In the globalized world today, the Indian Diaspora is an undeniable fact. Indian Diaspora is playing a bigger role today in transnational economic and cultural changes. If history of diaspora is to be traced, it can be said that ‘the cradle of diaspora lies in Indian Diaspora’. Indian Diaspora has a long history of struggle and success. They have transformed themselves from ‘labours’ to ‘merchants’, the transformation culminating into becoming Head of State.
To the date, the migration from India can be characterised as -
• Merchants who went to East Africa or South East Asia before 16th century.
• Migration of various groups (Traders and Famers) to neighbouring countries i.e Sri Lanka and Nepal.
• Indentured labour to colonial states like the Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius and other colonies.
• Migration of skilled worker to the developed countries after Second World War.
• Migration of the contract workers to the Gulf Countries
• Last and the most recent, migration of the knowledge workers to the developed countries like USA,UK and Australia.
*Pre Colonial Emigration
In the context of Indian subcontinent emigration has been a continuous process from 1st century AD. Early emigration from India had its origin in Buddhist missionaries, when kingdom of the South East Asia attracted craftsmen from India during 16th century. One of the important reasons why Indians moved out in search of work and earning was the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean provided the best platform for the trade to develop, which eventually led the people to move out from the home and establish themselves in various parts of the world. Slowly and gradually they assimilated themselves with local population (Suryanarayan 2003).However to use ocean network for trade, the Guajarati merchants were the first to operate on these routes.
Colonial emigration from Indian Sub-continent started in mid-19th century, especially in the wake of imperialist expansion of the European countries. The abolition of the slavery system by British, French and Dutch in 1834, 1846 and 1873 respectively resulted in severe shortage of labour. The sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa and rubber plantations were left at God’s mercy for cultivation. The colonial masters needed the cheap labour, and for this they (masters) looked to the Indian sub-continent. The colonial government imported the Indians’ under the designation “indentured labour”. Indentured labour system was a contractual agreement for workers/labours who were permitted the passage to foreign land and employment in that country under specific terms and conditions, usually for 5 to 10 years.Indian labour emigration under indenture system first started in 1834 to Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria. Later on they emigrated to Guyana (1838), New Zealand (1840), Hongkong (1841),Trinidad and Tobago (1845), Malay (1845),Guadeloupe (1854), Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent (1856), Natal (1860), St Kitts (1861) , Japan And Surinam (1872), Jamica (1873), Fiji (1879), Burma (1885), Canada (1904) and Thailand (1910). Under indenture system around 1.5 million Indians migrated. Indians worked hard to make the plantation business successful and were the back bone of economy of the host nation. During the colonial period Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai) were the chief points of embarkment .
The post-colonial migrants are the new Diasporas. They are popularly called NRIs. These new Diasporas have settled in mainly the developed countries like USA, UK, and Australia. They are basically from the field of computer engineering and software development. The difference between the old and new diaspora are that the new diaspora have maintained a vibrant relationship with the family and community in India, whereas the majority of old diaspora have lost contact.
Nowadays the concept of “twice migrants” has come into play in which people move from homeland to another country and then from that country to yet another one. This concept of twice migrants is active in countries like Fiji, Caribbean etc.
The Indian Diaspora is dynamic worldwide. It is desirable to look into the position of PIOs in the country of their adoption. What happens to their identity and security in the country of their adoption? They are proud of their identity and prosperity but they often suffer also. They need to work together with the people of different professions with internationally possible networks. In the post-cold war epoch, there are symbols of union among the Indian Diaspora. Nevertheless, these measures are considerably less than what is needed. It is motivating to keep in record that the interaction between the Indian Diaspora and the Indian Government has amplified manifold in the very last few years. Indian diaspora is spread over geographical region covering in as many as 110 nations such as Malaysia, South Africa, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand etc.