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From Indian Indentured Labour in Fiji, by C.F. Andrews, 1918.

The facts contained in these writings were in a great measure corroborated, as far as the statistics of murders and suicides were concerned, by the very careful and accurate Annual Reports, which were published by the Fiji Government Immigration Department. While these yearly records showed that sanitation and health were improving, and that humaner treatment on the plantations was becoming more prevalent, they showed also an increase of violent crime which was terrible to contemplate.

An official Commission was sent out by the Government of India in 1913 to all the Crown colonies employing Indian labour, but, unfortunately, by the very terms of its enquiry, more attention had to be paid to the material and economic side, than to the inner life of the people. This Commission did, however, in the case of Fiji, deal at some length with those social conditions, which accounted for the excessive number of violent crimes recorded in the Fiji Government reports; and the Government of India was more deeply impressed by that part of the Official Commission's findings than by any other. It was clear to those who could understand the significance of the figures, that much deeper evils were going on beneath the surface than had, as yet, been brought to light.

In the years 1914 and 1915, the Viceroy and his Executive Council were gravely anxious and the minds of the leading Indians were becoming more and more bitter on the subject. Mr. W. W. Pearson had accompanied me to South Africa in 1913-1914, to make an enquiry into the condition of Indian Indentured labour in Natal. We had, while staying there, the invaluable training and help of Mr. M. K. Gandhi, who had known intimately the ways and habits of his own people in Natal, through his residence among them, as their friend and helper, for twenty years. He is by far the greatest living authority to-day on all the problems connected with the Indian indentured labour.

Mr. Gandhi took us among the indentured labourers themselves, who spoke to us freely and without fear in his presence. We shared his life among the Indian people in South Africa in the closest possible ways; and he enabled us to trace out the inner causes which led to these violent outbreaks of crime, wherever the indenture, with its unnatural proportion of men and women, had been established. As far as the pages which follow carry conviction with them, we owe this entirely to the invaluable experience which Mr. Gandhi placed at our disposal in Natal.

The statistics given in the different records concerning Fiji were so much worse than those of Natal, or of any Crown colony which employed indentured Indian labour, that when the Natal Indian grievances were settled on an equitable basis, the leading Government representatives of the Viceroy's Council requested us to go out to Fiji in the same way that we had gone out before to South Africa. This we undertook in the year 1915, with the Viceroy's approval. It should be clearly understood, however, that our visit was unofficial, and our enquiry independent. Indeed, this unofficial and independent standpoint was the very strength of our position among the Indian people.

Early in the year 1916, we returned to India and on February 19th presented our report. On March 20th of that year, the Viceroy himself was able to make the welcome announcement, in the Imperial Legislative Council, that he had obtained the consent of the Home Government to state in public that the indenture system would be brought to an end, as soon as possible, not only in Fiji, but also in every, colony where it was still in force. But in January, 1917, the news reached India that a further delay of five years was contemplated by the Home Government, during which recruiting was still to be carried on.

This was regarded at once by the Indian people as a serious infringement of the promise that had been given, and great public indignation was expressed. Then ensued one of the most remarkable events in modern Indian history. For the first time on record, the women of India came out of their seclusion on to the public platform, and pleaded before immense audiences for the honour of their sisters. Leading women from every province went in a deputation direct to the Viceroy himself and laid before him their Sorrow.

The effect was immediate. The Viceroy replied to them that he had determined that all further recruiting for indenture should be stopped at once, and intimated that it would not be allowed to begin again after the war. Since then, his words have been definitely confirmed and the indenture system is dead.

Andrews, C.F. Indian Indentured Labour in Fiji. Colortype Press. 1918.

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