- Indians in Fiji
Infobox Ethnic group
population = 460,000
region1 = flag|Fiji
pop1 = 311,591(2007 census)
ref1 = [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Fiji population up 50,000 in 10 yrs|url=http://www.fijilive.com/news/show/news/2007/10/31/news5.html |work= |publisher=
Fijilive|date=31 October 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-04 ]
region2 = flag|Canada
pop2 = 24,441 (2004 figure)
ref2 = [ [http://www.migrationinformation.org/datahub/countrydata/country.cfm Migration facts, stats and maps] ]
region3 = flag|United States
pop3 = 30,890 (2000 figure)
ref3 = [ [http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/stp-159/stp159-fiji.pdf People born in Fiji] ]
region4 = flag|Australia
pop4 = 48,147 (2006 figure)
ref4 = [ [http://www.business.nsw.gov.au/aboutnsw/labour/C5_ethnic_diversity.htm Ethnic Diversity - Country of Birth of Residents 2006] ]
region5 = flag|New Zealand
pop5 = 37,746 (2006 figure)
ref5 = [ [http://www.stats.govt.nz/census/2006-census-data/quickstats-about-culture-identity/quickstats-about-culture-and-identity.htm?page=para009Master QuickStats About Culture and Identity] ]
region6 = flag|United Kingdom
pop6 = 5,571 (2001 figure)
ref6 = [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/born_abroad/countries/html/overview.stm British residents born abroad] ]
Fiji Hindi(lingua franca), Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu
Hindu(76.7%), Islam(15.9%), Sikh(0.9%), Christian(6.1%), Other (0.4%) [ [http://www.spc.int/PRISM/country/fj/stats/social/religion_stats.htm Population by Religion and by Race] ]
Indo-Fijians are Fijians who trace their ancestry to
India. They number 311,591 (37.6%) (2007 census) out of a total of 827,900 people living on Fiji. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Fiji population up 50,000 in 10 yrs|url=http://www.fijilive.com/news/show/news/2007/10/31/news5.html |work= |publisher= Fijilive|date=31 October 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-04 ] They are mostly descended from indentured labourers brought to the islands by Fiji's British colonial rulers between 1879 and 1916 to work on Fiji's sugarcane plantations. These were complemented by the later arrival of Gujarati and Punjabi immigrants. They have adapted to the new environment with changes to their dress, language and culinary habits, although they have maintained their distinct culture. The Fiji Indians have fought for equal rights, although with only limited success. Many have left Fiji in search of better living conditions and social justice and this exodus has gained pace with the series of coups starting in the late 1980s.
The arrival of Indians in Fiji
The first Indian in Fiji
Indians had been employed for a long time on the European ships trading in
Indiaand the East Indies. Many of the early voyages to the Pacificeither started or terminated in India, and many of these ships were wrecked in the unchartered waters of the South Pacific. The first recorded presence of an Indian in Fiji was by Peter Dillon, a sandalwoodtrader in Fiji, of a lascar(Indian seaman) who survived a ship wreck and lived amongst the natives of Fiji in 1813. [cite book |last=Davidson |first=J.W. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Peter Dillon of Vanikoro: Chevalier of the South Seas |year=1975 |publisher= Oxford University Press|location= Melbourne|isbn= 0195504577|pages = p. 31]
First attempt to recruit Indian labourers
Before Fiji was ceded to Great Britain, some planters had tried to obtain Indian labour and had approached the British
Consulin Levuka, Fiji but were met with a negative response. In 1870 a direct request by a planter to the Government of Indiawas also turned down and in 1872, an official request by the CakobauGovernment was informed that British rule in Fiji was a pre-condition for Indian emigration to Fiji. [cite book |last=Gillion |first=K. L. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Fiji's Indian Migrants: A history to the end of indenture in 1920 |year=1962 |publisher= Oxford University Press|location= Melbourne|isbn= 0195504526|pages = p. 3]
In January 1879, thirty-one Indians, who had originally been indentured labourers in
Réunion, where brought from New Caledoniato Fiji under contract to work on a plantation in Taveuni. These labourers demonstrated knowledge of the terms of the indenture agreement and were aware of their rights and refused to do the heavy work assigned to them. Their contract was terminated by mutual agreement between the labourers and their employers. In 1881, thirty-eight more Indians arrived from New Caledonia and again most of them left but some stayed taking Indian wives or Island women. [cite book |last=Gillion |first=K. L. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Fiji's Indian Migrants: A history to the end of indenture in 1920 |year=1962 |publisher= Oxford University Press|location= Melbourne|isbn= 0195504526|pages = pp. 68-69]
Arrival under the indentured system
The colonial authorities promoted the
sugar caneindustry, recognizing the need to establish a stable economic base for the colony, but were unwilling to exploit indigenous labour and threaten the Fijian way of life. The use of imported labour from the Solomon Islandsand what is now Vanuatugenerated protests in the United Kingdom, and the Governor Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon decided to implement the indentured labour scheme, which had existed in the British Empiresince 1837. A recruiting office was set up in Calcutta, followed by another in Madras in 1902. These offices were used to recruit labourers under the impression that Fiji was just over the horizon when in fact it was 1000's of kiliometers away. A lot of people were kidnapped and brought over with false documents while some came under their own will.
The "Leonidas", a labour transport vessel, disembarked at Levuka from Calcutta on
14 May1879. The 463 indentured servants who disembarked were the first of over 61,000 to arrive from the South Asia over the following 37 years. More than 70% were from the districts of eastern United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, such as Basti, Gonda, and Faizabad. Another quarter came from the emigration prone districts of Madras Presidency(now Tamil Naduand part of Andhra Pradesh) in South Indiasuch as [http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/Hazell91/Hazell91ch06.pdf North Arcot] , Chingleput, and Madras (now Chennai) (see Tamil diaspora).
There were smaller numbers from Punjab,
Kashmir, Haryana, and other parts of India.
Life during the indenture period
The contracts of the indentured labourers, which they called "girmit" (agreements), required them to work in Fiji for a period of five years. Living conditions on the sugar cane plantations, on which most of the "girmityas" (indentured labourers) worked, were often squalid. Hovels known as "coolie lines" dotted the landscape.
End of indenture
Public outrage in the United Kingdom at such abuses was a factor in the decision to halt the scheme in 1916.
Emergence of the Fiji Indian identity
After a further five years of work as an indentured labourer or as a "khula" (free labourer), they were given the choice of returning to India at the expense of the British government, or remaining in Fiji. The great majority opted to stay. After the expiry of their "girmits", many leased small plots of land from Fijians and developed their own sugarcane fields or cattle farmlets. Others went into business in the towns that were beginning to spring up.
The indenture system had two positive effects on subsequent generations. Firstly the need for people of different casts to live work and eat together led to an end of the caste system. Furthermore, shortage of females resulted in many marrying outside their caste. Another positive was the development of a new
koiné language, known as Fiji Hindiformed from the Hindi dialects of Eastern Uttar Pradeshand Bihar(mainly Awadhiand Bhojpuri). The language was further enriched by the inclusion of many Fijian and English words. The language is now the mother tongue of almost all Fiji Indians and is the lingua francaof not only all the Fiji Indians but also of all communities where ethnic Indians are in a majority.
Fiji Indians have little notion of their particular regional origins in India.
From the early 1900s, Indians started arriving in Fiji as free agents. Many of these paid their own way and had previously served in Fiji or other British colonies or had been born in Fiji. Amongst the early free migrants, there were religious teachers, missionaries and at least one
lawyer. The government and other employers brought clerks, policemen, artisans, gardeners, experienced agricultural workers, a doctor and a school teacher. Punjabi farmers and Gujarati craftsmen also paid their own way to Fiji and in later year years formed an influential minority amongst the Fiji Indians. [cite book |last=Gillion |first=K. L. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Fiji's Indian Migrants: A history to the end of indenture in 1920 |year=1962 |publisher= Oxford University Press|location= Melbourne|isbn= 0195504526|pages = pp. 130 - 131]
The name debate
Indians are defined by the
constitution of Fijias anybody who can trace, through either the male or the female line, their ancestry back to anywhere on the Indian subcontinentand all Government documents use this name. However, a number of names have been proposed to distinguish Fiji-born citizens of Indian origin both from the indigenous inhabitants of Fiji and from India-born immigrants. Among the more popular proposals are Fiji Indian, Indian Fijian, and Indo-Fijian. All three labels have proved culturally and politically controversial, and finding a label of identification for the Indian community in Fiji has fuelled a debate that has continued for many decades. Other proposed names have been Indian Fijian and Fiji Born Indian.
An Internet search using a popular
search enginefound 55,900 hits for "Indo-Fijian", 20,100 for "Fiji Indian", 24,700 for "Fijian Indian", 614 for Indian Fijian and 266 for "Fiji Born Indian".
Indians versus indigenous Fijians
In the late 1960s, the leader of the National Federation Party,
A.D. Patel, who used the slogan, "One Country, One People, One Destiny" suggested that all Fiji's citizens should be called Fijians and to distinguish the original inhabitants from the rest, the name " Taukei" should be used for native Fijians. There was widespread opposition to this from the native Fijians who feared that any such move would deprive them of the special privileges they had enjoyed since cession in 1874. The " Fiji Times" started using Fiji Islanderto describe all Fiji's citizens but this name did not catch on.
United States Department of Stategives the nationality of Fiji citizens as "Fiji Islander" and states that, "the term "Fijian" has exclusively ethnic connotations and should not be used to describe any thing or person not of indigenous Fijian descent." [ http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1834.htm U.S. Department of State ]
As the labels carry emotional and (according to some) politically loaded connotations, they are listed below in alphabetical order.
For a long time Fiji Indian was used to distinguish between Fiji citizens of Indian origin and Indians from India. The term was used by writers like
K.L. Gillionand by the academic and politician, Ahmed Ali. The late President of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, also used this term in his speeches and writings. The term was also used by the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma, Fiji's largest Christian denomination, which had a Fiji-Indian division.
This term has been popularized by the academic and former politician
Ganesh Chand[http://www.fijigirmit.org/i_ganeshfijigirmit.htm] , and a number of others.
This term has been used by such writers as
Adrian Mayerand Brij Lal. Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Fiji's Vice-President from 2004 to 2006, also used it in his speeches.
Political participation: early 20th century
The colonial rulers attempted to assuage Indian discontent by providing for one of their number to be nominated to the Legislative Council from 1916 onwards.
Badri Maharaj, a strong supporter of the British Empire but with little support among his own people, was appointed by the Governor in 1916. His appointment did little to redress the grievances of the Indian community. Buttressed by the Indian Imperial Association founded by Manilal Maganlal, a lawyer who had arrived in Fiji in 1912, the Indians continued to campaign for better work and living conditions, and for an extension of the municipal franchise; literacy tests disqualified most Indians from participation. A strike by Indian municipal workers and Public Works Department employees, which began on 15 January 1920, ended in a riot which was forcibly quelled on 12 February; Manilal, widely blamed for the unrest, was deported. Another strike, from January to July in 1921, led by " Sadhu" (priest) Vashist Muni, demanded higher rates of pay for workers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR), the unconditional return of Manilal, and the release of imprisoned 1920 strikers. The authorities responded by deporting Muni from Fiji.
Demands increased for direct representation in the legislature. In 1929, Indian immigrants and their descendants were authorised to elect three members to the Legislative Council on a communal roll.
Vishnu Deo, James Ramchandar and Parmanand Singhwere duly elected. Agitation continued for a common roll, which the colonial administrators rejected, citing the fears of European settlers and Fijian chiefs that a common electoral roll would lead to political domination by Indians, whose numbers were rapidly increasing.
Religious and social divisions: 1920 - 1945
Two major Hindu movements attracted widespread support in the 1920s, and relationships between Hindus and Muslims also became increasingly strained.
The Arya Samaj advocated purging Hinduism of what it saw as its superstitious elements and expensive rituals, opposed child marriage, and advocated the remarriage of widows, which orthodox Hinduism forbids. The Arya Samaj began by establishing schools and by using a newspaper of one of its supporters, the
Fiji Samacharfounded in 1923, to expound their views.
Shri Krishna Sharmatoured the country, promoting the education of women and the learning of the English language. More controversially, it called in 1929 for the forced conversion of Muslims to Hinduism. Legislators Deo and Singh were both Samaj activists. Deo was eventually arrested and forced to resign from the Legislative Council after making a public speech attacking traditional tenets of his own faith, ridiculing Hindu deities, and publishing extracts from the Hindu scriptures which the authorities considered to be obscene [http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2004/May/05-05-ana.pdf (source)] .
The traditional Sanatan Dharma, was more orthodox than the Hindu-reformist Arya Samaj. It affirmed traditional Hindu rituals, supported child marriage, discouraged the remarriage of widows, and adopted conciliatory policies towards Muslims.
Fiji Muslim Leaguewas founded in 1926. It defended the Muslim community against Arya Samaj attacks, and appealed to the British colonial authorities for help.
Divisions also arose between Indian immigrants and Fiji-born Indians, who later became known as "Fiji Indians" or "Indo-Fijians." A.D. Patel, who later founded one of Fiji's first political parties, the
National Federation Party, arrived in Fiji in 1928 and advocated unrestricted immigration. He was opposed by the Fiji-born legislator Parmanand Singh, who argued that immigrants came with skills that gave them an economic advantage over the locally-born Indian community. Moreover, Gujarati and Punjabi immigrants often failed to assimilate with the Fiji-born Indians, and persisted with castedistinctions that had been largely forgotten by the native-born community.
The onset of
World War IIin 1939 heightened divisions, not only between indigenous Fijians and Indians, but also between the native-born and the immigrants. The Arya Samaj-inspired Kisan Sanghcane growers association wished to defer any strike action until the end of the war, but Patel and some supporters founded the more militant Maha Sanghin 1941. A strike organized by the Maha Sangh in 1943, while World War II was at its height, embittered relationships between the Indian community and the colonial government, and also the indigenous Fijian community. Forty-four years later, this strike was cited by supporters of the military coup which overthrew a largely Indian dominated government, as grounds for mistrusting the Indian community. Some claimed that the strike was politically motivated, with Patel seeing it as a means to strike at colonial rule.
Developments since 1945
A post-war effort by European members of the Legislative Council to repatriate ethnic Indians to India, starting with sixteen-year-old males and fourteen-year-old females, was not successful, but reflected the tensions between Fiji's ethnic communities.
Differences between ethnic Fijians and Indians complicated preparations for Fijian independence, which the United Kingdom granted in 1970, and have continued to define Fijian politics since. Prior to independence, Indians sought a common electoral roll, based on the principle of "one man, one vote." Ethnic Fijian leaders opposed this, believing that it would favour urban voters who were mostly Indian; they sought a communal franchise instead, with different ethnic groups voting on separate electoral rolls. At a specially convened conference in
Londonin April 1970, a compromise was worked out, under which parliamentary seats would be allocated by ethnicity, with ethnic Fijians and Indians represented equally. In the House of Representatives, each ethnic group was allocated 22 seats, with 12 representing "Communal constituencies" (elected by voters registered as members of their particular ethnic group) and a further 10 representing "National constituencies" (distributed by ethnicity but elected by universal suffrage. A further 8 seats were reserved for ethnic minorities, 3 from "communal" and 5 from "national" constituencies.
Ethnic Indians outnumbered indigenous Fijians from 1956 through the late 1980s, but by 2000 their share of the population had declined to 43.7%, because of a higher ethnic-Fijian birthrate and particularly because of the greater tendency of Indians to emigrate. Emigration accelerated following the coups of 1987 (which removed an Indian-supported government from power and, for a time, ushered in a constitution that discriminated against them in numerous ways) and of 2000 (which removed an Indian Prime Minister from office).
Political differences between the two communities, rather than ideological differences, have characterized Fijian politics since independence, with the two communities generally voting for different political parties. The National Federation Party founded by A.D. Patel, was the party favoured overwhelmingly by the Indian community throughout most of the nation's history, but its support collapsed in the parliamentary election of 1999, when it lost all of its seats in the House of Representatives; its support fell further still in the 2001 election, when it received only 22% of the Indian vote, and in the 2006 election, when it dropped to an all-time low of 14%. The party currently favoured by Indians is the
Fiji Labour Party, led by Mahendra Chaudhry, which received about 75% of the Indian vote in 2001, and won all 19 seats reserved for Indians. Originally founded as a multi-racial party in the 1980s, it is now supported mostly by Indians.
Impact of the Church and religious/ethnic politics
The Church plays a major role in Fiji politics. [ [http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=52499 Let us pray, churches say] , Fiji Times Online, November 29, 2006] Often some leaders appeal to Fijians addressing them as "Christians", even though Hindus are 33% of the population in Fiji, compared with 52% Christians. [ [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1834.htm Background Note: Fiji] , Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, September 2006, U.S. Department of State] The
2000 Fijian coup d'étatthat removed the elected PM Mahendra Chaudhry, was supported by the Methodist church. [ [http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?id=18901&op=read Fiji military dismisses GCC and Methodist support for reconciliation bill] , Radio New Zealand International, August 25, 2005]
Some Methodist Church authorities have continued to advocate the establishment of a Christian state. In a letter of support from the then head of the Methodist Church, Reverend Tomasi Kanilagi, to George Speight, the leader of the May 19, 2000, armed takeover of Parliament, Reverend Kanilagi publicly expressed his intention to use the Methodist Church as a forum under which to unite all ethnic Fijian political parties. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2003/23828.htm International Religious Freedom Report 2003] , Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State] The Methodist church also supported forgiveness to those who plotted the coup in form of so called "Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Unity Bill".
In 2005, Methodist church general secretary Reverend
Ame Tugaueargued that practice of Hinduism and other religions should not be guaranteed in law:
:"Sodom and Gomorrah were only destroyed after the Lord removed the faithful from there and not because of a few would we allow God's wrath to befall the whole of Fiji. It was clearly stated in the 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses that Christians were not allowed to worship any other gods and not to worship idols. One thing other religions should be thankful for is that they are tolerated in Fiji as it's naturally a peaceful place but their right of worship should never be made into law." [ [http://www.christianaggression.org/item_display.php?type=NEWS&id=1112408217 christianaggression.org] , extract from Fiji Times, March 27, 2005]
Following the military coup which deposed the government of
Laisenia Qarase(which was widely regarded as unsympathetic to Indian interests), Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatuof the Fiji Council of Churches and Assembly of Christian Churches has stated that the coup is "un-Christian" and is "manifestation of darkness and evil". He claimed that "52% of Fijians are Christian and the country's Christian values are being undermined." [ [http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200612061204/fiji_military_monitoring_the_media Fiji military monitoring the media] , Radio New Zealand, December 6, 2006]
Indo Fijians are concentrated in the so-called Sugar Belt and in cities and towns on the northern and western coasts of
Viti Levuand Vanua Levu; their numbers are much scarcer in the south and inland areas. The majority of Indians are Hindi speakers, with large minorities speaking Bhojpuri, Urdu, Tamil, Bihari, Gujarati, and Punjabi, among others. Almost all Indians are also fluent in English, and in the younger generation, English appears to be gradually replacing Indian languages.Fact|date=March 2008
According to the 1996
census(the latest available), 76.7% of Indians are Hindus and a further 15.9% are Muslims. Christians comprise 6.1% of the Indian population, while about 0.9% are members of the Sikhfaith. The remaining 0.4% are mostly nonreligious.
Hindus in Fiji belong mostly to the Sanatan sect (74.3% of all Hindus); a minority (3.7%) follow
Arya Samaj. There are smaller sects, as well as numerous unspecified Hindus, comprising 22% of the Hindu population. Muslims are mostly Sunni(59.7%) or unspecified (36.7%); there is an Ahmadiyaminority (3.6%). Indian Christians are a diverse body, with Methodists forming the largest group (26.2%), followed by the Assemblies of God(22.3%), Roman Catholics (17%), and Anglicans (5.8%). The remaining 28.7% belong to a medley of denominations. There is an Indian Division of the Methodist Church in Fiji. About 5000 Indians are Methodist. [ [http://www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/wc_fiji03.pdf Methodist Church In Britain ] ] They are part of the Methodist Church in Fiji and support the position of the Methodist Church in Fiji, [ [http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=53198 Pray, Indian Methodists urge - Fiji Times Online ] ] rather than the rights of Indians.
Former Prime Minister Chaudhry has expressed alarm at the high rate of emigration from Fiji, especially of Fiji-Indians, and also of educated indigenous Fijians. "If the trend continues, Fiji will be left with a large pool of poorly educated, unskilled work force with disastrous consequences on our social and economic infrastructure and levels of investment," he said in a statement on
19 June2005. He blamed the coups of 1987 for "brain drain" which has, he said, adversely affected the sugar industry, the standard of the education and health services, and the efficiency of the civil service.
Fiji Indians face major obstacles when it comes to health. They are often cited in research articles as a group that has a higher than normal prevalence rate of Type 2 diabetes. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3867/is_200703/ai_n19432253 Ethnicity, Type 2 Diabetes and Migrant Asian Indians] , Indian Journal of Medical Research, March 6, 2007] They share a close genetic make up with other ethnic Indians, which also means that they share the same risks as well. Ethnic Indians have high levels of insulin resistance, which in turn puts them at risk of Type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular diseases are also high amongst Fiji Indians. [ [http://www.fijiancircle.com/health.html Health Issues Affecting Fiji Indians] , FijianCircle.com, June 1, 2008] This is due to both a high fat diet, which is common amongst this group, and a very sedentary lifestyle.
South Indians in Fiji
Gujaratis in Fiji
Sikhs in Fiji
Hinduism in Fiji
Arya Samaj in Fiji
Islam in Fiji
* Non-resident Indians (NRI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)
* [http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2006/April/04-27-ft2.htm The Continuing Exodus of Fiji Indians]
* [http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/inscr/mar/chronology.asp?groupId=95001 Chronology for East Indians in Fiji]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE7DE1F3EF93AA15754C0A96E948260 Why inject Peace Corps teachers into the ethnic arguments roiling Fiji?] New York Times, July 29, 1988
* [http://www.frommers.com/destinations/fiji/0208020416.html Article from Fromers]
* [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fj.html The CIA World Fact Book - Fiji]
* [http://www.fijigirmit.org/history.htm Girmit History (on Fiji Girmit.org)]
* [http://www.tamilnation.org/diaspora/fiji.htm Tamils in Fiji]
* [http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=110 "Fiji Islands: From Immigration to Emigration"] ,
Brij Lal, April 2003, on the place of Indo-Fijians in Fiji, and their high rate of emigration.
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