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9th November 2023 (15 Topics)

An under-discussed facet of colonial history

Context –

The bicentenary of the arrival of Tamil indentured labourers in Sri Lanka also points to the unfulfilled task of nation-building in the island-nation.

Historical Context and Migration of Indentured Labourers

  • Commemorating Indentured Labour Arrival in Sri Lanka: Bicentenary of Tamil indentured labourers' arrival in Sri Lanka recently celebrated in Colombo, marking a significant chapter in colonial history.
  • Colonial Context and Indentured Labour Dynamics: The wave of liberal humanism in Europe coincided with the British Empire's exploitation and 'indentured labour,' replacing slavery in their colonies.
  • Challenges and Deceptions Faced by Indentured Labourers: Indentured labourers were misled about work, wages, destination, leading to a perilous voyage and debt upon arrival.

Plantation Life and Challenges Faced

  • Adversities Encountered by Indentured Labourers: Harsh conditions faced by indentured labourers in unfamiliar lands, compelled to work in plantations without basic facilities or rights.
  • Discrimination and Exploitation of Plantation Tamils: Plantation Tamils experienced discrimination and were denied basic services, encountering exploitation by sub-contractors known as 'kanganies.'
  • Colonial Deprivation and Stateless Plight of Workers: The colonial system rendered them stateless, deprived of fair wages, land ownership, and rights to return after their service period.

Post-Colonial Challenges and the Quest for Identity:

  • Cultural Resilience and Integration of Plantation Tamils: Efforts by democratic parties have granted citizenship and democratic rights, and plans to make workers landowners remain in progress.
  • Citizenship Gains and Progress in Land Ownership: Efforts by democratic parties have granted citizenship and democratic rights, and plans to make workers landowners remain in progress.
  • Decolonisation and the Quest for Inclusive National Identity: De-colonisation and the quest for a post-colonial, inclusive identity remain crucial for Sri Lanka's economic, social revival, and nation-building.
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