Guadeloupian Indians keen to renew links with India

Pointe-a-Pitre (Guadeloupe), June 9 (IANS) With Europe and France hit hard by the financial crisis, the small Indian community of Guadeloupe is keen to renew cultural and economic ties with a resurgent India, from where their descendants came to the Caribbean islands over a century ago.

The financial crisis has resulted in a decline in generous support from Europe and France in the form of subsidies, tax exemptions and other allocations to Guadeloupe and other overseas French territories like Martinique, French Guiana and Reunion.

This would result "without doubt in a new degradation of the economic and social situation and even greater increase in violence as we find today," Michel Narayninsamy, president of Guadeloupe Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), told IANS in an interview.

Already, according to official figures, the number of job seekers at the end of April has mounted to 68,160, representing more that 30 percent of the active population in spite of financial support to the economy by Europe and France, Narayninsamy noted.

"And as often, during the period of crisis, the old demon of racism, xenophobia reappears," he said, expressing the fear that the community would again face the fate of their Indian forefathers who were brought here as indentured labourers in the late 19th century.

With the decline of the West and the emergence of a new world order powered by India and China, "what is urgent for us now is to renew our relations with our country of origin to permit us and our children to see the future with serenity and confidence."

It was thus important for the 45,000 strong Indian community to get PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) Cards to go to India for studies, training, work, commerce, culture and investment or live there "to profit from the new culturally rich and economically prosperous area," he said.

However, the current rules make it well nigh impossible for a majority of Indians in Guadeloupe to get these cards, Narayninsamy said as they have no papers to prove that their parents or grandparents came from India.

"The history of the Indian community of Guadeloupe shows that the French colonial powers removed all traces of its culture or religion" by imposing on them Catholic religion and French culture.

Besides destruction of a major portion of the archives by natural disasters like fire, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, colonial powers too burnt all documents concerning Indians in the commune of Capesterre-Belle-Eau between 1940 and 1943 during the Nazi occupation of France.

In fact "given our particularly painful history, we merit an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card instead of PIO" he said as the Indian indentured workers never gave up their nationality and it was the French colonial powers who failed to organise their repatriation to India after the end of their five-year contracts.

Narayninsamy said he had explained the situation "and the difficulties we encounter to furnish these documents and seeking flexibility for the issuing of these cards" to Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi during his visit to Guadeloupe in May 2011.

GOPIO is now collecting signatures on a petition from the people of Indian origin in Guadeloupe and Martinique making such a plea for issuing PIO and OIC cards.

The petition would be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ravi and the Indian ambassador in Paris in August.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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