Girmityas are descendents of indentured Indian labourers brought to many countries like Mauritius, Fiji etc. to work on sugarcane plantations for the prosperity of the European settlers. Agreement” is the term that has been coined into “Girmit”, referring to the “Agreement” of the British Government with the Indian labourers as to the length of stay in Fiji and when they would be allowed to go back to India.
In the years that immediately followed the abolition of slavery in most of the British Empire in 1834, nearly half a million Indians were forced to migrate to Mauritius, as the colonial system struggled to keep up the flow of captive agricultural workers for the sugar plantations there.
These ‘girmitiyas’, people from modern-day UP, Bihar, West Bengal and parts of southern India, who had signed the ‘agreement’ or contract with employers, mostly thought they were going to a better life “just a little way off north India” — but were instead sent on a long and arduous sea journey that took many of their lives.
These indentured labourers were never to return to India, but they went on to shape the future of Mauritius, and many other distant lands, in multiple ways.
Aapravasi Ghat was where the indentured labour force landed, in “Marich Desh”, or Mauritius.Credit:Sri Ram IAS