Indenture and the Struggle
INDENTURE was, as the scholar Hugh Tinker characterised it, “a new system of slavery”. Revisionist histories of slavery, imperialism, colonialism, unfettered capitalism, apartheid and, indeed, of our young democracy do not afford gravity to the oppression and violence of Indian indenture.
Indenture was a global phenomenon in which Indian labour was shipped to destinations as far afield as the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean and the tip of Africa. Random allocations to plantations and countries broke up families, often with no way of reconnecting.
Valuable work on indenture is being done by collectives like the Indentured Labourers Foundation in Verulam, the 1860 Heritage Centre, the Gandhiluthuli Documentation Centre at the University of Kwazulu-natal, and the cyber warriors with Children of Indenture on Facebook.
They are organising, documenting, archiving and propagating this segment of the South African experience of oppression and reconstruction.
The #1860Project looks to shift the narrative in arguing indenture and the struggles in it as one of the foundations of the totality of the Struggle to build unity and our non-racial democracy.
The community of Indian origin must take pride in its stellar role in the non-racial comradeship that paved the path to power.
The resistance role was played in a number of different political movements. One of the most prominent was the Congress Movement. Its most significant document was the Freedom Charter which declared, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it…”.
In Paul David’s words: “The ANC has an unblemished record in defending and advancing non-racialism.
“As the Natal Indian Congress we resolved at a particular point in our history to shed the strategic vestments we donned in the fight against apartheid and threw our full weight behind the ANC. Whatever the contemporary threats to our polity and from wherever they come, we shall resist for our collective future as South Africans belongs to the generations yet unborn.”