Indo-Fijian Australian standup comedian Umit Bali.

By the 1980s, Indo-Fijians had become entrenched on the island and were elected into the ruling party in 1987. But ethnic divisions resulted in multiple coups, and the descendents of the girmitiyas have struggled to find new homes.

We'd love to know if you have any feedback, and have other topics you think we should cover. You can read us at scrollsandleaves at gmail. Thank you for your attention!