Fiji wants Kolkata Museum for indentured labourers

By: Anish Chand

Fiji is pursuing the possibility of turning a part of the Kolkata port into a museum to remember the thousands of indentured labourers who were shipped off from there to Fiji.

Fiji’s High Commissioner to India Yogesh Punja says Fiji has a deep connection with Kolkata.

“Indentured laborers used to be shipped to Fiji from the Calcutta Memorial, located at jetty number eight of Kolkata Port Trust,” he told Newsman newspaper.

Before sending the indentured labourers to Fiji to work as cheap labour in the sugar plantations there, the British herded the workers in a depot located inside the telecom factory near Alipore, the envoy said.

“Fiji will undertake efforts to beautify the Calcutta Memorial to make it an attractive tourist destination,” Punja said. “My country is extremely excited to be associated with the project,” he said.

“We are in talks with the authorities to convert the depot (inside the telecom factory) into a museum”, he said. “We have also reached out to several organisations to revive the significant relationship between the two countries,” Punja said.

Fiji will contact the envoys of other “diaspora countries” like Suriname, Mauritius, South Africa and British Guyana where indentured laborers were also sent so that those countries too can “dig out their roots”, Punja said.

Punja has had talks with the universities of Calcutta, Rabindra Bharati, Jadavpur University and National Library about the revival of emotional and historical connections between Fiji and Kolkata.

Indentured laborers left their homes and country to escape poverty and famines that were a frequent occurrence during the British colonial rule in India. The first ship from Kolkata carrying indentured laborers reached Fiji in May 1879.