14 May 1879, a labour transport vessel, Leonidas disembarked at Levuka, Fiji from Calcutta, after nearly 72 days at sea, carrying 463 people, they were the first Indians who arrived in Fiji under the British indenture system.
14 May 2012, after 133 years, we pay tribute to over 60,500* Girmitiyas, our ancestors, who came to Fiji between 1879 and 1916 in the 87 voyages from Calcutta and Madras.
A simple question, Why did the Indians end up in Fiji led me to appreciate and work on a cause that I realized was necessary. Its unfortunate and sad that our precious history is being forgotten and at times ignored by us.
Yes, we do recall the oral history lessons from our primary school, we remember what our parents, grandparents, told us about their life, but are we passing this down to our children, have we documented this? We have access to some of these data, in the form of books, journals, articles and websites. However, it is our duty, to ensure that our children and future generations recognize our origin, realize the significance of this day, value and respect the Girmitiyassacrifice.
Once again, my request to all Fiji Indians, please make it a priority to document, record, and share, as much information as you can in relation to the Girmitiyas. Girmit.org has been established for this purpose, and should you need any support, I am more than happy to guide you to the right source. There are a few people, who are associated with this site and will be happy to assist. Please feel free to share this note with your children, or anyone who share similar sentiments.
Today, the 14th of May is a day of remembrance, a day to honour the Girmitiyas, their dreams, their hardship, and their life – a past which has which has beyond doubt and positively influenced our today.
* A total of 60,965 passengers left India but 60,553 (births and deaths at sea) arrived in Fiji.