Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Indentured Indian Women in Colonial Guyana: Recruitment, Migration, Labor and Caste

Indentured Indian Women in Colonial Guyana:
Recruitment, Migration, Labor and Caste
Moses Seenarine


Historical materials relating to "Indian" (2) women under colonialism in guyana (3) is extremely rare and inadequate (4). This problem is complicated by the fact that until recently, scholarship on the caribbean have focused on a predominantly male model of a plural society (5) divided by race; gender is considered as a related issue to race. There are several limitations in this approach including rigid concepts of race and gender, and assumptions of "cultural persistence" (6) and similarity within ethnic categories. It is true that Guyanese society is divided by race. Nevertheless, gender and cultural categories need to be viewed not only as part of race, but also in relation to issues of power and dominance in the region.

The central argument pursued in this paper is that South Asian indentured emigration had diverse effects on the population in Guyana based on issues of gender, culture, class, caste, race, location and age. This paper explores how some of these processes occurred with relevance to women during recruitment, migration and the indenture period (1838-1917). Indenture means a contract, and indentured Indians signed a contract before they left India which bound them to accept certain conditions. During their period of indenture, female laborers were not free.

This paper disputes the myth that the shortage of Indian women on colonial plantations during the early period of indenture resulted in an improved status and mobility for the majority of South Asian women, relative to that in India. This myth ignores women's subjection to control under various forms of male domination and oppression during the early period, including violence and abuse. Further, it is argued that the process of male control intensified during the later indenture period. In both periods, the triple burdens of wage work, childcare, and housework were excessive for most women who had to work harder to fashion a new life for themselves and their families in colonial Guyana.

This paper explores some of the gendered outcomes of being a South Asian migrant laborer in Guyana by examining the contributing factors that made women's experiences different, in particular what occurred in relation to labor, culture and caste. Genders refer to the culturally defined modes of behavior deemed appropriate to the sexes. The paper is loosely organized according to the history of indentureship, and divided into four broad areas that contributed to making women’s experiences different: (i) social and economic factors, (ii) culture, (iii) family aspects; and (iv) women's resistance to various structures of power, authority and control.

To provide some background, the paper starts with a brief note regarding colonization and slavery in Guyana, followed by a short discussion on the methods and concepts used in the paper, and an outline of the paper's limitations. A breakdown of caste, class and gender distribution of South Asians in Guyana comes next, followed by a brief summary of the position and status of women in colonial and present day India. This background provides a context for discussion of issues within the main body of the paper.

Starting with a discussion on recruitment of Indian women to labor colonies, the causes of indentured Indian emigration to Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean are then explored. A short description of the caste and class status of female indentured emigrants follow, along with an exploration of their experiences at the emigration depot and during their voyage to the Caribbean. This is presented as a way of delving into a major factor of difference among the indentured population, the shortage of Indian women compared to Indian men, and its consequences. Throughout the indenture period, the population of East Indian females was less than half the population of Indian men in the colony.

The women who emigrated were not passive or "docile coolies." Some were actively resisting various forms of domination through emigration, and most engaged in resistance on the estates. Murders and transfers of many Indian women on the estates was a sign of their resistance to oppression by south asian men, families and cultures in the colony. Women also resisted exploitation as cheap laborers, and being treated as sexual objects, by European men. A claim is made that women's sexual exploitation was a contributing factor to South Asian resistance movements on the plantations throughout the indenture period. As a result, during the later period of indenture, the importation of Indian females into the colony was viewed mainly in terms of them having a stabilizing effect on the predominantly male labor force.

Colonization and Slavery

Guyana, with a territory of 83,000 square miles, is the only English-speaking country in South America. The three counties of Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo, have a total population of under one million people, divided into six major ethnic categories: Amerindian, European, African, Creole (mixed), Chinese, and Indian. The two dominant ethnic groups, African and Indian, combine to form almost ninety percent of the total population, with Indians having a slight numerical majority.

The region's early colonial history was marked by conflicts between several European powers - Spanish, Dutch, French and British. An early trading post was established on the Essequibo coast in 1616, and sugar cultivation was introduced to the colony in 1658. Early European colonists found the indigenous Amerindian population hostile and unsuitable as plantation laborers (7). To meet their labor requirements, planters became part of the trade of enslaved African peoples in the Americas (8). The establishment of the Berbice colony in 1621, by the Dutch West India Company, saw the first group of Africans who were captured and traded in Africa, then imported and enslaved on plantations in Guyana.

By 1803, there were over 40,000 Africans who were enslaved and "free" in the colony. The living conditions on the plantations were harsh; as a result, resistance and rebellion were frequent. Caribbean feminist researcher, Janet Momsen, points out that the majority of enslaved women, including pregnant women, worked in the fields under harsh conditions and were subject to the same physical punishment as men (9). In addition to class oppression and racism, women were also subjected to both African and White male oppression. As part of estate punishment, women were stripped naked, whipped, placed into solitary confinement or had their hands and feet locked to stocks, forced to wear a collar, and sexually abused by White planters; there were several reports of White overseers kicking pregnant African women in the womb (10).

African women resisted colonial racism and enslavement by several means, including faking illness, refusing to work, verbally abusing owners and administrators, destroying crops, using poison and "obeah" (witchcraft), suicide, limiting their fertility, leaving the estate or running away, and by active rebellion. All forms of resistance had a price, and female rebels who were caught were executed (11). Nevertheless, most African women resisted their captors every day of their lives. Women participated in a huge rebellion in Guiana in 1763, led by Cuffy, which succeeded in controlling the greater part of the Berbice colony for eleven months, and was only suppressed with the aid of troop reinforcements brought from Holland (12).

In 1814, when the territory was finally ceded to Britain, female insurgency continued. In fact, resistance by enslaved, free and rebel African women and men was a major contributing factor to the abolition of slavery, and colonialism, in the Caribbean. For example, Guyanese historian Walter Rodney (1981) points out that women were major participants in resistance movements in the capital, Georgetown, from 1891 to 1905 (:205-8).

With the emancipation of slavery in 1835, planters (not enslaved peoples) were compensated and compelled to free their African laborers. The British ruling elite sought to block the movement of Africans away from the plantations and limit their access to resources in order to force them to depend on the plantation for work and survival. However, there was popular resistance and reluctance of formerly enslaved people to continue their relationship with Europeans as laborers. The majority of Africans moved away from the plantations. Many African women moved into towns where they were employed as domestic servants. Colonists were once again face with the problem of finding labor for their plantations, as Africans were unwilling to work at the prevailing "slave" wages. In their struggle against the African peasantry (13) and to meet their labor needs, the British tapped into their empire to create a cheaper, international, bonded labor market, comprised of poor laborers.

As a result, bonded laborers were imported: Portuguese from Madeira and the Azores (31,628 between 1835 and 1862), from China (14,000 between 1853 and 1912) and India (238,960 between 1838 and 1917) to Guyana. From 1838 to 1928, a total of 340,792 indentured laborers were brought to Guiana. The life of indentured laborers on the plantations differed very little from that of the enslaved people, with the important difference that they were free to leave after their contract expired.

Both enslaved and indentured women contributed to the development of European industrial capitalism through their labor. Yet, their common experiences under the estate system did not lead to sustained class or gender awareness, nor to the liberation of women. There are reasons why this is so. For example, Momsen writes that labor on colonial plantations "bestowed on Caribbean women a degree of social and economic independence which, in the post-emancipation period, colonial and neo-colonial agencies such as the church and education system sought to destroy" (Ibid.:1-2). The paper explores how some of these agencies served to limit Indian women's independence in particular.

Re-interpreting History

In his study of colonial records, South Asian historian, Ranajit Guha, wrote that peasant insurrections are perceived as "being purely spontaneous and unpremeditated affairs" (14). He continues, "in bourgeois-nationalist historiography it is an elite consciousness which is read into all peasant movements as their motive force" (Ibid.:38). Guha informs us that the poor or subaltern class were resisting colonial domination from its very inception. Their strategies of resistance ranged from the formation of committees, to the seeking of redress, to outright rebellion against British rule. Nevertheless, it was the middle and upper classes who were credited for these countless acts of resistance, which resulted in the national independence movements for large regions in South Asia.

Keeping Guha's observations in mind, all colonial and national records cited here must be questioned as to the bias and motivations of the "historian." The colonial motivations include record keeping by White men primarily for (i) administrative use by other White men in the colonial government, (ii) to justify colonialism through the demonization of the colonial subject(s) in relation to their "civilized masters," and (iii) to reform the abuses of colonialism in order to maintain its practice. National records serve similar purposes.

In spite of limitations, imperial records are some of the few sources available which provide us with a sense, (even a false one), of the history of "the de-historicized." This paper makes use of the written accounts of European military bureaucrats cited by present day historians, in an effort to re-construct the history of East Indian women in Guyana. In addition, an attempt is made to critique and de-construct various colonial and national viewpoints included here, around issues of gender, caste, labor, and morality.

Categories such as race, culture, caste and gender, are historically and conditionally contingent. They are not fixed, but part of a historical process in a particular context. Invariably, these categories operate in conjunction with or respond to issues of power, access and the control of cultural, social, economic, and environmental resources. At the same time, constructions of race and gender are always contested and challenged. This paper explores some of these obvious and not so obvious processes, by centering on the experiences of South Asian indentured female laborers. It goes beyond the plural versus assimilation debate to explore how common consent is established and maintained within ethnic categories and across constructions of gender.


Due to the vast scope of issues raised here and the limited data available, some generalizations are used in this paper with the understanding that there were a diversity of experiences among Indian women during indentureship in Guiana, and that these tentative assumptions will have operated differently along this range of experience. Even though concepts explored here are useful, given the wide range of experiences, they have to be tested with specific studies which focus on how male control, social regulation and cultural production processes operate in specific circumstances as well as in the lives of specific individuals.

Although there is an obligation to explore the specific nature of experiences and exploitation of South Asian women under indenture, I hope to demonstrate that they were not passive recipients, but were constantly resisting multiple forms of oppression in both colonial India and Guiana. The decision by some to leave India was in of itself a form of resistance. However, information regarding their resistance within the Indian family and community, and against indentureship and colonialism is most lacking. This essay is severely limited in this sense. Another serious restriction is that while this article focus on the role of women within mainstream Hindu culture, there is a lack of data and analysis regarding women’s experiences as part of South Indian, Hindu out-caste, Muslim and Christian cultures.

The paper has grown out of my interests, as an activist and academic, to understand the historical processes which led to the domination and subordination of women in South Asia and the Caribbean. It relies upon South Asian women's experiences as a main data source, and will serve to inform women on issues affecting them. Although a member of the dominant male oppressor group, I locate myself within the critical subjectivities of class, caste and (to a much less extent) gender oppression and resistance. The representations of some women's struggles here by a lower caste/class, Guyanese-American, male researcher is necessarily biased and incomplete; still, it is hoped that the text serves as a challenge to both author and reader to continue this discourse in all of its complexities and contradictions.

This process of reclaiming female histories and subjectivities is critical to post-colonial theory and practice. An improvement in status and survival of women and natural environments (and indeed of life itself) after twenty-plus centuries of male-domination, increasingly demands awareness and practice of feminist consciousness; a "grounding with our sisters." Even though issues discussed here occurred over one hundred and fifty years ago, they are timely and relevant to women and men in the Caribbean and the diaspora. They also have relevance to developing a wider understanding of the complex inter-relationships between gender, labor and caste exploitation and oppression. Throughout, I have tried to maintain a balance between academic discourse and accessibility to readers outside of the academy; there are several repetitions in the hope of providing more clarity.

Caste, Class and Gender Distribution: Population of East Indians in Guiana

Guyana was the first sugar colony to receive Indian indentured laborers in the Caribbean; in all, more than 416,000 Indians arrived in the region between 1838 and 1917 (15). Except for two interruptions, 1838-1845 and 1848-1851, Guyana received indentured immigrants every year (from 1864 to 1891, approximately 4,000 annually) and more than half of all the Indian indentured workers to the Caribbean, 240,00 (16). The highest annual landings of South Asians in Guiana was during the 1870s, with the highest ever being 8,334 in 1875-76 (17).

During the indentureship period, Indian laborers were divided into two categories, indentured and "free" or unindentured workers. By 1880, the unindentured Indian resident population was already larger than the indentured Indian population in Guyana and comprised about 75 percent of the total Indian population in 1905 (Rodney 1981:34). The 1911 census revealed East Indians as the largest ethnic group, surpassing Africans, and the 1921 census indicated that they were 42 percent of the total population in the colony (18).

The Indians who arrived in the Caribbean were not a uniform group. On the contrary, they represented different regional areas and a diversity of South Asian cultural traditions, customs, religious practices, languages, art forms, and foods. Early lists of indentured laborers were compiled in a haphazard manner, and the descriptions given of age, caste and religion are often unreliable (19). Still, certain patterns are clear as to who were being recruited for the colonial labor plantations in the Caribbean. Such estimates can be neither firm nor precise, but they are a great deal firmer and more precise than the vague generalizations that have been made by others.

Caste Origins of South Asian Indentured Laborers in Guyana

From 1872, when a ranking of emigrants was included in colonial annual reports, the low caste groups was the single largest group of emigrants from Calcutta. In 1883, one colonial administrator, Grierson, stated that one-third of the emigrants were "of decidedly low social position" (Tinker:56). It is worth pointing out here that the phrase "of decidedly low social position" is a disguised reference to the four-fold Hindu caste system. Specifically, to the position of "Untouchables" or Dalits who were historically discriminated as outcastes of Hindu society, and placed at the very bottom of the caste system.

The term Dalit, which includes untouchable, tribal and lower caste Hindu groups, simply means oppressed (20). Dalit is used here to refer to a large percentage of indentured laborers recruited in colonial India, female and male, who were considered "polluted." These emigrants were economically, culturally, and socially oppressed within "mainstream" Indian society, whether Hindu or Muslim, for centuries. Some Dalit activists include women as Dalits, pointing out that women are considered "polluted," and are equally oppressed within South Asian societies. While I agree with this definition, for the purposes of this study, women are considered as a separate category from Dalits.

As an example of the number of Dalits being exploited as bonded laborers during early indentureship, Wood notes that from 1870 to 1885, 41.5 percent of emigrants were from the low castes. Similarly, a dispatch from the government of India in 1877, noted that the source of recruitment was "chiefly the laborers, dependent for their support upon the cultivating classes" (21). This last statement is an allusion to Dalit bonded laborers, who were indebted to intermediate and upper caste Hindu landowners and money lenders in colonial and pre-colonial India. Dalits who migrated to the Caribbean include individuals from groups such as Pariahs and Pallars from South India; Doms, Dosadhs, Lohars (blacksmiths) and Chamars (tanners) from Uttar Pradesh and North India; and Nooniahs, Santals, and Kahars from Bihar. In the Caribbean, they are referred to as Chamars or "low caste."

In the first two decades of indentured labor emigration, tribal people, Dhangars or "hill coolies," from the Chota Nagpur area of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa comprised a significant proportion of those emigrating. During the 1840s and 1850s, two-fifths to one-half of the emigrants were Dhangars, people with a distinct culture (Tinker:49). Bonded laborers were recruited from other "tribal" and semi-aboriginal
groups in South and North India.

With the drying up of recruiting among tribal and semi-aboriginal groups, the poor, landless and lower castes who were already available in the ports of embarkation - Calcutta, Madras (22) and Bombay (23) - were then recruited (Ibid:51). Competition from French, Dutch and other colonists pushed British recruiting operations further into the "interior" of colonial India. Poor, landless dalits from rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal began to be recruited as indentured laborers in large numbers. Actually, South Asians from all religions and castes were recruited throughout the indenture period.

In spite of cultural differences, the bonded laborers who emigrated from South Asia were similar in some ways as well. They were overwhelmingly from the lower castes, male, poor, uneducated, rural and drawn from culturally diverse areas of the subcontinent (24). Recognition of their cultural diversity is important, because it meant that, at first, they did not share a common knowledge, language, history, culture or philosophy. Despite similarities as bonded emigrant laborers, the group as a whole was very diverse.

Anthropologist R. T. Smith (25) made an analysis of colonial records of immigrants landed in Guyana between 1865 and 1917 and found that 31.1 percent were low caste; 30.1 percent were agricultural castes; 16.4 percent were Muslims and Christians; 13.6 percent were high castes; and 8.7 percent were artisans. It is significant to note here that the percentage of Dalits may be much higher as many emigrants discarded lower caste origins for intermediate and higher caste ones for various reasons. For one, they wanted to escape continued caste oppression and start a new life in Guyana  as "non-polluted" Hindus. In reference to regional origin, Smith estimated that between 1845 and 1862, 23 percent were from South India and 77 percent from North India (Ibid.).

There is limited information regarding the age of emigrants, however, it may be surmised that a large number of indentured laborers were children, teens and young adults, many of whom may have been bonded child laborers in India (26). On one ship, the Salsette, over one-sixth of the emigrants on board were classified as children, and many who survived the journey were without parents (27). To cite a related example, one colonial administrator in Mauritius noted that girls of nine, ten, and twelve had landed as married women in 1876 (Tinker:203).

Prior Occupations of Indentured Laborers

A review of the literature reveals that South Asian emigrants had many different occupations in colonial India. The following is a selected list of occupational categories, loosely broken down according to three caste divisions (with the South Asian term listed when known). The first group include non-Hindu, Dalit employment categories like palanquin-bearer, drum beater (Chamar), landless laborer (Pallan), sweeper, washer (Dhobi), beggar, hawker, shoemaker (Chamar), tanner (Chamar or Chakkiliyam), porter (Coolie), and house servant (Dasi). 

The second group consists of low and intermediate Hindu caste occupations such as cultivator (Kurmi), cowherd (Ahir); weaver, barber, shopkeeper, money lender (Chettyar), policemen, potter, and cook. The
third group is made up of upper caste vocations like priest, scribe, schoolmaster, and peon. Female emigrants were previously employed in various occupations in all three of the above caste categories. "Women" specific occupations included Dalit categories such as artisan, entertainer, dancer and temple prostitute (Devadasi) (Ibid.:51-2).

Gender Distribution Among East Indian Laborers

There is lack of information regarding the age, class, caste, and numerical distribution of female emigrants in the Caribbean. Colonial investigators, Mac Neill and Lal, calculated in 1915 that one-third of the indentured women who emigrated to the Caribbean were married and who accompanied their husbands. The remainder were mostly widows, and women who were separated or abandoned (28). This implies that two-thirds of the women migrated alone. Caribbean feminist historian, Rhoda Reddock writes, "the majority of Indian women came to the Caribbean not as wives or daughters but as individual women" (1985:81).

The large numbers of females emigrating alone refer to fact that women consciously chose to emigrate. This suggests that women from all castes were actively resisting gender and caste oppression in colonial India through emigration. It also serves to dispel the myth that all Indian women who emigrated did so as passive and docile females under the protection of husbands and families (Ibid.). While it is important to recognize women's resistance in this form, instances of abuse and exploitation during recruitment also indicate that many females were compelled to emigrate, regardless of their choice.

The disproportion of Indian females to Indian males in Guyana was higher among indentured Indians on the estates than among free Indians. The total female to male ratio went from 11 Indian women for every 100 Indian men in 1851, to 40 women for every 100 men in 1914. The data in Table 3-1 was gathered from a variety of scant sources. Like most of the statistics reproduced in this book, these figures are subject to correction. Yet, they provide some idea of the imbalance of South Asian
women to South Asian men existing throughout the indenture period.

Table 3-1: Indian Population in British Guiana (1851-1914) (29)
Male    Female    Female:Male   Female:Male    Female:Male    Birth    Death
                            Ratio Total      Ratio on           Ratio Among    Rate    Rate  
                                                   Estates             Free Indians   
1851                    11:100               
1869                    33:100               
1881                                                                                       23:1000  32:1000
1890                                           41:100             54:100       
1900                                           44:100             62:100       
1908-12                                                                                 26:1000   30:1000
53,083  34, 799   40:100               

Source: Compiled by the Author

Women's Status in Colonial and Present Day India: Gender, Caste and Class

In her analysis of the structural framework of women's subordination in India, Uma Chakravarti writes, "caste hierarchy and gender hierarchy are the organizing principles of the brahmanical social order and are closely interconnected" (30). This means that in mainstream Hindu society, the status of most women, regardless of caste, was similar to that of Dalits. The author argues that the establishment of private property (versus communal ownership of land), and the need to have caste purity, required the subordination of Indian women and strict control over their sexuality and mobility.

Principles of caste and gender ranking evolved over a period of time and involved mechanisms of control like the ideology of Pativrata (wifely fidelity); complicity of upper caste women; brahmanical law and custom to control deviant women; and the state itself. As a result, female power became defined as mother of sons, and relocated to reside in power born out of wifely fidelity and chastity, not standing on her own feet. Due to the fact that women internalized these paternal (and maternal) cultural models of womanhood in the form of Hindu mythology, this virtually erased the need for subjugation as it was much easier for women to comply with such a structure (Ibid.:582).

Other South Asian feminists explore the oppression of women in relation to the state, hindu ideology, family and kinship, caste and culture, land and poverty, and labor (31). These studies show how gender, class and caste ideologies influence, among other things, the sexual division of labor in which male roles and labor are considered as productive work and so valued, while female responsibilities and labor are undervalued as unproductive work. These ideologies also lead to male control over female labor power, reproduction, sexuality, and mobility as fathers, husbands and male kin. This domination limits women's control over property and other economic resources, which gets translated into male control of political, religious, social and cultural institutions.

South Asian feminists also document the serious negative outcomes which results from the devaluation of females within cultures defined by these caste and gender ideologies. These include female infanticide, child marriage, domestic violence, assaults, rape, dowry deaths, widow immolation, and abandonment (32). Another severe repercussion of these ideologies is that access to and control over land, economic and other resources becomes severely limited to women, especially Dalit women (33).

Apart from these forms of oppression, in both present day and colonial India, poor village women will have already experienced many years of hardship and work by the time they are married and move to another village, generally at a young age. Tasks like childcare, weeding and cleaning the fields, collecting firewood and cow dung, cleaning and sweeping of their home, fetching water; and helping to grind the course grains for the daily meal, are mostly placed upon the shoulders of young girls. In addition, they are more likely to suffer from malnourishment and less likely to receive prompt medical attention than boys (34).

Dalit women comprise a major segment of agricultural workers in present day South Asia (and during the colonial period), however, their work is invisible because it occurs in the unorganized sector of the economy. This means they do not get social security, leave, medical support, pensions, etc. (35).  Rural and urban dalit women are not paid the minimum wage, and generally find work in times of labor scarcity (36).

Rural women of poor households work for longer hours than their male counterparts, when domestic work, other home-based work and labor outside the home is counted (37). Many women work with infant children in the fields because there are rarely any facilities for childcare in the villages. Although women work for long hours and add to their family income, they are not perceived as workers by other women, themselves, or men; as a result, they are devalued, and rewarded and gratified less (38).

The concern here is not only to explore the position and status of Indian women in colonial and present day India, but also to indicate some of the factors which may have motivated or "pushed" South Asian women to emigrate to foreign labor colonies. Given the limited alternatives for both high caste Hindu widows and Dalit women alike, many of these women elected to escape a life of destitution and/or prostitution through emigration. Reddock writes, "women did make a conscious decision to seek a new life elsewhere... they came as workers and not dependents" (Ibid.:79).

Recruitment of Indentured Indian Women Laborers in Colonial India:Slavery and Bonded Labor Systems

Domestic slavery, bonded labor and other forms of feudal service existed for millennia in India (39). Laboring families were drawn from outcastes of Hindu society to perform field labor considered polluting to the upper and intermediate castes, like ploughing the fields. In the labor-intensive paddy-growing regions, Dalit groups like the Kamias in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the Halis in Gujarat, the Adimas of Kerala, and the Pannaiyals of Tamil Nadu, were principal laborers (40). South Asian historian Dharma Kumar argued that a variety of different "servile" groups provided labor to Mirasidars (private landowners) in early nineteenth-century South India (41).

Men, women and children from South India were also sold as part of the eighteenth century slave trade by European colonial powers (42). With the British abolition of slavery in 1835, the export of Indian labor overseas (from 1830 to 1920) was viewed by planters and colonial administrators as a way of maintaining and expanding labor intensive plantation economies in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal (South Africa), Kenya, Uganda, and the Caribbean (43). However, as pointed out by early abolitionists, the attitude of planters toward the welfare of indentured workers remained the same as during slavery (44). Like Africans before them, indentured South Asians were viewed by the planter class, as one Trinidadian historian argued, "as an inferior human species who would accept conditions of life that other races would reject" (45).

Colonial administrators were continuously pressured by abolition and nationalist groups to reform and abolish the indenture system, especially with regard to the status of women emigrant laborers. The first prohibition against the Indian indenture system was in 1839, due to pressure from British anti-slavery groups. A major objection raised was the poor status of women due to their small numbers in Guiana (Reddock 1985:79). Nevertheless, administrators continued to support planters' interests over those of indentured female laborers. Historian Tinker writes, "the (colonial) government of India made little attempt to place the welfare of Indians above the demands of planters. The only issue on which they tried to ensure reform was that of increasing the proportion of women, especially married women, among the emigrants; and this was not pressed forcibly" (Ibid.).

During the prohibition in 1840, the British Secretary of State, Russell, stated "I should be unwilling to adopt any measure to favor the transfer of laborers from British India to Guiana... I am not prepared to encounter the responsibility of a measure which may lead to a dreadful loss of life on the one hand, or, on the other, to a new system of slavery" (46). As enlightened as this official viewpoint appears, it is worth pointing
out here that Russell did not totally oppose any form of an indentured labor system; he was only opposed to the system in its present form.

This is really a reformist way of saying to planters, "if you can reduce deaths during the voyage and overly harsh treatment on the estates, then we'll support bonded labor." This attitude was typical of colonial officials during this period, in which slavery still existed in the USA. In 1844, the ban on indenture was lifted by the government of india on the condition that 12.5 percent of the emigrants be female (Reddock 1985:80). The "women problem" was an important issue in the second prohibition of indentureship (1848 to 1851), and in abolition of the system at the end of the first world war.

Reasons for South Asian Female Indentured Labor Migration

Emigration of indentured laborers from South Asia to the Caribbean relied on a combination of "push" and "pull" factors. Families were reluctant to leave their Janmabhumi (motherland) and traditional kinship ties, and South Asian men did not want to take their wives and daughters to unknown lands. Most women were unwilling to emigrate unless accompanied by their husbands or close relatives, and there were few unattached women because of the South Asian custom of child betrothal and marriage at puberty (47). Physical and sexual assaults, loss of female honor, bonded servitude and other perceived threats, further discouraged females from emigrating. Consequently, colonial emigration agents had great difficulty in recruiting South Asian women and families to work on foreign colonial estates. Nevertheless, recruiters exported tens of thousands of women and girls to the Caribbean. Most of them came as individuals and worked for ten years on the sugar plantations.

Push factors for emigration include the need of South Asian women (and men) to obtain relief from a situation which they no longer find tolerable (Tinker:118). People were compelled to leave their area of residence for various reasons, including the following six: (i) environmental: floods, famine, drought and crop failures; (ii) economic: the lost of land rights and resulting landlessness among tribals and dalits, the pauperization of small peasants, debt and poverty; (iii) social factors: high population density, overcrowding, and casteism; (iv) psychological: fear, shame, and guilt; (v) gendered effects: domestic violence, abuse, rape, divorce, and rigid widow customs among the upper castes; and (vi) political: the 1857 mutiny and turmoil throughout north India.

These push factors, as well as others, no doubt did lead some women to consciously choose to emigrate as single women, widows, and to a lesser extent, as members of families. Upper caste widows and Dalit females comprised a significant proportion of the majority of females migrating alone, and therefore the majority of women. Their determination to emigrate was itself a sign of the independent nature of these women; the decision to migrate alone was a sign of their strength and courage (Reddock 1985:81).

Nevertheless, an excessive concern on "push" factors divert attention from the question of labor recruitment and its coercive elements. For instance, the pressure of middlemen and brokers whose methods ranged from sheer deception and debt-bondage, to "coolie-catching" and rape of "potential" female recruits (48). These violent processes, which created and shaped a bonded labor market in India and Guiana, should be viewed as important "pull" factors in relation to the "push" factors cited above. Emigration of females was not so much an indicator of resistance and willingness to undertake overseas labor as it was a sign of vulnerability or being marginal. As South Asian historians, Bates and Carter argues, "indentured recruitment did not liberate migrants from exploitative relationships - it merely replaced one mode of appropriation with another" (Ibid.:242).

By way of illustration, to augment the shortage of Indian women and to act as support and encouragement for other Indian women, a small number of paid sex-workers from Calcutta, Madras, and other cities were recruited (Ibid.:213). These women continued to be sexually exploited in the Caribbean. It needs to be stated at this point that the British military authorities in India ran a system of licensed prostitution for both Indian
and European soldiers. This system included registration and compulsory medical examination of Indian women, and a sliding tariff according to rank. The 1868 Contagious Diseases Act regularized these provisions for this government-sponsored, sex exploitation scheme of primarily dalit females’ bodies (49).

The violence of the indenture system had several outcomes. One was caste and ethnic division of the labor market, as the overseas export of laborers began with the recruitment of vulnerable and marginalized "tribals" from Chota Nagpur. Later, emigration agents recruited from among poor peasant and landless groups in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, and the Chauvery Valley. As South Asian historian Gyan Prakash writes, "class formation fostered and, in turn, grew out of ethnicization... (and) was also profoundly gendered" (1992:31). This meant that class formation in Caribbean colonies started in India, in the recruitment process itself which resulted in the poor and Dalits forming the vast majority of laborers who emigrated. As bonded servants, they entered almost at the bottom of colonial society; divided into layers of power and status based on race, class, skin color, religion, and language.

In terms of gendered class formation in the labor colonies, the colonial practice of seeking "able-bodied" workers resulted in the over-representation of men as women were not considered "able-bodied" (Ibid.: 31-32). Additionally, the near-exclusion of upper castes women from agricultural work in India suggests that the majority of female agricultural laborers who emigrated were Dalit. Gendered effects of emigration also include sexual and other forms of violent abuse of female laborers in recruitment, transportation and residence on the plantations.

These ethnic and gendered factors led to the formation of a basically male, laboring class in Guyana. Despite this, the emigration of individuals from more privileged, upper and intermediate-caste Hindu groups, along with colonial policies and labor management, influenced the formation of class, and resulted in class, caste and ethnic separation in the colony.

Pressures to Use and Recruit South Asian Women

In the earliest period of bonded labor emigration, some planters were eager to get laborers of either sex to work on their plantations. As an example, tribal women were valued on the assumption that they would, in the words of one colonial recruiter, be "of the greatest use upon the plantations, being capable of performing any kind of work" (50). Still, a majority of men were recruited as most planters were unwilling to cover the extra cost of importing an equal amount of women as men.

The most important pressure on both colonial administrators and planters to recruit indian women as indentured laborers was the sex-ratio disparity on the estates (which also existed during slavery). This issue became an important political argument for South Asian nationalist leaders and western anti-slavery groups. Colonial administrators and planters were compelled to address this issue, and their failure to do so became a crucial point in the abolition of indentureship in 1917.

To cite an instance, a dispatch to the colonies in 1855 emphasized the intention of the British government to stop Indian emigration unless "a `due proportion' of women was recruited" (Tinker:89). The threat to planters indicate the extent to which officials in the British colonial government viewed Indian women as critical to their indentured labor scheme. This concern was due to publicity surrounding abuse of Indian women in the colonies, including many cases of murder, which was blamed on the insufficiency of females, not on the violence of males.

Another pressure for the recruitment of females was that, as the number of indentured laborers increased in the colonies, the importation of Indian women became viewed as a way of encouraging Indian men to sign up for progressively longer periods of bonded labor (first one year, then three, then five, and later ten years). Indian women were also seen as a way of  keeping experienced male workers in the colonies and available for work on the estates, even after their indenture period had expired. This eliminated planters' cost for return passages to India. Women were held, moreover, as part of a desire by both capital and state, to generate a self-reproducing source of labor in the colonies. These goals prompted the colonial indian government to stipulate that a certain number of emigrants be female (Reddock 1985:79-87).

As emigration progressed, the specific quotas for Indian women varied. In 1857 the ratio was 35 women to 100 men; in 1860, 50 to 100; and from 1868-1917, 40 to 100 (Mangru 1987a:211). Nevertheless, recruiting Indian women was a persistent dilemma for emigration agents at the ports of Calcutta and Madras. As Reddock notes, "recruitment took place in a situation of an already existing unequal sex ratio" (Ibid.:80). The quota produced sharp criticisms from some colonists who thought it prohibitive and would necessitate the enlistment of a "low and immoral" class of women detrimental to the scheme of settlement they envisioned (Mangru 1987a:212).

The government and planters wanted the "right type of woman" who would make good wives and stabilize the indentured labor population. They were interested in women as workers, but more in terms of the labor market they wanted to create in the colony. For instance, a planter in Trinidad wrote a letter in 1851 to the colonial office in England stating, "if a cargo entirely of women could be sent over, I have little doubt that the greater number of the Coolies would remain here permanently" (Ibid.:82). Women  recruited thus became "supplementary" workers who were paid less to do "women's work." To further promote this policy, and instead of relying on quotas, the planters passed a resolution in 1877 calling for the importation of Indian widows, free of indenture. However, this measure was never adopted by the Indian government owing to political pressure within India (Mangru 1987a:224-5).

Abuse of Females in the Recruiting System in India

It was more difficult to recruit women from north India to go overseas than from south India, as more females left from Madras and Bombay that from Calcutta (Tinker:89). The main areas of recruitment were the markets, railway stations, festivals, bazaars and temples. In north India, the Hindu holy city of Matura was a main area for the recruitment of females. It is possible that many of the women recruited from this location were Devadasi, or dalit females dedicated to brahmin temples as dancers/prostitutes (Ibid.:123).

The district magistrate of Malabar reported that women and girls were frequently used to induce other females to emigrate or as a decoy to lure men to the depot (Ibid.:128-9). Colonial agents paid extra for women recruits and forced detention and kidnapping practices were regularly used to obtain female laborers. Rural families were often promised by recruiters that their daughters of marriageable age "will have excellent offers from their well-to-do countrymen" in the foreign colonies (Mangru 1987a:67).

An Indian newspaper, the Pioneer of India, described in 1871 the attempted kidnapping of Ratunya, a young woman who was accosted by a government recruiter, offered employment and forcibly detained in Allahabad. Ratunya and ten other women were only released through the intervention of two missionaries (Tinker:126-127). Six months later, Mussamut Amirtee and her eight year old son were offered employment and forcibly detained in Mirzapur, as were Subhagia Koerin and Munbasia Koerin (51). Detention for several days in a recruiter's house normally resulted in loss of caste, female virtue and friendship for many women. And, as the Royal Gazette noted in 1865, this led to living a life of "ridicule, contempt, disdain and family renunciation" (Ibid:105), thereby compelling many women to resist by seeking anonymity through emigration.

Colonial Reforms of the Recruiting System

Increasing reports of missing wives and daughters influenced Indian provincial governments to apply different measures to prevent the illegal practices of recruiters. After a married woman from Azamgarh was seduced and taken to Jaunpur for registration in 1879, some local magistrates began to refuse registration of women for emigration who were resident in other districts, and insisted on local police inquiry even for women resident in the district. It is important to summarize here that even though women were being abused by the system, single women's statements were not accepted as adequate regarding the circumstances of their recruitment.

Local inquiries made recruitment even more difficult and cost became a major reason for the reluctance of planters to import women and children. This was particularly so during the later stages of emigration when the recruiters in India were demanding three to five English pounds for each man, and almost double that for each woman, six English pounds, 13 shillings (52). In an effort to facilitate emigration and appease colonial planters, the government of India declared in 1879 that a police inquiry into the background of female emigrants was not compulsory in every case.

Nonetheless, efforts were made to place more stringent controls on the type of women being recruited. Single women who were obviously pregnant, known prostitutes, or "coarse, low-caste females" were disqualified (Reddock 1985:80). It is crucial to consider that the last two groups of women referred to here were primarily Dalit females. Regardless of the ban on Dalit females, due to the shortage of female recruits in general, these controls could not always be maintained by colonial recruiters (Ibid.). The emigration agent of Madras, Doorly, protested against nationalists' pressure and bureaucratic measures for enlisting a "better type" of woman. As indenture came to an end in 1917, he argued basically for continued Dalit female migration, stating.     “genuine field laborers such as the planters require can be obtained onlyfrom the lowest castes...In my view the class of women recruited during the recent years is not an undesirable class for the men who accompany them and who are drawn from the same social stratum as themselves” (Ibid.:82.).

Despite various measures to recruit women laborers, mostly individual males emigrated, and this had repercussions in Caribbean colonies, as well as on women and families in India. One colonial administrator, major Pitcher, writes, “I found... wives who knew that their husbands had emigrated but (in some cases 18 years) had vainly waited for news, and knew not whether the emigrant was alive or died (53). This account seem to reflect the position of most wives and families of migrant indentured laborers in South Asia, abandoned by husbands, fathers and sons, with little or no compensation.

Indian Women at the Depot

Prospective migrating laborers were subjected to prolonged confinement and a medical examination for venereal and other diseases at the Demerara depot in Calcutta. However, in order to prevent the scaring away of potential female recruits, women received a superficial examination by nurses, with the result that many were passed fit when they actually had venereal and other diseases (Tinker:138). Cholera, typhoid, and dysentery were a constant feature of depot and shipboard existence.

Local police inquiries into the abuses of female conscription meant longer waiting periods in the depot and higher maintenance costs, which made investment in female laborers less profitable and less in demand among planters. It also led to a prevalence of "depot marriages" or Sagay to avoid police investigations of single women emigrating (Tinker:140). Historian Ramnarine found that 421 marriages took place on board ships in 1892, among the 4,000 adults who traveled to Guiana during the year (54).

This means that close to a quarter of all adults who traveled together to Guiana in 1892 got married during the voyage. In other cases, women, who were from one group in which they may have known people or formed attachments during their wait at the depot, would be forcibly separated and arbitrarily moved to another to augment emigration quotas on another ship.

The Social and Economic Status of Female Recruits

A large number of female recruits were abandoned wives or widows. Colonial administrators like Lyall, Pitcher and Grierson, stated "many of the women enter the depot in a garment of filthy rags," and others  arrived "in a state bordering on nudity" (Tinker:130). The incidents of abuse in recruitment against females were among a much larger number of incidents that went unreported. These serve to show that many female indentured emigrants faced severe oppressions in India by virtue of their gender, class, and caste status.

As another example, the colonial protector of emigrants stated in 1879, that Indian women who regularly boarded emigrant vessels comprised principally of "young widow and married and single women who have already gone astray, and are therefore not only most anxious to avoid their homes and conceal their antecedents, but were also at the same time the least likely to be received back into families" (Mangru 1987a:213). Colonial agents "recognized" the low position of "women in trouble" and child widows in India, and presented the argument that "women might benefit more than men by emigration" (55).

It's worth pointing out here that this "progressive" rhetoric masks the following: (i) the stereotyping of all female indentured laborers as immoral; (ii) a denial of colonial responsibility in abusing Indian females during the recruitment process; and (iii) a justification for targeting the most exploited of South Asian women, those who have few options besides paid sex work, to be recruited as bonded laborers.

Kalapani : The Voyage to Caribbean Plantations

One emigration agent whose job it was to look after the welfare of indentured Indians, Crosby, noted that the lack of separate female bathrooms on ships made women vulnerable to sexual assaults from both Indian men and the ship's male crew (56). In addition, holding single women in a separate, isolated area of the ship proved convenient for their abuse. In fact, the entire "coolie ship" was an unsafe place for single females, as well as married women, as they were frequent targets of sexual attacks. In one incident, the surgeon and third mate on board the Ailsa in 1876 was accused of assaulting three Indian women (Tinker:150-151).

Due to the threat of violence in simply trying to take a bath, Indian women found it difficult to stay healthy and clean during the long journey of "the middle passage." Crosby cited a report of the surgeon of the vessel Himalaya which deplored the condition of women, with "their hair is so dirty and matted, that it induces them to be constantly scratching." Crosby suggest this was due to the women's lack of combs and mirrors (57).

It is critical to note that Crosby failed to make the connection between women's poor hygiene and safety in using the bathroom. In addition to a lack of grooming items, women might have chosen to remain unclean instead of risk the chance of being raped while cleaning. This may have also been a part of women's strategy to deter rape by trying to appear "unattractive." These issues of safety and cleanliness may have led to further cases of diseases and deaths of females on ships.

Many women and children grew sick and died in the depot and en-route to the colonies from cholera, typhoid, dysentery, measles, and venereal diseases. There was heavy mortality on ships during the long three to four months of travel to the Caribbean. To illustrate, on the Salsette, which sailed from Calcutta in 1858, close to a third (120 out of 324 Indians) died while en-route to Trinidad (58). Women, children (infants especially), and the elderly (that is, the most vulnerable), were the overwhelming majority of those who died while crossing the sea.

The Deaths of South Asians on the Salsette Voyage

The captain of the Salsette, Swinton, noted that infants "were dying for want of milk" and that orphaned children died shortly after the death of mothers, "from want." (Ibid:5-6). Children's survival during the voyage at sea was directly linked to the health and survival of their mothers; as the captain noted, "they appear to die in families" (Ibid:9). Being an orphan frequently meant abandonment and death. Female children especially were not properly taken care of by surviving fathers, and one father supposedly murdered his five year old daughter (Ibid.).

The captain's wife, Mrs. Swinton, who took care of the sick during the dreadful voyage, wrote about a "lack of morality" among the women and men on board. She noted how "the parents of girls will sell their children for a few rupees" (Swinton:15). Her account suggests that the practice of pedophilia and sexual exploitation of female children was prevalent on board these vessels. Under such circumstances, and given their limited options, this may explain why numerous mothers chose to abandon infant or young daughters and why several females refused to eat "against all persuasion" (Ibid.:5-10).

On this voyage, one woman attempted to jump overboard, and another young woman fell down a hatch, injured her spine and later died. Many of the women who grew sick were ashamed and afraid to inform the male doctors of their illness, until shortly before they died (Swinton:13-14). Women were particularly fearful and vulnerable on this long voyage to an unknown destination, especially being among a group of passengers and crew consisting mostly of men. Mrs. Swinton wrote of the general confusion, "out of the 324 Coolies who came on board, I do not believe five, at most, either knew where they are going, or what is to be their occupation" (Ibid.:12).

This statement, if true, suggests that almost all the Indians were tricked into migrating. Depression over entrapment into such a fate was compounded by the sense of lost and bearing as they drew further away from their homeland. These and other psychological and physical factors contributed to ill health.

The emigrants were not accustomed to the foods and medicines used on board, and their own foods and medicinal herbs were not provided. Mrs. Swinton noted that many women needed preserved milk and often craved chicken from her. She stated, "and, I believe, had they been given such things, many lives would have been saved" (Swinton:13) Many children and adults died of simple causes, like dysentery caused by unclean and spoiled foods, and drinking water drawn from the polluted Hoogly river. The lack of warm clothes to survive the damp nights and cold parts of the journey; and lack of space and simple medical facilities on board, also led to illness and death.

Given the high mortality rate, there was some concern for the welfare of ""the coolies" during the voyage across the seas. Yet this colonial anxiety was in terms of the economic loss mortality represented to colonial agents, especially the owners of shipping companies who were paid for the number of laborers landed alive, not transported (Swinton:4;15). Females who survived the horrors of recruitment and life in the emigration depots of Calcutta and Madras, and the journey at sea, arrived into a situation in which Indian women were highly sought after by Indian men and their European masters on account of the shortage of European and Indian women in the Caribbean.

Maharani - A Case Study

Kumar Noor Mahabir, in The Still Cry: Personal Accounts of East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago During Indentureship (1845-1917), (59) recounts the experiences of a young indentured Indian widow, Maharani, during the later stage of indentureship. Maharani describes her reasons for leaving her family in India, her recruitment as an indentured emigrant laborer, and her journey to the Caribbean as follows :

 “I married. Me husband dead. Me breda an dem take it. Milk boiling; dem go want de milk to eat an ah cat coming to drink an ah hit im an-de milk fall down. I say dem go beat me because I getting too much lix, I say dem go beat me. Well I run. I no tell nobody I leaving only me modder-in-law. Ole modder-in-law. Me husband breda an dem eating an I left de house. E have a one-foot fellar an e sit down well and I gone to drink water an e tell me to come. Well I gone, e tell me not to jharay jatta (waste time). E cyar me an dey gi me food an ting to eat. People putting barti kara (bound or indenture). Only I gone I see plenty people dey. E say "cheenee chala, cheenee chalay (sift sugar), going tappu (Island). Tappu may sara bara anna (make 25 cents)."

“I cayn know depot name, Calcutta may jahaj ank hoi par (me come in to ship). Everybody dey jahaj barti bhail (ship recruiting place) cyar e an put e jahaj (ship). When e coming ship everybody gone inside an dem people watching an telling me not to go, not to go. Everybody watching in window like me an all watching. All ah dem people an all watching. Jahaj dey far, dem saying, "not to go," dey shaking hand so, "not to go." E done gone, everybody dey inside dey. Everybody. Nobody cayn come out from dey again, like saamundar moolook may k arra Ganga, Jamuna (like an island in the middle of the river Ganga, Jamuna) e parr (going)." Five gyul come without nobody. A go, kaa nam (why name) Mohannia, a go kaa nam Mahadayia, a go kaa nam Lakhaia, an I forget. We come Chinap (Trinidad). Me no vomit but plenty a dem vomit. Because me no eating all kinda ting I no vomit. In Jahaj dey gi we rice, dahl. Me no eating fish an meat an ting. Maharaj kajat (high caste), I no eating all kind a ting” (Ibid.:79-81).

Indentured and free women's experiences were different in terms of gender, labor, caste. Variation also existed in women's resistance against these multiple forms of oppression. In terms of gender, difference consist of colonial policies and practices for recruitment and transportation to colonial plantations. The sex-ratio disparity in emigration had further gendered consequences.

Although caste differences existed in recruitment, for both high caste hindu widows and dalit women, emigration was a active form of resistance to oppressive cultures. However, many females were tricked or compelled to migrate. East Indian women are actively resisting the state; ideologies of religion, culture and Indian identity; and patriarchy. Their protests and struggles can be inferred not only from their migration, but also from their resistance to abuses during recruitment and migration.

1. Thanks to my Nanis, Ajies and Mais of Guyana and India; my wonderfully supportive father, mother and family; and friend and companion, Sushila Patil. Thanks also to Karna Singh, a friend and scholar; and professors Basdeo Mangru and Arnold Itwaru for suggesting improvements. Finally, thanks to Florence McCarthy of Columbia University, for being an invaluable advisor and mentor.
An early draft of this paper was presented at the Conference on Indo-Caribbean women at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, on December 15, 1995.
2. The terms "Indian," and "East Indian" are used interchangeably with "South Asian" in this paper with the understanding that these reductionist terms refer to a wide variety of culturally specific religious belief and customs which indentured laborers were brought to the Caribbean. These terms also refer to their descendants in the Caribbean and diaspora. Limited capitalization in this text is used as a way of deconstructing nationalism and institutional authority.
3. The terms "British Guiana," "Guiana" and "Guyana" are used synonymously in this paper to refer to lands presently and formerly occupied by indigenous Amerindians. Three separate colonies (counties) of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were colonized and united in 1831 to form the colony of British Guiana, popularly known among East Indians as Demerara. The colony gained indepedence in June 1966 when the Amerindian name, Guyana (land of many rivers) was adopted.
4. This paper places a heavy reliance on relatively few sources; nonetheless, it goes beyond articles and books cited. Factual basis for arguments are based on data collected by South Asian and Caribbean historians (Tinker, Jha, Prakash, Mangru and Rodney) and anthropologists (Klass, Smith, Jayawardena and Vertovec). South Asian feminist-sociologists (Oberoi, Das, and Chakravarti) and Caribbean feminist-historians and sociologists (Reddock, Peake, Mohammed and Mahabir) provide the theoretical basis for arguments. However, intrepretation of the data and theories, and general arguments made, are my own.
5. M.G. Smith argued that guyanese society is a plural one, made up of distinct cultural groups, each with its own "integrated entity with its own culture." 1965. The Plural Society in the British West Indies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Other anthropologists pointed out the existence of cultural similarities and the creolization among different ethnic groups in guyanese society. See R. T. Smith. 1962. British Guiana. London: Oxford University Press; and Chandra Jayawardena. 1963. Conflict and Solidarity in a Guianese Plantation. London: Athlone Press. However, the extent to which integration occured is related to colonial and neo-colonial policies of divide and rule, and resultant ethnic stratification of guyanese society.
6. Morton Klass. 1961. East Indians in Trinidad: A Study of Cultural Persistence. New York: Columbia University Press. For an opposite perspective see Arthur and Juanita Niehoff. 1960. East Indians in the West Indies. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Public Museum. For other early discussions on these issues see Barton Schwartz., ed., 1967. Caste in Overseas Communities. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing; and John LeGuerre., ed. 1974. Calcutta to Caroni. Port-of Spain: Longman Caribbean.
7. Andrew Sanders. 1987. The Powerless People: An Analysis of the
Amerindians of the Corentyne River. London: Macmillan.
8. For an economic analysis of enslaved African peoples in Guiana see Walter Rodney. 1974. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. DC: Howard University Press; and Walter Rodney. 1981. A History of The Guyanese Working People. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. For a recent anthropological study on African Guyanese, see Brackette F. Williams. 1991. Stains On My Name, War In My Veins: Guyana and Politics of Cultural Survival. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
9. Janet H. Momsen. 1986. "Gender Roles in Caribbean  Small-scale Agriculture," paper presented at the Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems. FL: Research and Extension. University of Florida, Gainesville. Feburary.
10. Barbara Bush. 1990. Slave Women in Caribbean Society: 1650-1838. London: James Currey. p. 45
11. Lucille M. Mair. 1974., quoted in Janet H. Momsen., ed. 1993. Women and Change in the Caribbean: A Pan-Caribbean Perspective. London: James Currey. p. 1.; and Bush, Ibid. For more detailed discussion on enslaved African women in the Caribbean see Lucille M. Mair. 1975. The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies During Slavery. Kingston; and L. Mair. 1987. Women Field Workers in Jamaica during Slavery. Mona, Jamaica: Dept. of History, University of the West Indies. See also Marietta Morrissey. 1989. Slave Women in the New World. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas; and Hilary Beckles. 1988. Afro-Caribbean Women and Resistance to Slavery in Barbados. London: Karnak House.
12. Chaitram Singh. 1988. Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society. NY: Praeger.
13. Clive Y. Thomas. 1984. Plantations, Peasants, and State: A Study of the Mode of Sugar Production in Guyana. CA: Center for Afro-American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.
14. Guha, Ranajit. 1983. "The Prose of Counter-Insurgency" in Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies II: Writings on South Asian History and Society. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 1. See also R. Guha. 1983. Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
15. J. C. Jha. 1994. "East Indian Culture in the West Indies," in Mahin
Gosine, ed., 1994. The East Indian Odyssey: Dilemmas of a Migrant People. NY: Windsor Press. p. 103.
16. Jha, Ibid; and Tyran Ramnarine. 1987. "Over a Hundred Years of East Indian Disturbances on the Sugar Estates of Guyana, 1869-1978: A Historical Overview," in Dabydeen and Samaroo, eds., India in the Caribbean. London: Hansib Pub. Ltd. p. 119.
17. Hugh Tinker. 1993. A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour overseas 1830-1920, 2nd edition. London: Hansib Publishing Ltd. p. 263., (hereafter quoted in text).
18. Ramnarine, Ibid:119; and Sahadeo Debiprashad and Dowlat Ram Budhram. 1987. "Participation of East Indians in the Transformation of
Guyanese Society 1966-1979," in Dabydeen and Samaroo, Ibid.:147.
19. Discussion of caste in the Caribbean is highly controversial and arguments vary dramatically over time. For example, during the period of indenture, planters complained about the majority of recruits being "unfit lowly coolies." After independence, Caribbean scholars and leaders tend to deny lower caste family orgins, and by extension, the Dalit origins of Caribbean Indians.
20. On the Dalit movement in India, see D. R. Nagaraj. 1993. The Flaming Feet: A Study of the Dalit Movement. Bangalore: South Forum Press; Eleanor Zelliot. 1992. From Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on the Ambedkar Movement. New Delhi: Manohar; and Trilok Nath. 1987. Politics of the Depressed Classes.Delhi: Deputy Publications. 21. J. C. Jha. 1974. "The Indian Heritage in Trinidad," in John La Guere, ed. Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad. London: Longman Caribbean Limited.
22. After 1860, the numbers of Madrases sent to Demerara was smaller. This was in part due to "a prejudice against coolies from South India in the Caribbean." Tinker Ibid.:55.
23. Emigration from Bombay under the indenture system ceased in 1865. Tinker Ibid.: footnote 23; p. 391.
24. Daniel J. Crowley. 1973. "Cultural Assimilation in a Multicultural Society," in Lambros Comitas and David Lowenthal, eds., Slaves, Free Men, Citizens: West Indian Perspectives. NY: Anchor/Doubleday. p. 279.
25. R. T. Smith. 1959. "Some Social Characteristics of Indian Immigrants in British Guiana," Population Studies, vol 13, no. 1, July, p. 39.
26. Tinker notes that the average age of the Fiji emigrants was young: 42 percent of the males and 45 percent of the females were under 20 years old, and almost all the remainder were under 30 years old. Ibid.:59.
27. Captain and Mrs.Swinton. 1859. Journal of a Voyage with Coolie Emigrants from Calcutta to Trinidad. London: Alfred W. Bennett, pg. 3., reprinted in Ron Ramdin. 1994. The Other Middle Passage: Journal of A Voyage from Calcutta to Trinidad, 1858. London: Hansib Publications Ltd. p. 3.
28. James Mac Neill and Chimman Lal. 1915.  Report to the Government of India on the Conditions of Indian Immigrants in Four British Colonies and Suriname. Part 1. Trinidad and British Guiana. London: HMSO, Cmd, 7744. Quoted in Rhoda Reddock. 1985. "Freedom Denied: Indian Women and Indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, 1845-1917," Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 20, no. 43, p. WS-81.
29. Poynting, Jeremy. 1987. "East Indian Women in the Caribbean: Experience and Voice," in Dabydeen and Samaroo, Ibid.:232.; Brinsley Samaroo. 1987. "Two Abolitions: African Slavery and East Indian Indentureship," in Dabydeen and Samaroo, Ibid.:29; and Mangru, 1987a. Ibid: footnote 69.
30. Uma Chakravati. 1993. "Conceptualizing Brahmanical Patriarchy in Early India: Gender, Caste, Class and State," in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), April 3rd, :579.
31. Bina Agarwal. 1988. "Patriarchy and the Modernizing State," in B. Agarwal, ed., Structures of Partiarchy. London: Zed Books; Vanaja Dhruvarajan. 1989. Hindu Women and the Power of Ideology. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications; Patricia Uberoi. ed., 1993. Family, Kinship and Marriage in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press; Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid. eds., 1989. Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History. New Delhi: Kali for Women; Bina Agarwal. 1986. "Women, Poverty and Agricultural Growth in India", The Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 13, no. 4, July.; and Kumkum Sangari. 1993. "The Amenities of Domestic Life: Questions on Labour," Social Scientists, vol. 244-46, pp. 3-46.
32. Sakuntala Narasimhan. 1989. Born Unfree: A Selection of Articles on Practices and Policies Affecting Women in India. Bangalore: Samanvitha, NMKRV First Grade College for Women; and Veena Poonacha. ed., 1991. Understanding Violence. Readings on Women Studies Series No. 3, RCWS. Bombay: SNDT Women's University.
33. P. G. Jogdand. ed., 1995. Dalit Women: Issues and Perspectives. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House; B. P. Chaurasia. ed., 1992. Women's Status in India: Policies and Programmes. Allahabad: Chugh Publications; and Gabriele Dietrich. 1992. "Dalit Movements and Women's Movement" in Reflection on the Women's Movement in India. New Delhi: Horizons India Books.
34. Amartya Sen and Sunil Sengupta. 1983. "Malnutrition of Rural Children and the Sex Bias," Economic and Political Weekly, Annual Number, May; and RCWS. 1991. A Lesser Child: Girl Child in India - Readings on Women Studies Series, No. 7. Bombay: SNDT Women's University, Research Centre For Women's Studies (RCWS).
35. Manisha Gupte and Anita Borkar. 1987. Women's Work, Fertility and Access to Health Care: A Socio-Economic Study of Two Villages in Pune District. Bombay: Foundation Research in Community Health.
36. Based on author's fieldwork (1994-95) in Karnataka, India.
37. Devaki Jain, and Malini Chand. 1982. "Report on a Time-Allocation Study - Its Methodological Implications," Paper Presented at a Technical Seminar on Women's Work and Employment. Institute of Social Studies Trust, April 9﷓11.
38. Pramod S. Bhatnagar. 1988. "The Gender Gap in World Economy," in Yojana, vol. 32:6, p. 8-9, 32.
39. See Uma Chakravarti. 1985. "Of Dasas and Karmakaras: Servile Labor in Ancient India," in Utsa Patnaik and Manjari Dingwaney, eds. Chains of Servitude: Bondage and Slavery in India. Madras: Sangam Books. P. 35-75; K. Sardamoni. 1980. Emergence of a Slave Caste - Pulaiyas of Kerala. Delhi: People's Publishing House; and Sudipto Mundle. 1979. Backwardness and Bondage: Agrarian Relations in a South Bihar District. New Delhi: Indian Institute of Public Administration.
40. Colonial definitions of these outcaste groups went from "unfree" (ideological) to "bonded laborers" (economic) as a justification for the "positive" changes attributed to British rule. See Gyan Prakash, ed. 1992. The World of the Rural Laborer in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 15-19. On the ideology of servitude among caste hindus and dalits, see Jan Breman. 1974. Patronage and Exploitation: Emerging Agarian Relations in South Gujarat; J. Breman. 1990. Taming the Coolie Beast. Delhi: Oxford University Press; and Robert Deliege. 1992. "Replication and Consensus: Untouchability, Caste and Ideology in India," in Man (new series), vol. 27, p. 155-173. Deliege argues that while dalits may refer to caste ideology to explain the inferiority of the castes below them, they do not accept their own position within the caste system.
41. Dharma Kumar. 1992. "Caste and Landlessness in South India,"" in Prakash, Ibid.:75-106; and Dharma Kumar. 1965. Land and Caste in South India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
42. Indians were taken as slaves to Dutch colonies (Sri Lanka), French colonies (Mauritius and Reunion), to Malaya, etc. See Tinker :44-45.
43. Tinker, Ibid.; Prabhu P. Mohapatra. 1985. "Coolies and Colliers: A Study of the Agarian Context of Labour Migration from Chota Nagpur, 1880-1920" in Studies in History (new series), vol. 1, no. 2, p. 247-303; Lalita Chakravarty. 1978. "Emergence of an Industrial Labor Force in a Dual Economy-British India, 1880-1920," Indian Economic and Social History Review, vol 15, no. 3, p. 249-323; and Panchannan Saha. 1962. Emigration of Indian Labour (1834-1900). Delhi: People's Pub. House.
44. For example, Scoble of the anti-slavery society describe indentureship in 1839 as "a slave trade in a more appalling form," quoted in Basdeo Mangru. 1993. "The Campaign For Abolition of Indenture in India, 1908-1918," in Mangru, Indenture and Abolition: Sacrifice and Survival on the Guyanese Plantations. Toronto: TSAR.
45. Kelvin Singh. 1974. "East Indians and the Larger Society," in John La Guerre, ed., Ibid.:45.
46. Tinker :frontispiece.
47. Basdeo Mangru. 1987a. "The Sex Ratio Disparity and its Consequences Under the Indenture in British Guiana," in Dabydeen and Samaroo, Ibid.:212.
48. Crispin Bates and Marina Carter. 1992. "Tribal Migration in Indian and Beyond," in Prakash, Ibid.:205-47.
49. Joanna Liddle and Rama Joshi. 1985. ""Gender and Imperialism in British India." Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 20, no. 43., pp. WS
50. Mr. Caird, Mauritius Emigration Agent at Calcutta, quoted in C. Bates and M. Carter, Ibid.: 236.
51. Basdeo Mangru. 1987b. Benevolent Neutrality: Indian Government Policy and Labour Migration to British Guiana 1854-1884. London: Hansib Publications Limited. p. 102-105.
52. A. H. Hill. 1919. "Emigration from India," Timehri, vol. VI, pp. 45-48.
53. Pitcher's Report on System of Recruiting Laborers to the Colonies - 1882, quoted in Tinker Ibid.:121.
54. Tyran Ramnarine. 1980. "Indian Women and the Struggle to Create Stable Marital Relations on the Sugar Estates of Guiana during the Period of Indenture, 1839-1917." Paper presented to the 12th Conference on Caribbean Historians, UWI, St. Augustine, March-April. pp. 3-4.
55. Lyall quoted in Tinker Ibid.:267.
56. Report of Crosby on the ship Howrah, 13 Feb.1869, quoted in Basdeo Mangru. 1993. Indenture and Abolition: Sacrifice and Survival on the Guyanese Sugar Plantations. Toronto: TSAR Publications. :26.
57. Report of Crosby on the ship Himalaya, 2 April, 1869, quoted in Mangru, Ibid.
58. Swinton, Ibid.
59. Kumar Noor Mahabir. 1985. The Still Cry: Personal Accounts of East Indians in Trinidad and Tabago During Indentureship (1845-1917). Ithaca, NY: Calaloux Publications.


GT Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GT Observer said...

Thanks for your insight - found it very informative!

Kusum Choppra said...

this is very informative and leaves me hungry for more details .... scholarly has been provided but some human stories would be wonderful

Adam Fernandes said...

The article is very informative. I have a passion of reading the history of indentured labours from india.I appreciate their decende nts for retaining the Hindu culture

Marilyn Gracey Augustine said...

i am glad to have read this article. I am researcher on this same subject. could you throw little more light on the South Indian women in Guyana. Will be grateful for the help.

Eda Ama said...

First time reading this. You did a great job informing about the plights and courage of the enslaved Indian woman. Yours is one of many untold accounts of the British/American schemes to squeeze life and culture out of the vulnerable. I applaud you. All the best, my friend.

saanvi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
saanvi said...

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