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Aspects of Fiji Indian History, 1879-1939: A Society in Transition: II

Ahmed Ali
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 12, No. 43 (Oct. 22, 1977), pp. 1821+1823-1830
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4366042
Page Count: 9
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Aspects of Fiji Indian History, 1879-1939: A Society in Transition: II
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Abstract

Following an agreement between the colonial governments in India and Fiji, Indians were indentured to work in the sugar plantations and mills which were started in Fiji by the Australia-based Colonial Sugar Refining Company from 1879 onwards. This migration of Indian labour to Fiji went on uninterrupted till the end of 1919 when, following nationalist pressure in India, it was stopped from the beginning of 1920. The Indians in Fiji had to live and work in extremely harsh conditions; yet by far the majority of these labourers made Fiji their home, even when they had an option of being repatriated to India at the cost of the government at the end of their contracts. This article presents a historical account of the migration of Indian labourers to Fiji, the conditions of their life and work, and the impact the new environment had on the traditional attitude towards caste, religion, language, etc. It traces the gradual transformation of traditional Indian society and the growing diversification of the occupations. The major part of the paper deals with the struggles launched by the Indians for economic and political rights, including the right to adult franchise, and the attempts of the colonial government to contain these demands. The article is published in two parts. The first part appeared last week. This, the second part, describes the prolonged struggles of the Indian labourers with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the gradual politicisation of the struggle. The last section traces the actual political struggles that culminated in the constitutional settlement of 1937, which still fell far short of Indian aspirations.

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