Indian Diaspora In Africa


  • Indians make around 25% of Réunion Islands population & approx. population of Indians in Réunion (France) as of 2021 is 3 Lakhs. They form two ethnic groups on the island, Malabars (Tamils) and Zarabes (Muslims).
  • In Réunion, Indians from South India, often Hindu, are known as Malbars and Muslim Indians are known as Zarabes.
  • Originally brought in as indentured laborers, mostly from Madras Presidency. Next largest group was from North Indian Hindus, speaking Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Gujarati. Smallest group was Muslims, mostly from Gujarat.
Indian Diaspora In Africa


  • From 1820s, Indian workers started coming to Mauritius to work on sugar plantations.
  • From 1834, when slavery was abolished by British Parliament, large numbers of Indian workers began to be brought to Mauritius as indentured labourers.
  • November 2, 1834 marks the day when the ship ‘Atlas’ docked in Mauritius carrying first batch of Indian indentured labourers. This day is observed in Mauritius as ‘Aapravasi Day.’
  • In all, about half a million Indian indentured labourers are estimated to have been brought into Mauritius between 1834 and the early decades of the 20th century, out of whom about two-thirds settled permanently in Mauritius.
  • At present, around 68% of Mauritian population is of Indian descent.
  • Indian community here occupies a prominent position in civic and political life.
  • Both communities coexist harmoniously with other ethnic groups. Mauritius’ current importance to India stems from its geographical proximity and strategic location.
  • Mauritius ranks amongst our largest foreign investors following the conclusion of a Bilateral Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation that has enabled foreign investors to establish offshore companies on the island.


  • Indians started arriving in South Africa in 1653, when Dutch merchants sold Indians as slaves in the then Dutch Cape Colony.
  • Pattern of emigration in 19th century was like that in other parts of Africa, following banning of slavery throughout British Empire in 1833-1834.
  •  Indentured labourers on plantations were mainly from Bihar, Eastern UP, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, to be followed later by Gujarati traders who went as ‘free passengers.’
  • Indian labour was deployed in railways, dockyards, coalmines, municipal services & as domestic help.
  • Conditions under which they worked were akin to slavery, but their hard labour transformed the economy.
  • As a section of Indian community attained increasing prosperity and became principal rivals of whites in trade and commerce, colonial administration enacted discriminatory laws to curtail their progress and inflict petty humiliations on them.
  • Gandhi’s arrival in 1893 heralded beginning of a long struggle for equality and dignity by the Indian community and led to the establishment of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) in 1894, and the forerunner of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC).
  • A mass movement of labourers, traders and industrial workers followed him in his fight against racial discrimination.
  • Gandhiji’s legacy of struggle against injustice & racial discrimination inspired succeeding generations in South Africa.
  • 2nd generation members of Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses (NIC & TIC) launched a prolonged multiracial joint struggle of all oppressed people of South Africa, culminating in ‘Three Doctors Pact’ in 1947 between Presidents of ANC, TIC and NIC, courting brutal reprisals by authorities.
  • Later, apartheid regime switched to other tactics and crafted a policy of differential treatment of three racial groups.
  • Under new policy, more opportunities for economic prosperity opened for Indian community and gulf between it and indigenous African community widened.
  • Some members of Indian community were co- opted by system following establishment in 1980s of Tricameral Parliament with separate chambers for Whites, Coloureds and Indians.
  • Though NIC and TIC were completely opposed to such collaboration, and vigorously participated in anti-apartheid struggle as part of the UDF (United Democratic Front) there was increasing alienation between the Indian and African communities.
  • The long history of Indian philanthropy, both by individuals and by Indian organisations, in South Africa, was forgotten.
  • Most PIOs voted for white dominated parties in first non-racial elections in 1994. Indian South Africans are faced with a difficult situation. The challenge is to remove misperceptions about community and join mainstream.
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