Peasants in the Pacific: A Study of Fiji Indian Rural Society

Peasants in the Pacific: A Study of Fiji Indian Rural Society

Peasants in the Pacific: A Study of Fiji Indian Rural Society

Peasants in the Pacific: A Study of Fiji Indian Rural Society

Excerpt

Indian settlement overseas has a history of many centuries. One of its most notable features is the recruiting in the nineteenth century of Indian labourers under indenture. These people were sent to such British colonies as Trinidad, Natal, Mauritius, Guiana and Fiji. There they started permanent communities, most of whose members were farmers, in contrast to the mainly mercantile character of traditional settlement which was later followed in such places as East Africa.

The first aim of this book is to provide an account of the rural section of the Fiji Indian community, for people either living in Fiji or interested in the Colony. Such an object should need no justification in a country where populations with such varied interests and customs live side by side. The ignorance of people of one community about the ways of life of another can be a hindrance, if not a danger, in the days of rapid social change into which Fiji is now entering. This account should help to broaden the knowledge held of Fiji Indian society, by describing the rural part of it.

The book will also, it is hoped, aid comparative study when more data on other overseas Indian communities are available. One of the objects of such study would be to examine the social structure of these immigrant communities, seeing the degree to which economic, religious, political and other social behaviour is institutionalized. Hence, an analysis of Fiji Indian rural social structure forms the theme on which the descriptive material of this book is based. Such a theme was, in fact, suggested by a first view of the Fiji countryside, and by initial enquiries into the Indian backgrounds of immigrants. For Indians coming to Fiji were usually unrelated and from many castes, and had come from widely separated districts. They were allowed to settle wherever they could lease land, and formed settlements, of scattered homesteads instead of villages. What interests bound such a potentially heterogeneous community? What groups were formed, and how did they operate under physical conditions which favoured an individualistic way of life?

Research on such questions was undertaken for a year during 1950-1, shortly after a stay in India. The difference between the highly stratified and controlled Indian, and the freer Fiji Indian society was striking. In contrast to Indian villages, settlements in . . .

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