The Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad (ARSP) proposes to set up a GIRMITIYA STUDY & RESEARCH CENTRE at the Pravasi Bhavan. The idea is to conduct a series of studies into the history of all those countries which came under the footprint of colonial rule. More than two dozen countries can come under the ambit of this study which will throw light on the rich and gripping tales of men and women who made sacrifices so that their children could prosper today. GSRC will be working as a department of the ARSP engaged in promoting the studies on the Indian Diaspora with special reference to the GIRMITIYAs, as the indentured labourers were commonly addressed.
India is probably the only country in the world with strong footprints in practically all parts of the world for the longest period of time and almost continuously.
While life itself is a spiritual journey, physical journey has been an essential part of the Indian life for centuries. The spiritual masters of ancient India undertook long and arduous travels into distant lands while the Buddhist monks made forays into unknown and inhospitable terrains across the Himalayas and into distant lands across the sea.
During the colonial period, Indians, mainly from the Northern and Central parts of the country, now known as Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as also from South India, travelled to unknown lands as indentured labourers, what has now come to be known as “GIRMITIYAs”. The word itself is a much transformed form of the word “agreement”, for; it was on a very biased apology of an agreement that these unlettered poor peasants were sent to far off lands by the British, French and other colonial powers.
These poor and the woebegone GIRMITIYAS had a Midas touch. Wherever they went, with their sheer dint of hard work, sweat and toil they converted the arid lands of their adoption into virtual heavens, a rich and flourishing economy. Out of nothing the GIRMITIYAS created a new world, a new civilization and prosperity.
But all through these toiling centuries, not once did they forget their motherland, its rich culture and traditions, the beauty of its language and the richness of its customs. Today it is a matter of pride that these lands of their adoption are some of the best governed and most peaceful of places ably governed by the offspring of the very same GIRMITIAS who went there as indentured labourers.This is what must have prompted the first Prime Minister of Mauritius Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam to say, “Our ancestors came in difficult circumstances. They had no weapon with which to fight for their rights. They suffered a great deal. They toiled in the fields like beasts of burden. They let their bodies languish but they kept their heads high”.
There is urgent need to study as to how they toiled, how they lived and died, and above all how they managed to ‘keep their heads high’. It is because of them that we in India are able to keep our own heads high. A fitting tribute to these GIRMITIYAS would be to tell their story to the world and inspire a whole new generation.
The objectives of GSRC -
To conduct and promote research on the origin and status of the Indian Diaspora all over the world.
To conduct, promote and assist in conducting research on the origin, status and situational analysis of the indentured labourers (GIRMITIYA) in the countries of their adoption.
To develop awareness among the Indian Diaspora and the stake holders in India and abroad on the challenges and potential of the Diaspora.
To study subjects covering a vast area of the India Diaspora such as the indentured laborers, the early settlers, the industrial migrants, the professionals and the modern day Indian-transnational endeavors.
To study the social, cultural, economic and political impact of the Diaspora on the countries of their adoption.To conduct studies on the policies, laws and statutes in India and other countries which affect the Diaspora in general and the Indian Diaspora in particular.
To work towards strengthening Diaspora linkages and create networking among the Diaspora and also provide a platform for activities to promote such networking.
To promote “Know your roots” project and/or any other related project/s of the ARSP and the Union and State governments, as also the governments and non-profit organizations in other countries.
To conduct seminars, meetings, discussions, roundtable conferences and publish and assist in publishing magazines, journals, research papers and carry out all such activities with a view to promote the aims and objectives of the ARSP, and the GSRC set up under the aegis of the ARSP.
- Girmitia Study & Research Centre proposes to start the following programmes with respect to migration of GIRMITIYAS from Bihar during the indentureship period.
To compile comprehensive data base of migration of GIRMITIYAS from Bihar during the indentureship period.. This data will serve as reference for all research projects that may be undertaken subsequently
- To celebrate ‘Bihar Divas’ in various countries which witnessed emigration of Girmitiyas from Bihar during the indentureship period. To start with, each year one of such countries, like Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago etc., will be chosen to celebrate the ‘Bihar Divas’. The idea is to reach out to the descendents of Girmitiyas in these far off countries who are not able to visit India. The focus will be on acquainting them about the socio- cultural heritage of Bihar and to create awareness about the economic potential of resurgent Bihar.
- To undertake a study to explore the potential of engaging with descendents of Girmitiyas from Bihar in mutually beneficial manner. And to promote cultural exchanges and tourism between Diaspora countries and Bihar.
- Presently MOIA, Bihar Government and ARSP are pursuing ‘Know Your Roots’ programme independently and therefore its popularity and effectiveness is less than desired. A concerted programme to create synergy among these agencies will be started so that all the stake holders may benefit from the programme. It will strengthen the Emotional Quotient of Descendents of Girmitiyas by connecting them to the land of their forefathers and, at the same time, give them an opportunity to contribute towards Socio Economic development of their forefathers’ native places.
- To start a library having books, journals and other literature related to Indian diaspora and also literature by Girmitiyas and their descendents.
- To start an exhibition centre having pictures, photographs, artifacts, musical instruments and other belongings of the Girmitiyas.