Session Report

Plenary IX: Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya countries: Link to past for a shared future

Chair:

  • Gen. (Dr) V K Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India

Session Coordinator:

  • Mr Ashok Das, Joint Secretary (LAC), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

Special Guest:

  • Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Culture and Arts, Mauritius
  • Mr Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (CPV&OIA), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

Panelists:

  • Dr Vishnu Bisram, Academic Specialist on the Indian Diaspora
  • Mr Mookeshwar Choonee, Ex-Minister of Art & Culture, Mauritius
  • Mr R Dayakar, Former Ambassador of India
  • Mr Ravindra Dev, Sanghachalak Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha
  • Prof. Ajay Dubey, EC Member & Academic Coordinator ARSP
  • Mr Krishan Lal Jumna Gokool, President, GOPIO South Africa
  • Mr Munish Gupta, Journalist-turned media and social enterprise entrepreneur
  • Mr Maurits S. Hassankhan, Senior Lecturer, Anton de Kom University
  • Mr Kantilal Jinna, Chief (National) Librarian, Government of Fiji
  • Mr Narayan Kumar, Director & Convenor, Diaspora Affairs Committee of ARSP
  • Mr Mohit Prasad, Professor of Pacific Literature, Film Diaspora & Postcolonial Studies, University of South Pacific
  • Mr Bindeshwar Ram, Former Director & CVO, Indian Council of Historical Research
  • Mr Jean Regis Ramsamy, Journalist and Writer       

The Context

The session was designed to focus on the opportunities to connect overseas Indians in Girmitiya countries with India and its culture and heritage, and discuss ways to document history, achievements and contributions of overseas Indians in Girmitiya countries. The deliberations also touched upon how the Diaspora integrated with the local communities.

Recommendations & Action Taken

The PBD 2016 Conference titled “Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya Countries: Link to past for a shared future” organised on August 23, 2016, in New Delhi, attended by domain experts from the Diaspora, stakeholders and policy makers, identified a range of areas to engage with Indian Diaspora in the Girmitiya countries (Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago). The session was chaired by Ms Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister, Government of India.

Mr Ashok Das, Joint Secretary, Government of India, presented the recommendations made at the PBD 2016 Conference on connecting contemporary India with the Diaspora in the Girmitiya countries:  

  • Research and document the history of Girmitiyas with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, taking the lead role in this.
  • Books on Girmitiyas to be compiled at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (PBK) and a research scholar to be appointed at PBK.
  • Building of joint Diaspora plaques at the ports of departure or ports of arrival in India and Girmitiya countries to commemorate the journey of the Girmitiyas.
  • India could help Girmitiya countries with transfer of knowledge and skills in IT, training, and scholarships for the Diaspora youth.
  • Cooperation in sports like cricket and hockey.
  • Make a common documentary on Girmitiyas.
  • Establish a Centre of Excellence in IT and building academic linkages.
  • Digitise the records: Government of India to support the ongoing project that is led by Mauritius with focus on inter-linking the databases of all 53 countries of the Commonwealth.
  • To authenticate the documentary records, a Life Memory Recording (LMR) could be used to record Girmitiyas stories.
  • Introduce an alternative certification as proof in the application for OCI cards.
  • Create a common “who`s who” directory for all Girmitiya countries with information on eminent persons in the field of politics, education, others.
  • Build a narrative showcasing the achievements and strengths of Girmitiyas.
  • Establish PIO villages in the southern, central or eastern parts of India.
  • Department of Diaspora Studies could be started in various universities.
  • Establish a Diaspora TV/ radio channel.

Among the actions being taken on the recommendations, Mr Das said the Government is considering sending an expert to Mauritius to study the digitisation of documents. He urged the delegates to contribute relevant books to the collection of books on Girmitiyas available at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi. Government is also planning to appoint a research scholar at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra to research the history of Girmitiyas. In addition, Government has reached out to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Hockey India to come up with proposals on promoting the two sporting disciplines in the Girmitiya countries. Initiatives are underway with regard to making a documentary on Girmitiyas.

Plenary Session & Q&A

Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister for Culture and Arts, Mauritius, said that India should look to leverage its relations with the Girmitiya countries as the country continues to play a pre-eminent role in current global affairs. He also advocated greater knowledge sharing between the Girmitiya countries in different areas and added that the common culture that connects India and the Girmitiya countries should be reinforced.

Mr Roopun called for preservation of sites that connect with the Girmitiya history, preservation of photographs and objects that represent the early life of Girmitiyas, preservation of the languages that connect the Girmitiyas, documentation of the early life of Girmitiyas on the lines of what has been achieved in Mauritius, and facilitation of the processes for Girmitiyas to trace their roots in India.

The panellists suggested that videos of the proceedings of PBD 2017 may be shared with some of the TV channels operating in the Girmitiya countries. They also called for greater support to the International Indentured Girmitiya Foundation.  

General (Retd.) Dr V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, said that when it comes to preservation of languages, Government of India is not confining the effort to Hindi and Sanskrit languages. He welcomed suggestions for the preservation of several other languages that relate to Girmitiyas. He urged the delegates to contribute to the creation of a resource pool that would work toward strengthening India’s engagement with the Girmitiya countries.

Participants

  1. Gen. (Dr) V K Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India (Chair)
  2. Mr Ashok Das, Joint Secretary (LAC), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (Session Coordinator)
  3. Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Culture and Arts, Mauritius (Special Guest)
  4. Mr Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (CPV&OIA), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  5. Dr Vishnu Bisram, Academic Specialist on the Indian Diaspora
  6. Mr Mookeshwar Choonee, Ex-Minister of Art & Culture, Mauritius
  7. Mr R Dayakar, Former Ambassador of India
  8. Mr Ravindra Dev, Sanghachalak Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha
  9. Prof. Ajay Dubey, EC Member & Academic Coordinator ARSP
  10. Mr Krishan Lal Jumna Gokool, President, GOPIO South Africa
  11. Mr Munish Gupta, Journalist-turned media and social enterprise entrepreneur
  12. Mr Maurits S. Hassankhan, Senior Lecturer, Anton de Kom University
  13. Mr Kantilal Jinna, Chief (National) Librarian, Government of Fiji
  14. Mr Narayan Kumar, Director & Convenor, Diaspora Affairs Committee of ARSP
  15. Mr Mohit Prasad, Professor of Pacific Literature, Film Diaspora & Postcolonial Studies, University of South Pacific
  16. Mr Bindeshwar Ram, Former Director & CVO, Indian Council of Historical Research
  17. Mr Jean Regis Ramsamy, Journalist and Writer

Key Recommendations of the Session

Following were the key recommendations made during the course of YPBD 2017 & PBD 2017 deliberations:

  • India should look to leverage its relations with the Girmitiya countries as the country continues to play a pre-eminent role in current global affairs.
  • Promote preservation of sites that connect with the Girmitiya history, preserve photographs and objects that represent the early life of Girmitiyas, preserve the languages that connect the Girmitiyas, document the early life of Girmitiyas on the lines of what has been achieved in Mauritius, and facilitate the processes for Girmitiyas to trace their roots in India
  • Videos of the proceedings of PBD 2017 may be shared with some of the TV channels operating in the Girmitiya countries.
  • Extend greater support to the International Indentured Girmitiya Foundation.
displayNone