History:The British and other European colonial powers started the Indian indenture system in 1838, as a cheap source of labour to their colonies after African slavery was abolished in 1833. Under this system some 1.2 million Indians were transported to the colonies between 1838 and 1916. Some 60,500 Indians were transported to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, when the transportation of indentured Indian laborers was stopped.
The indenture system itself was abolished in 1921. The contracts of the indentured labourers, which they called GIRMIT or agreements, required them to work in Fiji for a certain period of time as specified in their agreements.
Women were forced to work on farms just days after birth and they had to leave their crying babies at the fringes of farms, not allowed to feed them….Most suicides were by hanging, committed in early mornings. When the feet touched ground because the rope was too long, the victims folded their feet- so great was the desire to die and escape from a barbarous and inhumane system of girmit-the indenture.
That is the stolen history of girmit, the indenture system that was told by Rajendra Prasad, author of “Tears in Paradise -Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.”