History of Indian Diaspora

The word Diaspora is derived from the Greek word “dia”, which means “scatter “or “dispersion.” Where large group of people with a similar heritage or homeland emigrate and settle beyond the boundaries of their homeland. Tinker (1977: 10) says, " there is a combination of push and pull: the push of inadequate opportunity and the pull of the better prospects.
Diasporas -- transnational communities created by emigration, very often forced emigration -- have a long history on Tripartite Alliance Earth as on the other worlds of the ITA. Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Africans, Chinese, Lebanese, Romani -- all of these communities, and more besides, constitute transnational communities in their own rights. The largest diaspora, though, counting more than 20 million members worldwide, is the Indian diaspora.
History of Indian Diaspora
In the study of Indian Diaspora, it is customary to distinguish between three main phases of emigration: "the ancient or medieval diaspora", "Overseas emigration in the nineteenth century" and "Twentieth century migration to industrially developed countries" (see Jain 1993: Contents). For analytical convenience, these could be termed the ancient, the colonial and the post-colonial phases of Indian diaspora. It is, no doubt, possible to identify overlaps between these two phases:
During the emigration period to plantation colonies the globalization of the Indian diaspora had already started. Jahaji bhai (ship brotherhood) and dipua bhai (depot brotherhood) the terms which was used for Indians were the strengthening factors and beyond caste, religion and language created a globalized feeling of being the Indian Diaspora (Gautam, 1999).
The emigration of Indians that began in the second quarter of the nineteenth century continued into the early decades of the twentieth century.

The trickle of emigration of Indians to the "industrially developed countries," which assumed phenomenal proportions in the post-colonial phase, could be noticed in the nineteenth century itself. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the distinctive nature of these three phases of migration, for their causes, courses and consequences. Studies on Indian diaspora have largely focused on one of the aforementioned phases. This is easy to understand considering the magnitude of the populations involved, and the variegated nature of their economic status and political predicament in different diasporic situations. Furthermore, some of these diasporic communities have been topical or their members themselves have begun manifesting an acute sense of "community self-awareness." Not less important, in many of these cases, archival records and other secondary data can be found with greater ease, and the conventional techniques of historical, anthropological and sociological research can be easily adopted.

Indian Diaspora in Ancient and Medieval Times

Ethnic Indians have established their communities on every continent and islands of Caribbean and Indian Oceans since the 19th century.
It should be emphasized, however, that the emigration of Indians has a much longer history than what the reference point of colonialism seems to suggest. In the history of ancient India, we come across accounts of the Buddhist bhikkus who traveled into remote corners of Cental and Eastern Asia. and a group of gypsies emigrated to northwest and Eastern Europe.

Narimsimhan et al. (2018) have found the existence of "Indus periphery" inhabitants living in Central Asia during the Bronze Age. They had migrated from the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Around 500 AD a group of Cholas, known for its great naval power emigrated to Southeast Asia and conquered Indonesia, Malaysia and kingdoms of Southeast Asia. The influence of Indian culture is still felt strongly in Southeast Asia.
Various Indian groups like Bhoras. the Banyas and the Chettiyars under the banner of Nattukottai Chettiyar Association (Tinker, ibid) had trade links with the East Africa. A Indian merchant colony in Russia in the 18th century reported the existence of Hindu traders.
"Indian Merchant Diaspora" (17th and 18th century) Indians migrated to Central Asia and Russia established their settlements and witnessed socio religious customs. In Astrakhan the Russia on the north east of Caspian Sea were big Indian bankers and trader’s community which lived in an enclave.
Maritime history of pre-colonial India records evidence of continuous contact between the kingdoms of the Coromandel coast and the islands of South-East Asia. The contact of the Palas of Bengal with the Sailendra kings of Indonesia and the expeditions of the South Indian Cholas which vanquished the great Indonesia empire of Sri Vijaya are repeatedly referred to by scholars (see Tinker 1977:1). Several elements of Hindu and Buddhist religion, mythology and culture have survived in South-East Asia, and most notably in Thailand and Bali (see Vincent Smith 1958). "Yet none of these contacts led to a distinctive Indian population overseas" (Tinker 1977:1). The trade with East Africa, however, lead to a permanent Indian settlement there. In a footnote, McNeill (1963:210) observes that "there is some reason to think that a colony of Indian merchants lived permanently in Memphis, Egypt from about 500 BC" (see also Sastri 1959). In the nineteenth century, when "European explorers like Burton first ventured into the interior [in Africa] they were guided on their way by Indian merchants" (Tinker 1977:2-3). These early migrants to East Africa belonged mainly to small trading communities like the Ismailis, Bhoras and Banyas of the Gujarat region. Their counterparts covering Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, and Indonesia were mainly Nattukkottai Chettyars of Chettinad in the Tamil region of South India. Research on the pre-colonial Indian diaspora is scant and sketchy. Even the available data are scattered in historical works. Documenting the sources of such data is necessary. With the help of historians compiling the basic research material on the subject may even be possible.

It is observed that a marginal peasants "...shifted their loyalties from one master to another and hence traveled from one region to another" (Jain 1993) even before the colonial indentured labor migration, " population mobility was inherent in the social order..." . Likewise, Indian diaspora of ancient times laid a foundation for future prospects with the beginning of European Colonialism

500 years of European colonialism to the world, which marks as one the most significant phase of Indian Diaspora too, in terms of the magnitude of emigration and its spread, the European colonization, marked by the penetration of mercantile capitalism in Asia is very crucial.

The British had strategic portions of India under their control by the end of the 18th century and gained control over more territory in the 19th century which was the beginning on colonial era. Since the 18th century Indians have been coming to the European countries either as visitors, emissaries or teachers. Indian ayas (nannies to look after the children), naukars (household servants), munshis (tutors) and laskars, (seamen) immigrated to Britain. When India was a colony of Britain, many Indians as a part of British Army have been brought to fight during World War I and World War II.

The British rule and its impact on the Indian peasantry and the consequent economic backwardness resulted in mass unemployment.
The phenomenal trade surpluses earned by the European mercantile class in the wake of geographical discoveries were invested in mines and plantations in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. This created an enormous demand for a cheap and regulated labor force. By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the demand for labor was accentuated by the ever expanding colonial economy, the growing opposition to slavery and eventually slavery saw an abolition by England in 1833, by France in 1848 and by Holland in 1863, and the inability of the European countries to meet the shortfall in labor by deploying their own labor force. A combination of factors made India (and China) an extant reservoir of cheap, docile, and dependable labor, especially to work on the plantations. Tinker (1993) provides one of the most comprehensive surveys of the emigration of Indian labor overseas during the colonial era. Broadly three distinct patterns of Indian emigration are identifiable in this period:(1) "indentured" labor emigration, (2) kangani and maistry labor emigration, and (3) "passage" or "free" emigration. The indentured labor emigration, so called after the contract3 signed by the individual laborer to work on plantations, was officially sponsored by the colonial government. It began in 1834 and ended in 1920. The overwhelming majority of the labor emigrants under this system were recruited from North India. These labor emigrants were taken to the British colonies of British Guiana, Fiji, Trinidad and Jamaica; the French colonies of Guadalupe and Martinique; and the Dutch colony of Surinam. The kangani (derived from Tamil kankani, meaning foreman or overseer) system prevailed in the recruitment of labor for emigration to Ceylon and Malaya (see Jayaraman 1975:6). A variant of this system, called the maistry (derived from Tamil maistry, meaning supervisor) system was practiced in the recruitment of labor for emigration to Burma. Under these systems the kangani or maistry (himself an Indian immigrant) recruited families of Tamil laborers from villages in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Under these systems the laborers were legally free, as they were not bound by any contract or fixed period of service. These systems, which began in the first and third quarter of the nineteenth century, were abolished in 1938. Emigration from India did not cease after the abolition of indenture and other systems of organized export of labor. There was a steady trickle of emigration of members of trading communities from Gujarat and Punjab to South Africa and East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), and those from South India to South East Asia. Most laborers emigrated to East Africa to work on the railroad construction. These emigrants were not officially sponsored: they themselves paid their "passage" and they were "free" in the sense that they were not bound by any contract.

Large scale emigration of Indians into far off lands was facilitated by the integration of peripheral economies into the emerging world capitalist system, the onset of a revolution in transportation and communication, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1986.

The Indian diaspora developed gradually during the 19th and 20th century when emigration of indenture and contract laborers, traders, professionals, students took place to the British, French, Dutch, Dane and Portuguese colonies in Asia Africa, Caribbean and Far Eastern countries. Today the emigrant Indians are termed as the "Old Diaspora".

During the colonial era India, was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.[4] In 1947, India gained its independence and was partitioned into the Dominion of India

Major Indian Populations Outside India(Compiled in December 2018)

Country Overseas Indian in 2018 Total national population as on 2018 Percentage of Indian population
UAE 3,104,586 31,528,033 10%
USA 4,460,000 327,096,265 1%
Malaysia 2,987,950 31,809,660 9%
Myanmar 2,008,991 53,708,320 4%
UK 1,825,000 67,141,684 3%
Australia 496,000 24,898,152 2%
Sri Lanka 1,614,000 21,228,763 8%
South Africa 1,560,000 57,792,518 3%
Canada 1,016,185 37,074,562 3%
Kuwait 929,903 4,137,312 22%
Mauritius 894,500 1,189,265 75%
Qatar 692,039 2,781,682 25%
Oman 689,145 4,829,473 14%
Singapore 650,000 5,757,499 11%
Trinidad & Tobago 556,800 1,389,843 40%
Bahrain 316,175 1,569,446 20%
Fiji 315,198 883,483 36%
Guyana 297,793 779,006 38%
New Zealand 200,000 4,743,131 4%
Saudi Arabia 2,814,568 33,702, 756 8%
 
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