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Search on for colonial-era migrants

The IGNCA starts a cultural search programme to help trace the ancestral roots of those who migrated during the colonial period, reports Satyen Mohapatra.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2008 02:10 IST
Satyen Mohapatra

On July 14,1899, Jagdip Singh, 28, of Jaunpur with “a mole on right side of forehead” got MAN’s Emigration Pass from Trinidad Government Emigration Agency in Calcutta to go and work for hire in Trinidad.

Today, his descendents in Canada have given that Emigration Pass as the only evidence to Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts to locate their ancestral family in India.

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts has started a cultural search programme to help trace the ancestral roots of those who migrated during the colonial period as indentured labour, Kangani migration (which took place in south India), traders, from India, said Suresh Pillai , Project Head of Diaspora Programme IGNCA.

The IGNCA, under its Diaspora programme, has developed the Ancestral Search Programme, which can be availed by anyone who has details of their ancestors such as migration forms, estate registers, birth or death registers, he said.

Search for cultural lineages is of relevance to those Diaspora members who are interested in finding out similarities that exist in India as well as in their host community in the form of rituals, language, festivals, caste system, food habits.

Stating that the search programme went beyond just tracing individual families, Pillai said in the search program we would like to trace similarities in cultural expressions, music, arts, archaeology, institutional governance, language and literature.

“Since January 2007, we have received 60 queries from Canada, USA, Guyana, Trinidad, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. Of these, we were able to locate one Prabhu and his relatives in Sultanpur district, UP, who left India on January 12, 1911, from Calcutta to British Guyana. He was being searched by RK Sharma, a fourth generation descendant of Prabhu, presently a banker in Guyana,” Pillai said.

Member Secretary IGNCA KK Chakravarty said, “In the Diaspora programme, the focus was on relationship between Indians here and Indians abroad — a cross cultural inter disciplinary dialogue, the diversity of Indian culture all over the world creating a unique culture of confluence We want to bring it back.”

“We see how Indians have gone and modified local language, architecture in different parts of the world, both absorbing and blending with the existing culture. Creole is a blend of French and Bhojpuri language heard in Mauritius, in Yemen one can hear Bhora, Khoja, Kacchi. In Surinam we hear Surinami Hindi. Trinidad and Tobago has a Diwali Nagar to mark arrival of Indians in 1845 in indentured ship,” Chakravarty said.

“We have visited 800 sites all over the world and requested writers, philosophers, scholars to assist us in the creation of India’s first Diaspora Ethnographic Museum. The cultural archive that we have initiated have so far collected hundreds of books, journals, films, videos and many other valuable material connected with diasporic India,” Chakravarty said.

Interestingly IGNCA Diaspora Cultural Festival 2008 to take place from January 10-12 shall focus on historical diaspora, the origins and history of Roma (Gypsies) in Europe and their historical ancestral cultural relations with India.

According to history that is available, the well-known gypsy people — Roma — left India during troubled years of early medieval India between 10th –15th centuries AD, Dr Chakravarty added.