INDIAN SLAVES IN SOUTH AFRICA
A little-known aspect of Indian-South African relations
Soon after Jan van Riebeeck set up a Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, to supply provisions to Dutch ships plying to and from India and the East Indies, people from India were taken to the Cape and sold into slavery to do domestic work for the settlers, as well the dirty and hard work on the farms.
A woman from Bengal named Mary was bought for van Riebeeck in Batavia in 1653. Two years later, in 1655, van Riebeeck purchased, from the Commander of a Dutch ship returning from Asia to Holland, a family from Bengal - Domingo and Angela and their three children.
On May 21, 1656, the marriage was solemnised at the Cape between Jan Wouters, a white, and Catherine of Bengal who was liberated from slavery. Later in the year Anton Muller was given permission to marry Domingo Elvingh, a woman from Bengal.
Indian roots in South Africa go back to 1860 - there were, of course, Indian slaves of Bengali, Malabar and Coromandel stock in the Cape around the early part of the 18th century.
Yet Indians in this country remained stateless right up to 1961.
Neither the Dutch, British nor their successors who became the first governors of the Union of SA conferred citizenship on Indians.
Perfidious Albion (Britain) disowned Indians in their South African colonies right up to 1910 - even though Indians were their subjects. After union, their sons and daughters persevered doggedly, to repatriate Indians.
When India emancipated itself from the yoke of the British by winning its political independence, it, in a way, retaliated by thumbing its nose at South Africa.
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