Diego Garcia

Published on Sep 08, 2002 10:01 PM IST

Diego Garcia, a small island in the Chagos Archipelago of Indian Ocean, is often called the Footprint of Freedom for its resemblance to a huge foot. But the people of the island have not known freedom since they were forced to leave their homeland.

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HT Image

Diego Garcia, a small island in the Chagos Archipelago of Indian Ocean, is often called the Footprint of Freedom for its resemblance to a huge foot. But the people of the island have not known freedom since they were forced to leave their homeland.  

The island is officially a part of the British territory and is called the British Indian Ocean Territory (B.I.O.T). Currently, it is only accessible to military personnel of the UK and the US.

Till 1965, some 3,000 descendants of African slaves and Indian labourers known as the Ilois inhabited Diego Garcia. In 1965, the Labour government of England made a secret pact with the US under which Diego Garcia was rented to the US to establish a major air and naval base.

In return for Diego Garcia, Britain was given a five million pound sterling discount against the purchase of a single US-manufactured nuclear submarine.

After the deal was struck, the Ilois were forcibly deported from the island and it was certified that the island had no indigenous population. With that began the Ilois’ struggle to win back their rights to return and live on the island.

In November 2000, the Ilois won a great victory when an English high court upheld their right to return to their homeland. However, their joy was short lived as the US refused to abide by the court ruling.

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