Anniversary of the arrival of Indian immigrants in the island of Guadeloupe
GOPIO GUADELOUPE with the support of GOPIO INTERNATIONAL and local authorities had organized the remembrance days from May 29 to June 1 2014 in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean in the memory of Indian immigrants who arrived on the island 160 years ago. Delegations of GOPIO from Mauritius, France and Reunion came to participate in festivities and
celebrations organized by the local chapter of GOPIO.
For many of the Invitees, it was discovery of a new, remote Caribbean island where people speak French but with Indian names like Ramssamy, Narayanansamy, etc. The conferences and commemorations were synchronized in accord with the memory of their ancestors who came from India and their living conditions. At the abolition of slavery in 1848, Indian indentured workers were recruited by the French colonial masters and they were taken to various French colonies, including Guadeloupe in the years 1854-1888. They had been recruited to work in the sugar cane fields and to facilitate the day-to-day life of the imperials of the époque.
The events organized are full of emotions and sadness; while remembering that our ancestors come so far from their homeland to work, with the hope of a better life. For the majority of them, the life was very difficult in particular because of the long and painful maritime transport conditions and little consideration given to them as a human being on board these ships and their mistreatment continued even after their arrival in the Island.
Thanks to the initiatives of GOPIO GUADELOUPE, and its members, who gave the opportunity to the Persons of Indian Origin of Guadeloupe to highlight besides to better know and include/understand their origins through the event “Remembrance Days”. The various events organized on the occasion included a conference-debate and of an exhibitions on Mahatma Gandhi on the themes of the ‘relevance of Gandhi in the modern world” and “Gandhi, life and message”. The exhibitions were organized to inform the local populations about the life and principles of of this great man who devoted his life to the human cause and more particularly to the greater comfort of the Indians. His ideas and messages are even more relevant nowadays; they continue to be the engine many actions across the world and a model for many great contemporary figures.
The conference-debate, chaired by Mr. Mahyendrah Utchanah, Former Minister with the Government of Mauritius and present Chairman of GOPIO INTERNATIONAL, and Armoogum Parsuramen, former secretary general of UNESCO, former adviser in the World Bank and former minister with government of Mauritius, drew up an assessment of these 160 years of Indian presence in Guadeloupe and its prospects for the future.
The overall program, with several interesting and diverse activities, was organized by Gopio Guadeloupe, led by Mr. Michel Narayaninsamy, President of GOPIO Guadeloupe. This program in the memory and commemorations which made it possible to pay homage to the men and women of Indian origin who came to this island many years ago.
Thursday May 29, in Saint Francois: The first day of the Remembrance Day started with homage to the father of our nation, by paying respect to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The event was held in the presence of dignitaries of GOPIO from around the world and a large participation from the local population as well. A ceremony was also organized to honor the memory of our ancestors in front of the Memorial constructed for the arrival of the first Indian immigrants in the island.
Quatre Chemins, Petit Canal: GOPIO GUADELOUPE, in association with Organization PADMA, gave homage to the arrival of first immigrants in the city. The event was marked by emotional speeches by eminent orators of Association PADMA and GOPIO in front of the memorial of the city.
CWTC, JARRY: An exhibition on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, entitled ‘Gandhi: Life & Message’, was organized at this prominent place and included large posters and photos depicting the important dates in the life of the Mahatma and his teachings to the world.
The event was followed by a conference debate organized by GOPIO Guadeloupe with the theme of “Relevance of Gandhi’s message with the present world” chaired by Mr. Mahyendrah Utchanah, Chairman of GOPIO INTERNATIONAL, and Armoogum Parsuramen, Chairman of GOPIO Francophone International with an active participation of the locals. A debate of high quality included an exchange of ideas with the local population who seemed to be very interested by the discovery of the ideas of Gandhi and the Indian culture.
Friday May 30, Capesterre-Belle-eau: The day started with the opening of the exhibition “Gandhi, Life and Message” and continued with a visit to the region Basse-Terre. Our delegation was then received by the local mayor and his deputy, following the welcome address by the Mayor’s office, A message of His Excellency, Mr.Arun K.Singh, The Ambassador of India to France was read out by Mr. Etienne Dubaille, Secretary GOPIO FRANCE METROPOLE. A visit was also organized to the site where a memorial in the memory of the first Indian immigrants to Guadeloupe is to be set up. On the occasion, GOPIO FRANCE METROPOLE and GOPIO INTERNATIONAL collectively pledged to help financially a part of the memorial construction in the city.
The day continued with homage to Mr. Henry Sidambarom, son of an Indian immigrant, who fought for his compatriots’ well being and their rights. He was imprisoned for his political battles but finally succeeded in obtaining French nationality and hence all the basic human rights and equal treatment for the Indian natives of the Guadeloupe, as well as the voting rights. In 1948, he was honored with a Legion of Honor, upon the initiative of the town council of Capesterre-Belleeau and the regional council of the Guadeloupe.
The day ended with the conference-debate on Gandhi, followed by the projection of a Tamil movie ‘VIDIYOUM MUN’ (Before Dawn) with sub titles in French, The projection was possible due to distribution rights given to one of the members of GOPIO FRANCE METROPLE.
Saturday May 31, Gosier, The delegation was received in Hotel “l’Auberge de la Vieille Tour” The conference and the exhibition on Gandhi and Indian culture was organized for the day with a question and answer session at the end of the exhibition.
Sunday June 1, Journey of the delegation started from the place called ‘Trois rivières’ towards ‘Terre de haut’ a local group of more than 300 peoples joined the GOPIO delegation by boat to reach the island of ‘Ile des saintes’ where a commemoration of the Memorial in the memory of Indian deportees was erected by the local administration. The delegation was received by the mayor and his officials and an elaborate ceremony was organized in front of the monument where few of the names of the Indian immigrants, who died in prison due to mistreatment and torture by the local government officials. A brief memoire on the incidents was recited by Mr. Jean Marie GOBARDAN Vice President of GOPIO GUADELOUPE, followed by the delegation’s speech and that of Mayor. On the occasion, the Mayor presented the ongoing project of the region and the implication of the local Indian community. Afterwards, a letter, sent by the Indian Ambassador to France, was read by Mr.Manimarane PONNOUSSAMY, Vice President GOPIO FRANCE METROPLE. The meeting ended with exchange of presents and memorabilia.
The ceremony ended with the Indian National Anthem. After this, the delegation, with a huge local participation, continued towards the Islet. The participants included a large number of youth and children. The delegation arrived on the small island called ‘Ilet à cabris’, where the workers recruited to replace the former slaves, coming from India and China were quarantined. It is to be remembered that many of them were kept there under miserable conditions and at least 35 of them were locked for insubordination and died under inhuman conditions. The delegation paid homage to all the Indian immigrants who perished on the island.
We thank cordially the local authorities and population of Guadeloupe for their warm welcome and hospitality and especially GOPIO Guadeloupe, led by the president Mr. Michel NARAYANINSAMY, for their work and the organization for this event. The special thanks goes to the team of GOPIO FRANCE METROPOLE led by its President Mr.Manibalane MANIVASAGANE for their active participation in organizing the event and also we want to thank all the delegates of GOPIO REUNION and GOPIO MAURITIUS and other country delegates who travelled to Guadeloupe especially for the occasion.
For any communications please write to:
Rajaram Mohan MUNUSWAMY