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The Indian connection with Jamaica

Indian connection with Jamaica

Jamaica, April 29 (UITV)- Indo-Jamaicans are primarily the descendents of indentured workers of India who are citizen or nationals of Jamaica, an island nation in West Indies. The Indian connection with Jamaica is 170 year old, with the arrival of over 36,000 Indians as indentured workers to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917.

Indian labourers, who had proved their worth in similar conditions in Mauritius, were sought by the Jamaican Government, in addition to workers coming from China, to work in sugarcane plantation as there was unavailability of workers after the end of slavery in 1830.

Although most of the workers originally planned to return to India, but the planters and the Indian Government did not encourage the return of Indian workers as many were destitute, ill or had lost touch with their own culture. The lack of ships available to repatriate the workers was another factor in many of them staying on. Over half of the Indians who had arrived till 1917 settled in Jamaica and gradually the Indian community began to develop.

Indians have made some contributions to the mostly African rooted Jamaican culture. In search of relaxation, they also introduced marijuana and the chillum pipe, in Jamaica. Indians established the island’s first successful rice mill in the 1890s and dominated the island’s vegetable production until the late 1940s. The Indian community adopted English as their first language and became jewelers, fishermen, barbers and shopkeepers.

Today 81,500 Indians live in Jamaica which constitutes about 3 per cent of its total population. Indian festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm in the same way as it is celebrated in India. May 10, is now celebrated in the country as ‘Indian Heritage Day’ or ‘The Indian Arrival Day’ and is engraved in the hearts of Indo-Jamaicans.

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