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The Migration to the Caribbean

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Introduction

The British territories between the years 1834 to 1838 experienced abolition of slavery trade. For this reason, many people for example the sugar planters, went to seek cheap and available labour from the freed slaves. The slaves themselves who were mostly from the Indian origin were forced to develop a migration scheme that made them move to Mauritius from India. This happened in the beginning of 1834 whereby the planters who were situated in the Caribbean migrated too. The first Indian migrants settled in the British Guyana whereby in they moved to Trinidad in 1845[1].

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 The migration to the Caribbean was intense that led to them coming up with an indenture system to settle them. This entailed recruitment of labourers from areas such northern and southern part of India. The indenture stated that one was to work in the foreign plantation on a contract that would last for about five years. The owner of the plantation was to provide wages, housing and medication for the labourers.

The labourers had also to be assured that they would either fully or partly return to India. In 1917, the indenture system which was mainly to control migration ended whereby 2.5 million Indians had already settled abroad as labourers. Very few of them returned to India1. The movement from India to Trinidad really affected the people of India and Trinidad in terms of social and economic lives. There were a lot of changes in both the Indian and the original people of Trinidad. The immigrants from southern India mostly settled in Trinidad, Guadalupe and Guyana. Those who came from northern India settled in Dutch and Britain1.

Socio-economic changes

The people of India are characterised by the caste system which is simply a class system. According to their traditions, there is no way one can move from one caste to another. Thus the recruiters, who were used by the owners of the plantations, used this as an excuse to get the indentured labourers. Those who were in the low caste, experienced hard economic and were socially segregated from the rest. This made them to move to the Caribbean in search of a better life. More so, the north India was facing a lot if problems like poor land tenure systems, famine, failure of the textile industry, high rates of unemployment and generally economic instability. All these factors affected the decisions most Indians of all caste made in joining the indenture labour system[2].

The Indians who moved to the foreign plantations moved as families. Once they were in the plantations the different families came together as one and this made them to form a homogenous culture, religious and social background. More so, due to the colonisation they had faced form the British; they had changed some of their social and cultural beliefs. For instance, they role of women in society changed, the structure of the kinship system, leisure activities, economic structures, social networks, and most of all the existence of inter-race relationships. There were inter-marriages between the Indians and Chinese, Africans, and the Europeans. The indenture labour system led to the vast change in the caste and the Hindu traditions. This is so because the fact that they all found themselves working in the foreign plantations despite the caste made them to identify with one another. More so, they copied some of the lifestyles of the people in the Caribbean. The inter-marriages made them to adapt and leave some of their traditions too2.

They had many options after completing the five year contract. The indenture system allowed for the Indians to either return to their native homes partially or fully after working for five years. Those who had worked for five years and were now free from the contract decided to stay in the Caribbean. For this reason, they acquired land and a way to sustain their livelihood they became peasant farmers. The freed Indians now simply practised agriculture all over the Caribbean. More so, they had the option of renewing the five year contract. Some had to acquire the subsidized land and thus practice agriculture[3].

The Indians social life was restructured due to the indenture system. This was because when they first arrived in the Caribbean, they were held in the depot for a while thus they had no choice but to interact with each other and form lasting relationships. This made them to have unity once they owned land in the Caribbean and practised peasantry. New boundaries were now formed among Indians in terms so social and cultural values. The boundaries revealed a huge difference between the Indians and the people of Caribbean who would later wish to join them. The caste system was also destroyed as some Indians arrived in the island without any family members. This made them to interact with each other forming new social entities that needed new cultural system for them to live in harmony. Though the caste system is very strong in determining how Indians relate, it was completely destroyed in Trinidad because of the need to leave together In addition, at the depot where they were held, the women were fewer than the men thus it led to many marriages due to women seeking protection from male advances they did not want [4].

The role of women in the society changed due to the movement to Trinidad. In the Indian traditions, women were considered as inferior to men, they were expected to stay home and give birth. A married woman was obligated to follow what her husband said and this led to a big line drawn between men and women. When they came to Trinidad, this socio-cultural concept changed and a woman had the freedom to leave a man who abused her. Men no longer controlled women as the women were fewer than the men thus they were forced to behave once they were in a relationship. Women had full control of their sexuality. More so, the movement from one relationship to another destroyed the concept of monogamy in marriages as a woman would have as many men as she wanted. Many social boundaries that existed before were destroyed. More so, laws of marriages were changed from common law to national law thus common law marriages were no longer recognised. With time though, the number of men increased almost reaching that of women. For this reason, the men attained their traditional roles of providing for their families forcing them to purchase land and become farmers within Trinidad[5].

The labour system also changed as neither caste nor gender was a determination of the labour power. Any one was allowed to own land or property as long as the five year plan had come to an end. There were some exceptions though as children were not given hard work. The children’s’ tasks were lighter and easier but as they grew older, they were introduced to harder task. In addition, the family was seen as an economic entity as it provided labour for both indentured labour and privately owned land by the free Indians. The family lived as one extended family and thus everyone had an equal opportunity to produce for it. The husband though was considered as the legal controller over the children and wife, had a harder duty as he was expected to work harder[6].

The religious system of the people who moved to Trinidad changed their religious culture. According to the religious system, parents were supposed to look for a marriage mate for their children. This changed as the children would find their own spouses without involving their parents. Moreover, parents accepted the children’s’ spouses. More so, traditionally, it was the woman who was in charge of ensuring that the Hindu religion continued and its culture was maintained. The fact that the traditional roles of women in the Indian society changed, so did they affect the religious cultures. Women took the new culture to religion. This made some of the practices to change in Hinduism. It should be noted that the movement to Trinidad and other areas in the Caribbean, made Hinduism to gain popularity among the Europeans, Africans, Chinese and the whole world in general. A unified form of Hinduism emerged in Trinidad. The successful adoption of Hinduism by the native people of Trinidad was due to the uniformity of the Indians despite their different geographical and caste backgrounds. The growth of Hinduism brought about pluralism in the practice of religion as there were Christians that they had to fight against. But as time went by, every one was given the freedom to choose the best religion for themselves.

Though at first they faced isolation due to the views people had towards them, they kept building their religion. The Christians viewed them as being idolatrous and very inferior because they were mere peasants and indentures. This made them to continue ganging up thus made places of worship such as shrines and temples. When they completed their indenture time, they moved to the villages that were near to the shrines and temples of worship[7].

Conclusion

 In conclusion, the caste system within the indo-Caribbean, no longer exists as it does not dictate on the economic, social and cultural entities. The sense of commonality was formed by withdrawing the caste system and thus saw the formation of one family in Trinidad. In addition, there was division of labour among the Indians in Trinidad. As mentioned earlier tasks were divided according to age or gender. Therefore there were vast economic, social and cultural changes due to the migrations of Indians to Trinidad.

References

Chatterjee S., 2001. Communication among Indians in the Caribbean; dialogue in indo-Trinidad between 1845 and 1917. pp. 205-224.

Gail P., 1999. The indentured labour system; the colonial oppression in the Indian system. Vol. 6, pp. 1-46.

Parbattie R., 2008. The indenture system of migration; the journal of sociological and criminology theory. Vol. 1, pp. 176-187.

Samaroo B., 2000. The movement of Indians to the Caribbean: the studies of Caribbean journal. Vol. 14, pp. 3-34.

Seecharan C., 2000. Shaping the Indo-Caribbean; the studies of Caribbean journal. Vol. 14, pp. 61-92.

[1] Samaroo B., 2000. The movement of Indians to the Caribbean: the studies of Caribbean journal. Vol. 14, pp. 3-34.
[2] Seecharan C., 2000. Shaping the Indo-Caribbean; the studies of Caribbean journal. Vol. 14, pp. 61-92.

[3] Parbattie R., 2008. The indenture system of migration; the journal of sociological and criminology theory. Vol. 1, pp. 176-187.
[4] Chatterjee S., 2001. Communication among Indians in the Caribbean; dialogue in indo-Trinidad between 1845 and 1917. pp. 205-224.
[5] Gail P., 1999. The indentured labour system; the colonial oppression in the Indian system. Vol. 6, pp. 1-46.
[6] Ibid., Gail 1999

[7] Ibid., Chatterjee 2001

 

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