. 2
( 7)


1947, and its inhabitants faced a new domestic environment which had
considerable implications for the possibility of overseas migration. The
most immediate impact of independence was felt in the north-west,
24 Global South Asians

particularly in Punjab, where the partition of the country into India
and Pakistan led to massive and violent upheavals, including large-scale
migration of people across the new international border in desperate fear
of their lives, often having witnessed or been implicated in murder and
other forms of physical savagery. Hindus and Sikhs trekked into India
while Muslims ¬‚ed to Pakistan. Probably about 12 million people left
their homes, leaving behind what they could not carry, including houses
and land. Those who ¬‚ed from Pakistan vacated about 9.6 million acres
of land, while Muslims ¬‚eeing India left behind 5.5 million acres. The
former groups also left around 400,000 houses and 1,789 factories. The
human misery involved can never adequately be told, though historians
are at last beginning to plumb some of its depths.31 What is clear is that
it had a marked impact on Punjabis in particular and their attitudes to
personal mobility, adding to the traditions of movement already ¬rmly
established in the region.
With political freedom came expectations of major economic transfor-
mation and rising standards of living, not least because of the rhetoric of
nationalism and anti-colonialism. But the rulers of the new states on the
subcontinent found that such bene¬ts were virtually impossible to deliver,
at least in the shorter term, given the magnitude of the task to be done,
and the pressure of a rising population. From 1950 the region began to
experience growth rates of over two per cent annually, as death rates fell
under the impact of modern medicine, while birth rates remained con-
stant. To take India, for example, the population just after independence
was, according to the 1951 Census, just over 360 million; by 1971 it
had risen to 547 million, and by the last decade of the century was over
one billion, standing at 1,027,015,247 at the 2001 Census. This gave
India the largest population in the world after China. In 2004 the pop-
ulations of Pakistan (159,196,336) and Bangladesh (141,340,476) were
smaller, but whereas India™s birth rate had dropped to 1.44 per cent,
Pakistan™s was still 1.9 per cent and that of Bangladesh 2.05 per cent.
It takes little imagination to see the pressure such population increase

31 There is a growing literature on many aspects of the partition, including the politics
behind it, the personal impact on individual lives, the experience of women, and the
longer-term impact on India and Pakistan. See, for example, Part 2, ˜Partition™ of Talbot
and Thandi (eds.), People on the Move; M. Hasan (ed.), India™s Partition. Process, Strategy
and Mobilization (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1994) and Inventing Boundaries.
Gender, Politics and the Partition of India (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2000);
I. Talbot, Freedom™s Cry. The Popular Dimension in the Pakistan Movement and Partition
Experience in North-West India (Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1996); U. Butalia,
The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (New Delhi, Viking, Penguin
Books India, 1998); T. Y. Tan and G. Kudaisya, The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia
(London and New York, Routledge, 2000). An eye-witness account is P. Moon, Divide
and Quit (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1962).
Traditions of stability and movement 25

puts on all social facilities, and particularly the impact on areas where
land is the major resource and means of livelihood. It was not surprising
that hard-pressed rural families would look abroad for alternative occu-
pations and access to wealth from new resources. A further aspect of the
post-independence domestic experience of the subcontinent, and partic-
ularly of India, was the growth of higher education, using English as the
medium, and the expansion of the modern professions. This led over the
decades to a major up-skilling of a growing elite, producing men and
women with highly desirable and portable skills, for example in medicine
and latterly in information technology, who were poised to take advantage
of job opportunities abroad when these became available.
Politics and economics in the wider world environment were important
factors encouraging or curtailing migration abroad from South Asia. In
the immediate postwar years, of the developed economies of the west-
ern world and the neo-Europes of the antipodes, only Britain permit-
ted open access to inhabitants of South Asia, by virtue of their status
as citizens of countries within the Commonwealth which emerged out
of the old Empire. The USA, Canada and Australia still closed their
doors to Indian migrants. In the 1960s the politics of immigration, race
relations and the need for skilled labour swung the pendulum the other
way, as Britain rapidly curtailed primary migration for South Asians and
others from the so-called New Commonwealth states, and as the USA,
Canada and Australia loosened their controls and gave access to people
with relevant skills and/or existing family already settled. The pattern of
movement into America, for example, changed markedly after the 1965
legislation abolishing national origins quotas. Immigration from Europe
sank between 1970 and 1990 from 32.2 per cent to 11.7 per cent, and
Asian immigration (from all Asia not just South Asia) rose from 5.2
per cent to 15.2 per cent in the same period.32 A further political change in
the later part of the century which profoundly in¬‚uenced overseas Indian
settlement was the hostility to established Indian overseas populations
from indigenous peoples in the aftermath of decolonisation. This led to
the ¬‚ight or expulsion of most Indians from the newly independent East
African countries in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to Europe and north
America; and from the 1980s onward of Indians from Fiji to Australia in

32 D. Nayyar, Governing Globalization, p. 147.
33 J. Connell and S. Raj, ˜A Passage to Sydney™, chapter 18 of B. V. Lal (ed.), Bittersweet
the Indo-Fijian Experience (Canberra, Australian National University, Pandanus Books,
2004). The experience of East African Indians will be dealt with later in the book but
a good introduction is V. Robinson, ˜The Migration of East African Asians to the UK™,
in R. Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration (Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1995), pp. 331“336.
26 Global South Asians

As important as politics in determining the ¬‚ows of out-migration from
South Asia and the onward migration of existing overseas groups, mak-
ing them ˜twice migrants™, were wider economic trends which affected
the demand for different kinds of labour. Immediately after the Sec-
ond World War Britain not only had an open door to people from the
countries of the Commonwealth, but an urgent need for labour to par-
ticipate in the reconstruction of the economy, and the creation of social
services such as the National Health Service and public transport. South
Asians were among those who came in large numbers, mainly engag-
ing in unskilled manual labour in the country™s large industrial centres,
but increasingly moving into self-employment. Twenty years later in the
1970s the most dramatic labour demand began to come from the Middle
East, from countries made suddenly rich as the price of oil rose, but
where local labour was scarce for various demographic and cultural rea-
sons. Asia provided the people needed to help these oil rich states with
their oil industries, construction, and many of the services these mod-
ernising economies required. By 1980 Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States
had an immigrant workforce of 2.2 million, increasing to 5.1 million in
1985. Many of these immigrants were temporary, on short-term con-
tracts, but the salaries were very attractive, as was the chance of sending
home money. In the 1970s India and Pakistan between them provided
the lion™s share of Asian migrant labour into the Middle East, ranging
from 97.3 per cent in 1975 to 45.5 per cent in 1979. Thereafter South
East and East Asia provided more labour, and Bangladesh also began
to contribute a signi¬cant number. By 1991 Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
between them provided 22 per cent of migrant labour compared with 36
per cent from Pakistan and India.34 The most recent demand for work-
ers which has drawn South Asians, and particularly Indians, abroad has
been the demand in the West, Canada and in the United States particu-
larly, and in Australia and New Zealand, for highly skilled people in what
are becoming post-industrial societies.35 These range from medical per-
sonnel to engineers and those with skills in electronics and information
technology. Moreover, international companies have no national barri-
ers to recruitment, and skilled employment with them is a passport to
international personal mobility.
Just as transformations in the technology of travel had enabled larger
out¬‚ows of people from South Asia in the later nineteenth century, so
a century later the technology of communications has transformed the
34 M. I. Abella, ˜Asian migrant and contract workers in the Middle East™, in R. Cohen
(ed.), Cambridge Survey of World Migration, pp. 418“423.
35 The number of Indians in the USA has risen dramatically in the last quarter of the
twentieth century, reaching over 800,000 by 1990.
Traditions of stability and movement 27

possibility of relatively frequent long distance travel and also of interna-
tional awareness and networking. From the 1960s travel by jet radically
shortened travel times between South Asia and the rest of the world,
compared with the earlier days of air travel when constant refuelling was
required. In the 1930s Europe to India took three days by air, compared
with eight or nine hours at the end of the century. Costs, too, had been
slashed, making air travel no longer the preserve of a wealthy elite. In 1990
air transport costs per passenger mile were less than half of what they had
been in 1960, and of course far cheaper still compared with 1930. Simi-
larly the cost of international phone calls dropped (to less than one-tenth
in 1990 compared with that of 1970), as did the price of computers (to less
than one-twentieth in 1990 compared with that of 1970), making access
to e-mail in the 1990s a relatively common possibility, at least among pro-
fessionals and students.36 This meant that where an older generation of
people wishing to make contact with South Asia from Europe had had to
rely on the post taking up to a week, or a laborious, booked international
phone call with poor reception, by the end of the twentieth century their
children and grandchildren could easily make instant contact with fami-
lies and friends around the world by phone, e-mail and the internet. The
consequences of these technological developments have transformed the
experience of living in a new home, with the ability to communicate on a
daily basis making physical absence less of a break in relationships. It has
quickened the ¬‚ows of information about possible opportunities abroad.
It also makes many migrants re-think their social and political identities
as they become truly transnational people, and in a new sense belong to
several different homelands.

This chapter has sketched the broad political and economic parame-
ters within which migration took place on the South Asian subcontinent
and from it overseas to create the contemporary South Asian diaspora.
Despite British imperial images of India as a static society, and of Indians
as immobile people constrained by social, religious and economic bonds
to their natal villages, the evidence indicates that for centuries Indians
had moved away from home even if in small numbers, whenever there
had been a serious reason to do so. As India became incorporated into
the global relationships created by the British Empire in the nineteenth
century, so there was more incentive to move and many more Indians
did so. The experience of physical mobility within the context of empire,
or knowledge of its possibility, often became the foundation for later pat-
terns of migration. But it was not until major changes in domestic and
36 These statistics are taken from D. Nayyar, Governing Globalization, p. 162.
28 Global South Asians

international politics, and the dramatic transformation of the world econ-
omy and the technology of transport and communication in the second
half of the twentieth century, that the wider environment encouraged the
development of more multiple strands in a worldwide South Asian dias-
pora. It is to these strands that we now turn, to provide the core factual
evidence of migration on which an understanding of the diaspora must
be based.
2 Making a modern diaspora

The modern South Asian diaspora, as it exists at the start of the twenty-
¬rst century, is a very complex human phenomenon. It has been fash-
ioned by many different migratory trajectories of distinctive groups of
people out of the subcontinent over at least a century and a half, which
have created multiple strands in the diaspora. Chapter 1 sketched the
changing environment over this period that enabled the movement of
people out of South Asia, in terms of local and international economic
change, political power and public policy, and the changing technology
of transport and communication. This chapter charts the major histori-
cal ¬‚ows of South Asian people from the early nineteenth century to the
present. (See maps 1“6 of journeys and settlements.) It deals primar-
ily with the initial stage of overseas movement, whether this was a ¬rst
or a second migration, as in the case of some South Asian groups who
were forced to move onwards often decades after their original journey,
becoming ˜twice-migrants™. It sets the scene for the following three chap-
ters, which analyse how migrants dealt over time with the many challenges
facing them as they made new homes on arrival and in subsequent years.
Becoming a diaspora is a long-term business of managing change and
continuity, and of negotiating old and new senses of identity as people
come to terms with their new environment, and as they raise succeeding
generations who in turn look critically at the position and achievements
of an older generation of migrants and make their own decisions about
who they are, how they should ¬t into their new homeland, and how they
should relate to the land from which their parents, grandparents or even
more remote ancestors came. Here we focus on patterns of movement:
who journeyed, from where and to what destinations, for what reasons
and with what resources. Resources include attitudes as well as money
and skills. It is sometimes crudely assumed that migrants are ˜problem
people™, particularly where there is public hostility to incomers of differ-
ent ethnic origins. But it would be wrong to see South Asians who went
abroad as failures, or as the helpless ¬‚otsam and jetsam of their societies,
or as inherently problem people, either on the subcontinent or where

30 Global South Asians

they settled. It takes courage, energy, a vision of broader horizons and
an awareness of the positive potential of change, and often connections,
information and some material resources, to make the decision to move
thousands of miles, to uproot oneself and often one™s family.

1 Movement in the age of empire
The ¬rst large-scale movements out of the Indian subcontinent occurred
in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when India was part of
the British Empire. It was largely the dense networks of imperial connec-
tions binding India to a wider imperial world that drew Indians overseas,
and led to the creation of settled populations of people of Indian origin
around the globe. Three main distinctive types of movement occurred in
this period, marked by different elements of choice and freedom.

Indentured labour
The recruitment of labourers under a contract of indenture for a speci¬ed
number of years developed from the 1830s in response to the abolition of
the slave trade and of slavery in the British Empire and in other European
Empires. The owners of sugar plantations in particular faced a dire short-
age of labour as slaves were freed and, understandably, few former slaves
showed any inclination to continue on the plantations as free, paid labour-
ers. To take just one example, in Mauritius, virtually all former slaves had
left the plantations for good by the mid 1840s. In 1838 in Jamaica, sugar
cane rotted in the ¬elds for lack of people to harvest it, and the following
year only limited planting was done.1 Indentured labour was recruited
from several different sources, but the Indian subcontinent provided the
greatest number. About 1.5 million people left India under this system
between 1834 and its ending in 1917, with the largest numbers going to
Mauritius, British Guiana, Natal and Trinidad.2 When they signed their
contracts before leaving home, few knew where they were going or the
reality of the conditions they would experience. None would have under-
stood how they were a tiny part of an unprecedented pattern of economic
globalisation sustaining the worldwide British Empire in particular, and
that their labours fuelled British economic growth and also helped to feed
the peoples of the Empire.

1 D. Northrup, Indentured Labor in the Age of Imperialism 1834“1922, (Cambridge, Cam-
bridge University Press, 1995) pp. 20“21.
2 The statistics for the different regions and their subsequent Indian population by 1980 are
in C. Clarke, C. Peach and S. Vertovec (eds.), South Asians Overseas. Migration and Ethnic-
ity, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990). p. 9. Mauritius received 453,063,
British Guiana 238,909, Natal 152,184 and Trinidad 143,939.
Making a modern diaspora 31

Although the numbers of Indian indentured labourers were so large,
they shared signi¬cant characteristics and were by no means represen-
tative of the subcontinent as a whole. Far more men than women were
recruited, despite the humanitarian and social concerns of the British and
Indian governments, and an attempt to insist on a female quota per batch
of recruits. Probably overall the proportion of women migrants during the
decades in which the system operated was just under 30 per cent of the
whole. This created immigrant communities with a serious gender imbal-
ance in the early years, before the birth of a new generation of Indians
abroad helped to redress the shortage of girls and women. More Hindus
that Muslims were recruited “ probably somewhere between 80 per cent
and 90 per cent. Although some came from south India, particularly to
Natal, far more came from a small region of northern India in the region
that is now eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but was then the United
Provinces, Oudh and Bihar. Among indentured labourers travelling to
Fiji, for example, for which destination there is a full set of emigration
passes, United Provinces provided 46.5 per cent, Oudh 29 per cent and
Bihar 10.5 per cent. Not surprisingly then, of India™s three major ports,
Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, Calcutta was the one from which most
indentured labourers embarked on their new life.3 What was it that per-
suaded people from such speci¬c areas to leave India? Obviously igno-
rance was a factor, but so was poverty, landlessness and the hope for a
better future. The districts from which labourers went were ones of high
population density, where there was fragmentation of landed holdings,
fragile agriculture and lack of alternative opportunities. In a considerable
number of cases the situation had already driven recruits outside their
district of origin in search of alternative work within India itself, most
often to regional urban centres or to the indigo plantations of Bengal.
Most of those who went abroad under the system had agricultural ori-
gins, but this was not a movement just of the lowest castes. Although they
constituted the largest single group, there were also artisans and higher
castes among those who left, a signi¬cant factor in subsequent years when
Indians started to reconstruct free communities in the places where they
had come to work under indenture.
The system of indenture was authorised and controlled by the govern-
ments of Britain, India, and the colonies to which labourers went. Indian
recruiters in India had to be licensed, and recruits were brought to a reg-
istration of¬cer, usually a magistrate, who had to see that the indenture
contract was understood and entered into freely before they left for the

3 Fig 3.2, Northrup, Indentured Labor in the Age of Imperialism, p. 66. For the Fiji evidence
see B. V. Lal (ed.), Chalo Jahaji on a Journey through Indenture in Fiji, (Canberra and Suva,
Australian National University and Fiji Museum, 2000) chapter 5.
32 Global South Asians

coast. There were medical checks in the port of embarkation, and the
ships on which they travelled were authorised, while conditions aboard
were regulated. Once at their destinations the conditions of work were
broadly regulated, as were those governing the way they were permitted at
the end of their indenture to stay on as free workers or to return to India.
Protectors of Immigrants were also appointed locally, as it became clear
that many employers had few moral scruples at driving their new employ-
ees as hard as possible. This was the theory. Evidence from a wide variety
of sources including of¬cial reports, court cases, and surviving memories,
suggests that the system was generally harsh, at times punitive, and so
tightly controlled the lives of labourers that some historians argue that it
was little more than a new system of slavery.4
The degree of regulation of the system means that we know in consid-
erable detail about the journeys of indentured labourers, their lives on the
plantations, and their destinations when their indenture was completed.
The whole experience of moving to a big port city, of being medically
examined, and coming into contact with Europeans, must have been cul-
turally perplexing to country folk whose social world would have been
circumscribed by tradition and the conventions of caste and religion.
Even more alarming and confusing would have been the voyage itself,
with its regimented existence, lack of personal privacy, and disregard
for social distinctions, as well as the sheer fact of spending weeks at sea
for people who had probably never seen the sea before. Conditions on
board authorised ships were by no means as bad as on the slave ships
which crossed the Atlantic. The ships were generally well equipped by
the standards of the times, and with the coming of steam the voyages were
shorter and safer. (The journey from India to Fiji took an average of 73
days by sail but only 30 by steam ship.) Even so illnesses such as cholera,
typhoid, smallpox, dysentery, measles and whooping cough could strike,
which taxed the power and skill of the ships™ surgeons. In 1859 one ship
bound for Guiana lost 82 of its immigrants to cholera, while another
ship four years later lost 124 to a severe fever. Other disasters could also
occur, such as ¬re or shipwreck. The Syria, for example, was wrecked
off Fiji in May 1884, and 56 immigrants drowned: many more would
have done so without the rescue operation mounted by the chief medi-
cal of¬cer and acting colonial secretary of Fiji, Dr William MacGregor,
who was awarded medals in Britain and Australia for his attempts to save
lives. One of the worst disasters was on the Mauritius route, when in

4 The main advocate of this view was H. Tinker, author of the classic book, A New System
of Slavery. The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830“1920 (London, Oxford University
Press, 1974).
Making a modern diaspora 33

1859 the Shah Allam burnt and only one out of over 400 immigrants
Once at their destination, the experience of immigrants was unfamil-
iar and harsh, and they were often subjected to considerable violence at
the hands of the plantation owners and their overseers or sirdars, them-
selves Indians, who were in daily contact with the labourers. Their pay
was minimal, and their accommodation in large barracks spartan and
often unhygienic, without regard for social decency and privacy, particu-
larly for couples and families. Their health was often poor, despite some
provision on plantations for medical care. They were at the mercy of
their employers, whose attitude was often minatory or actively punitive.
Women were subjected to harassment at the hands of their male employ-
ers and overseers, who exploited them sexually or failed to understand
their emotional and health problems, particularly those caused by child-
birth and the death of children.6 Records of court cases involving labour-
ers point to the violence with which they were treated, and the dif¬culties
in bringing employers to justice; while labourers themselves were often
punished for even quite trivial misdemeanors. Health records indicate a
high level of disease, particularly diseases attributable to poor living con-
ditions and lack of medical care, such as dysentery, anaemia, diarrhoea,
tuberculosis and chest infections. Moreover there were high death rates,
from disease, accidents (particularly drowning and burns), and violence “
the last category including murder and suicide. Suicide rates were alarm-
ing when compared with what might be generally expected in any given
population. They were particularly high in Fiji and Natal among inden-
tured labourers. In 1900“1903, for example, Fiji had a suicide rate of just
under 7.3 per cent and Natal a rate of 6.3 per cent. These were probably
attributable largely to poor conditions of work and living, but also to a
sense of despair and helplessness in a new situation.7
Given the conditions of their lives under indenture it is perhaps sur-
prising that comparatively few chose to return when their contracts had

5 See B. V. Lal, Chalo Jahaji, Part 2 for chapters on various aspects of the journeys taken
by indentured labourers. On pages 138“141 there is a unique description published
anonymously in Edinburgh in 1909 of such a journey, entitled ˜The Coolie Emigrant™. A
detailed study of recruiting for work in Natal is in T. R. Metcalf, ˜Hard hands and sound
healthy bodies: recruiting “Coolies” for Natal, 1860“1911™, chapter 12 in his Forging The
Raj. Essays on British India in the Heyday of Empire (New Delhi, Oxford University Press,
6 A classic study of the particular problems of women is B. V. Lal, ˜Kunti™s Cry™, published
in 1985 and reprinted as chapter 11 in Lal, Chalo Jahaji.
7 On disease and death on the Fiji plantations see Lal, Chalo Jahaji, chapters 12, 15, 16
and 17. On suicide in Natal see S. and A. Bhana, ˜An Exploration of the psycho-historical
circumstances surrounding suicide among indentured Indians, 1875“1911™, pp. 137“188
of S. Bhana (ed.), Essays on Indentured Indians in Natal (Leeds, Peepal Tree, 1991).
34 Global South Asians

expired. Their persistence in their new homes was probably a re¬‚ection
of the memory of what had driven them to indenture in the ¬rst place, a
sense of having lost touch with kin and home in India, and also a sign of the
fashioning of new kinship ties and families in the new homeland. About
28 per cent returned from Natal between 1860 and 1911, 35 per cent
from Mauritius between 1836 and 1910, and 20 per cent from Trinidad
between 1845 and 1918. Returning to India could be hard even though
some went back to their villages, were well received, and bought land
with their savings. An indication of the problems faced by returnees was
the establishment of an Indian Emigrants™ Friendly Service Committee
in Calcutta in 1921 to give of¬cial and private charitable aid to returned
indentured labourers in the form of housing, medical care and help to ¬nd
employment. A moving force behind this was the Revd C. F. Andrews,
a close friend of Gandhi, who had particularly concerned himself with
the problems faced by indentured labourers.8 Some who returned to
India were unable to make a new life for themselves and re-indentured
and returned to the colony from which they had returned or elsewhere.9
Here was a pattern that recurs in the formation of the diaspora: the expe-
rience of movement whether on the subcontinent or outside it creates an
attitude which assumes that physical mobility is an option for an individ-
ual and a family, and encourages further migration for individuals and
others in their social circles.

Contract labour
The interlocking forces of imperialism and economic development also
provided opportunities for work for many other Indians under contract
for a speci¬c period, in conditions which were freer and less arduous than
those suffered by the indentured. Some of these opportunities were within
South Asia itself, and between the early 1850s and the mid 1930s prob-
ably about 2.5 million Indians went to work in Burma and 1.5 million to
Ceylon. Outside the broad parameters of the subcontinent Malaya was
a major destination for contract workers. In the same period probably 2
million went, particularly to work on the sugar, coffee and tapioca planta-
tions, and in the twentieth century on the rubber plantations which were
of growing signi¬cance to the imperial economy. Many of those who went

8 On the career of Andrews see H. Tinker, The Ordeal of Love. C. F. Andrews and India
(Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1979).
9 On the experiences of those who returned to India see Northrup, Indentured Labor,
pp. 129“139; and M. S. Ramesar, ˜The repatriates™, chapter 9 of D. Dabydeen and
B. Samaroo (eds.), Across the Dark Waters. Ethnicity and Indian Identity in the Caribbean
(Houndmills and London, MacMillan, 1996).
Making a modern diaspora 35

on short-term contracts returned home to India, but suf¬cient remained
to establish a long-term resident community. Those who went to Malaya
were mainly Tamil speakers from south India, under a recruiting sys-
tem known as kangani; but from the 1920s most of those who went for
plantation work there were free labourers. Another element in the Indian
mosaic in South East Asia was the fact that for some decades in the
mid-nineteenth century Singapore was a penal colony for Indians, and
prisoners learnt craft skills which were put to use building the colony™s
infrastructure. One of the public buildings Indian prisoners helped to
erect was Singapore™s Anglican cathedral, completed in 1861.
Further a¬eld Indian contract labour helped to build the infrastruc-
ture of British rule in East Africa. The East African railways were a cru-
cial link in imperial rule and most of those who built them were Indi-
ans, many of whom came from the Punjab. Very signi¬cant numbers of
labourers were imported in the late 1890s, and by 1903 nearly 32,000
had been imported for railway construction. The highest point of Indian
employment on the railways was in 1901 when nearly 20,000 Indians
were employed, compared with 2,500 Africans. Although Indian labour-
ers were called ˜coolies™, as were indentured labourers on plantations,
many of these temporary workers were in no sense unskilled labourers
but masons, carpenters, and even draughtsmen and surveyors. Most of
these were repatriated when their construction work was done, but con-
siderable numbers of those who had come by 1903 were invalided home
(20.2 per cent) or died (7.8 per cent) “ a serious re¬‚ection of their work-
ing and living conditions. Fever, diarrhoea, and respiratory diseases were
the major killers, while bubonic plague and man-eating lions were a lesser
if more dramatic threat. But again a signi¬cant number “ possibly up to
19 per cent “ remained, some still working on the railways, to form part
of the emerging permanent Indian communities in East Africa. In Kenya,
for example, by the 1921 census there were over 45,500 people of Indian
origin, and some of these were Sikhs who had originally come to work
on the railways.10

Free Indian movement
Given the growing economic opportunities of this period and the
improvements in sea and rail transport, it is not surprising that Indians
also travelled widely overseas and into the hinterlands of foreign countries
10 R. G. Gregory, India and East Africa. A History of Race Relations within the British Empire
1890“1939 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 50“61. (These labourers were actually
indentured but as their work and terms of service were so different from that of plantation
indentured workers I have classi¬ed them as temporary contract labour.)
36 Global South Asians

for varieties of trade and commerce, sometimes to places where there was
a long-standing Indian commercial presence, as in East Africa, and some-
times to places where Indian communities were being built for the ¬rst
time. Many took up permanent residence overseas or at least stayed for
many decades, creating the core of a settled diaspora. They were often
known as ˜passenger Indians™ who paid their own way, in contrast to
those who arrived under indenture or some other form of labour contract.
As Gandhi noted in South Africa, despite these clear social distinctions
among Indians (and the fact that wealthier Indians had no social relations
with indentured Indians) some white people used the word ˜coolie™ for
all Indians; he himself was known as a ˜coolie barrister™ and sometimes
treated with the rough contempt shown to labourers despite the fact that
he was a London-trained lawyer.11
Some Indian traders continued long-standing patterns of commerce
with South East Asia, often settling in Malaya, Singapore and as far away
as Hong Kong, where they were heavily involved in the opium trade
between India and China. Parsis were particularly prominent and suc-
cessful from the ¬rst half of the nineteenth century; and they had their
own cemetery there from 1854 and a Zoroastrian Centre from 1857.
In 1901 the Hong Kong Indian population was 1,453 and by 1931 it
had reached 4,745, by which time its members were engaged in a wide
variety of occupations.12 East Africa was also a signi¬cant commercial
destination, following on from a long tradition of Indian commerce on
the coast and on Zanzibar. Parsis were present in the nineteenth century
on the coast, as were large numbers of Shia Muslim sects (particularly
those following the Aga Khan). They were joined in the twentieth century
by large numbers of Gujaratis, also from western India, where the long
coastline naturally encouraged movements westwards across the Indian
Ocean, particularly in times of drought and famine. In Africa trade clearly
followed the railway. Many who had worked on the coast now travelled
inland, serving Indian construction workers and then supplying Africans
and white settlers. Known as dukawallas, they became essential to the East
African economy and the daily lives of its peoples. Some made signi¬cant
wealth, such as the founder of Hasham Jamal and Company who came
from western India and engaged in a large produce trade through East
Africa; or a Karachi Muslim, Rehmanji Mohemed Ali, who established a

11 M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography. The Story of My Experiments with Truth, (London,
Jonathan Cape, 1966) pp. 89“90, 107“109.
12 See B.-S. White, Turbans and Traders. Hong Kong™s Indian Communities (Hong Kong,
Oxford University Press, 1994); on South East Asia see the many essays in K. S. Sandhu
and A. Mani (eds.), Indian Communities in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Times Academic
Press, 1993).
Making a modern diaspora 37

large potato plantation and also brought in the ¬rst Indian ¬lms. Indians
also began to rent urban land which they then subdivided and let to other
Indians. As one District Commissioner commented in 1911, ˜The pro¬t
on such plots must comparatively speaking be enormous.™13 It is telling
that by the end of the nineteenth century the Indian rupee had become
the major currency of trade throughout East Africa. Passenger Indians
also came in large numbers to South Africa, and particularly to Natal:
by 1911 there were nearly 20,000 in Natal alone, despite considerable
white hostility towards them and attempts to curtail their numbers and
capacity to trade. They came mainly from a very limited area near the
coast of what is now Gujarat “ from the districts of Surat and Valsad and
from Kathiawar. A few came to Natal from Mauritius, but had been born
in Kathiawar, like Aboobaker Amod, a Memon originally from Porban-
dar, who opened a store in Durban in 1875 and also invested in urban
property. By the early twentieth century virtually every urban area and
large village in Natal had its Indian traders and store-keepers: by hard
work and the use of family labour they undercut white competition by as
much as 25 to 30 per cent.14
The expansion of British imperial rule round the rim of the Indian
Ocean also provided opportunities for Indians who took up varieties of
imperial employment, particularly in colonial police and security services
and in civilian administration. Sikhs were, for example, recruited into the
security services in Malaya and became the core of the new colonial
police force. Similarly in Hong Kong Punjabis were recruited from India
to become colonial policemen, largely at the instigation of a former Indian
Police Of¬cer, C. V. Creagh, who had served in the Punjab police before
being transferred to Hong Kong in the 1860s. Indians went on being
recruited through kin connections and Indian newspaper advertisements
and were a major part of the police force well into the twentieth century.
Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims were also recruited into the colony™s prison
Indians also served the Empire in a civil capacity. They were recruited
in large numbers into subordinate clerical and technical posts in British
Malaya, not least because of the advantage they had in knowing English.
By 1930, 655 Indians had posts in the clerical service of the Federated
13 Gregory, India And East Africa, pp. 61 ff. One case study of groups of western Indians
who migrated to East Africa, and for whom this was one migration in the middle of
several, which eventually brought them to Leicester, UK, is M. Banks, ˜Why move?
Regional and long distance migrations of Gujarati Jains™, chapter 6 of J. M. Brown and
R. Foot (eds.), Migration: The Asian Experience (Houndmills and London, MacMillan,
14 S. Bhana and J. Brain, Setting Down Roots. Indian Migrants in South Africa 1860“1911
(Johannesburg, Witwatersrand University Press, 1990), particularly chapters 1 and 3.
38 Global South Asians

Malay States, just over 65 per cent of the total, whereas Chinese held
nearly 26 per cent and Malays only 9 per cent.15 In Hong Kong at the
same time many of the 3,000 Indians there were in government service,
primarily in the army and police but also in the civilian services as doc-
tors, vets, engineers, teachers, clerks, and telegraph workers. Similarly,
Indians moved into government employment in East Africa, and by 1911
almost as many were government employees as they were traders of var-
ious kinds. In Uganda, for example, they were ¬rmly entrenched in the
civil service, the railways and postal service by the First World War. Goans
in particular had a high level of education before they migrated to Africa,
and gravitated particularly into government and private service rather
than into trade.
A ¬nal and unusual strand in the free migration ¬‚ows out of India
in this period were the small numbers, particularly of Sikhs, who found
their way to the Paci¬c coast of America and Canada. Many of these were
former soldiers in the Indian army, and often had seen service in the Far
East. It was from there that some went to Vancouver and others to San
Francisco. Between 1904 and 1908 about 5,000 Indians, mostly Sikh
Punjabis and almost all men, entered Canada and found work in railway
construction, in forestry and in lumber mills. They clustered in Victoria
and Vancouver. In 1908 stringent immigration rules curtailed this ¬‚ow,
and stopped primary male immigration, despite the attempt in 1914 of
a group of nearly four hundred Indians to beat the ban in a specially
chartered ship which complied with the new rule that migrants should
come on a continuous voyage from their native country, thus effectively
barring Indians as there was no direct steamship service from India to
Canada. The Komagata Maru and its human cargo languished for two
months in Vancouver harbour, to no avail. Only gradually were women
and children allowed in, leading to family reunion. It was not until the
1960s that Indian migration was possible into Canada in any strength.16
Signi¬cant numbers of Indians also made their way into California at
this time, where there was high demand for labour in an area of intensive
agriculture, where irrigation enabled the commercial cultivation of fruit
and vegetables. By 1890 the size of the Indian community there was nearly
72,500. Between 1899 and 1914, 6,800 Punjabis had arrived, mainly
from higher castes who sent sons into the army or abroad because family
land was insuf¬cient for their support. Many had already seen service

15 M. Puthucheary, ˜Indians in the Public Sector in Malaysia™ chapter 13 in Sandhu and
Mani (eds.), Indian Communities in Southeast Asia.
16 An attempt to catch the ¬‚avour of the life of these early Indians in Canada is in S. S. Jagpal,
Becoming Canadians. Pioneer Sikhs in their Own Words (Madeira Park and Vancouver,
Harbour Publishing, 1994)
Making a modern diaspora 39

overseas in the army or police forces of the Empire. As all immigration
from Asia was stopped in 1917, and Indians were denied citizenship and
therefore the right to own land from 1923, they had to adapt to a very
hard situation, often by marrying local women, mainly Hispanics, as local
laws forbad marriage to white women. This was a social pattern almost
unique in the diaspora, as South Asians have rarely married outside their
own social groups, let alone outside their ethnic group. But it was not
until 1949 that South Asians were allowed to bring wives and brides from
the subcontinent. Despite these problems Indians struck deep roots in
California and became known as good farmers and reliable neighbours.17
South Asians had moved abroad in an imperial age for a variety of
reasons, armed with different skills with which to make a new life. By
far the greatest number were from rural backgrounds and such migrants
possessed little but their agricultural knowledge and capacity for hard
labour. (In the course of time many of these labouring communities in
the diaspora began to develop new skills and to move into new types of
work, as will be seen in the next chapter. Here we have been concerned
only with the initial pattern of movement.) By contrast, from the mid-
twentieth century very different types of population ¬‚ows occurred out
of the subcontinent, leading to the creation of different types of diaspora
community, as men and women from South Asia responded to the prob-
lems experienced in now independent nation states, and to many new
kinds of opportunities overseas in an age ¬rst of decolonisation and then
of globalisation.

2 Movement in an age of decolonisation and globalisation
The movement of people out of the subcontinent slowed down after the
First World War, once the system of indenture was stopped, largely in
response to Indian hostility to it, and as economic recession and new legal
barriers to Indian migration were erected in places such as the United
States and Canada. New Zealand and Australia had already closed their
doors at the turn of the century, in 1899 and 1901 respectively. But in the
second half of the twentieth century new ¬‚ows of migrants left to make
their mark across the world, often in places and societies where there had
been virtually no permanent South Asian presence before. It was this
second set of large-scale movements that made the South Asian diaspora
a truly global phenomenon, visible and signi¬cant in every continent.
There were four main and very distinctive kinds of migratory ¬‚ow.
17 J. M. Jensen, Passage from India. Asian Indian Immigrants in North America (New Haven
and London, Yale University Press, 1988); K. I. Leonard, Making Ethnic Choices. Cali-
fornia™s Punjabi Mexican Americans (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1995).
40 Global South Asians

South Asian migration into the United Kingdom
The ¬rst new ¬‚ow out of the subcontinent came soon after the end of
British imperial rule, at the time when Britain was reconstructing its
economy at home after the devastations of the Second World War and
offered considerable opportunities for employment for the unskilled as
well as the skilled. South Asians were part of a larger movement of peo-
ple from the New Commonwealth (i.e. people not from the older ˜white
dominions™, who were therefore immediately recognisable and different
from the majority of the British population by virtue of their ethnic and
cultural backgrounds). Citizens of Commonwealth countries, including
those such as India and Pakistan which had become independent, had free
right of access into Britain at this stage. Caribbean immigrants came ¬rst,
often ¬‚uent in English and offering desirable skills in transport and health.
They were soon followed in the 1950s and 1960s by people from India
and Pakistan, whose eastern wing became Bangladesh in 1971. (People
from East Pakistan will be called Bangladeshis here for ease, although
clearly many of them were born or lived in the area and migrated from
it when it was part of Pakistan immediately after independence.) The
¬‚ows from South Asia were only slowed when from the early 1960s suc-
cessive governments enacted legislation restricting New Commonwealth
immigration, out of concerns about social tension where there were large
and distinctive ˜coloured communities™, the pressure immigration placed
on housing in certain areas, and latterly to ward off a massive in¬‚ux of
Indians from East Africa.18 Political parties were in large part responding
to domestic political pressures, and behind these controls lay a degree of
serious racism in many sections of British society. However, many MPs
from the main parties were also deeply uneasy at the need to impose con-
trols which appeared to raise humanitarian concerns and also threaten
the nature and standing of the Commonwealth as it emerged out of the
ending of the British Empire.
Despite increasingly stringent controls the size of the UK™s South Asian
population increased rapidly in actual terms and as a percentage of the
total population. In 1961 it stood at 106,300 (0.23 per cent of the popula-
tion). This had risen in 1971 to 413,155 (0.85 per cent of the population);
in 1981 to 1,215,048 (2.52 per cent of the population); in 1991 to
1,431,348 (3.04 per cent of the population) and in 2001 to 2,083,759
(3.6 per cent of the population). Throughout these four decades those
18 On the interlinked issues of British citizenship and immigration control, see R. Karatani,
De¬ning British Citizenship. Empire, Commonwealth and Modern Britain (London and
Portland, Or., Frank Cass, 2003). Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the making of the crucial
1962 and 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Acts and the 1971 Immigration Act.
Making a modern diaspora 41

from or with ethnic origins in India have been the largest group, followed
by Pakistanis, and then by people from Bangladesh. Figures for the later
decades of the century of course re¬‚ect natural population increase, as
more people from these ethnic groups were born in the UK, rather than
there being an increase in the numbers of migrants. But in 1961 when
the ¬gures do re¬‚ect mainly immigrants rather than those locally born,
there were 81,400 Indians compared with 24,900 of Pakistani origin.
By 2001 those with origins in Pakistan and Bangladesh together num-
bered 1,030,348 compared with 1,053,411 with ethnic roots in India.
(Signi¬cant numbers joined this South Asian ethnic group from East
Africa in the late 1960s and 1970s, as will be discussed below. Conse-
quently some of those counted by the Census as Indians will have roots
in India by way of Africa.)19
Those who migrated directly to the UK rather than via East Africa or
elsewhere came from several distinctive regions. These regions tended to
have particular past histories and present problems which made migration
overseas an attractive option for many, despite the great expense of saving
for air fares. It should be remembered that all those who came at this time
were ¬nanced by themselves or their extended families, and that air trans-
port, used by most migrants from the early 1960s, was, comparatively,
much more expensive than at the end of the century. Consequently the
decision to make the journey was a huge undertaking. This was one rea-
son why initially migration was often by males alone, and family reunions
occurred later when there was a certainty about settlement and enough
money to pay for wives and possibly children to travel to the UK. Further,
in these particular areas of the subcontinent there was often experience
of earlier mobility which had widened the horizons of local people far
beyond their village or home region.
One of these regions lay in Punjab, a province of British India which
had been divided in 1947, and where there had been a huge demographic
upheaval as a result. In Indian Punjab the geographical core of out-
migration to the UK was the area of the Jullundur Doab. This was one
of the most heavily populated regions of India, where land was increas-
ingly in short supply, and pressure increased with the in¬‚ux of refugees
from the area of the province which had become Pakistan. It was also the
part of the province which had provided very large numbers of soldiers,
particularly Sikhs, for the imperial army, and given them opportunities
to travel within the Empire before and after military service, creating a
19 A convenient source for many of these population statistics for the UK is a website on
200 years of migration into the UK entitled ˜Moving here™. It is well illustrated, has
individual histories, and scholarly texts: www.movinghere.org.uk. See also the decennial
Census websites.
42 Global South Asians

culture conducive to migration. Migrants from the region were by no
means those at the base of rural society. One study of a Punjabi village
in the Doab which sent many Jat Sikhs, known for their ¬ne agriculture,
to England, suggests that of a total village population in the middle of
the century of over 1,600, 515 had migrated, 99 within India and 402 to
the UK. Pressure on land was one cause for this demographic pattern, as
was an exaggerated idea of the wealth which could be made abroad, to
enhance a family™s wealth and prestige at home. Some wealthy families
also sent several children abroad as a defensive strategy, fearing the impact
of legislation to place upper limits or ˜ceilings™ on landholdings in an inde-
pendent India where socialist values of¬cially drove economic legislation.
Many of these Sikhs migrated to Gravesend on the Kentish outskirts of
London.20 Across the city in Southall, another area of large South Asian
settlement, Jat Sikhs again came mainly from Jullundur. Other migrants
came from the Pakistani side of the border which now bisected Punjab.
Again many of these had experienced earlier movement as a result of
migration to the new canal colonies or because of the partition of 1947.
Many Pakistani families who settled in Oxford from the 1950s came orig-
inally from Jullundur and at partition had moved to Jhelum in Pakistan
Another distinctive region of out-migration from the north of the sub-
continent was Mirpur in what was Pakistani-controlled Kashmir after
1947. This, too, was an area where there was an acceptance of long-
distance movement for work to compensate for lack of local opportunities
and poor agricultural prospects. Before the railway transformed trans-
portation on the subcontinent in the late nineteenth century, Mirpuris
had been boat-builders and sailors on the great rivers of the area, and
then, when river transport declined, they transferred their skills to the
British shipping industry, monopolising the jobs of stokers in British mer-
chant ships operating out of Karachi and Bombay. Then in 1966 much
of the best land in the district was ¬‚ooded by the building of the Mangla
Dam, increasing the migration ¬‚ow. About 250 villages were submerged
and 100,000 people were displaced by the dam. Those with friends and
relatives in the UK used their compensation money to migrate there.
Across the subcontinent in what became Bangladesh in 1971, yet
another area produced a disproportionate number of migrants to the
UK. These were people from Sylhet, another district with traditions of

20 A. W. Helweg, Sikhs in England. The Development of a Migrant Community (Delhi, Oxford
University Press, 1979). More broadly on migration out of Punjab over time see D. S.
Tatla, ˜Rural roots of the Sikh diaspora™, chapter 5 of I. Talbot and S. Thandi (eds.), People
on the Move. Punjabi Colonial and Post-Colonial Migration (Karachi, Oxford University
Press, 2004).
Making a modern diaspora 43

movement in search of work related to seamanship. Before 1947 it had
been in the British Indian province of Assam, and the land revenue settle-
ment there had produced a society of small landholding farmers. Many
of those above the level of the poorest preferred not to labour on the land
themselves, and chose to work on boats which transported rice and jute
down to Calcutta. There they encountered people, often their own kin,
who encouraged them to work as lascars or sailors. Often the ¬rst Syl-
hetis to go to England were sailors who stayed for a short time to work
in the UK. When the British immigration system made such easy move-
ment in and out of the UK impossible in the 1960s many of them stayed
permanently and took up industrial, labouring and other forms of work,
including the ubiquitous ˜Indian restaurant™, which was often not Indian
at all! Key Sylheti brokers who owned boarding houses in London helped
to mediate this migration.21 A ¬nal group of people from the subconti-
nent who migrated to the UK were Gujaratis, again from a region that
faced seaward and had long been a source of movement beyond South
Asia. However, most of them came to the UK via East Africa and their
migratory experience to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s will be discussed
when we consider the groups of South Asians overseas who were forced
to engage in a second migration, to become those who are often known
as ˜twice-migrants™.
The nature of South Asian migration to the UK changed markedly
over time. The earliest arrivals were generally single males, who came
off ships, worked as pedlers, or took up industrial work often with the
intention of only a limited stay. If they were married they left their wives
and children at home on the subcontinent and lived a spartan bachelor
life, often in houses which were little more than dormitories for a large
number of single men. There were often stories of men engaged in shift
work who left their beds in the mornings to be ¬lled during the day by
those who were doing the night shifts! Almost always this was ˜chain
migration™ “ people from kin and village groups who knew each other
and spread news of work and accommodation by word of mouth and
through these chains of social connection. This was as much the reason
for the heavy representation of particular areas on the subcontinent in
the migrant population in the UK, as was the local economic pressure
and historical experience in the sending region. Many who have stud-
ied particular migrant communities in different urban areas in the UK
have teased out the working of such chains. One particularly interesting
example, which illuminates several aspects of the migration process, was

21 K. Gardner, Global Migrants, Local Lives. Travel and Transformation in Rural Bangladesh
(Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995).
44 Global South Asians

initiated in the 1950s by a British man who had commanded a unit of
Punjabi Sikhs during the war. His family ¬rm, Woolf™s Rubber Company
in Southall, needed labour to make car accessories. Drawing on his old
servicemen™s networks he recruited rural Sikhs from Jullundur. The patri-
arch of another chain of migrants living in east Oxford was also a former
soldier.22 Ironically in the 1960s during the period when South Asian
migration was subjected to a voucher system, British attempts to control
immigration further encouraged the development of chains, particularly
those of kinship, as those who were already established sponsored and
acquired vouchers for younger male brothers, cousins and friends. The
growing restrictions also encouraged family reunions just as the primary
migration of male workers virtually stopped. Not only did migrants want
to bring in their wives and children while they could: wives and families
back on the subcontinent encouraged this for fear of the effect of the single
life abroad on the morals of their menfolk. The courage of these migrant
women needs to be remembered. Although there had been considerable
public and private investment in education on the subcontinent during
the years of British rule, the availability of education was geographically
and socially uneven and far more common in urban areas. Coming from
rural backgrounds, where educational levels for girls were far lower then
for boys, female literacy in a vernacular was still uncommon, and literacy
in English was highly unlikely for young married women. Even in 1981
illiteracy among rural women in Bangladesh was 96.9 per cent and in
Pakistan 92.7 per cent; and in India in 1971 it stood at 87 per cent.23
Consequently, young women who ¬‚ew to Britain to join their husbands
faced enormous problems of adaptation in a strange environment, often
initially unsupported by the network of female kin who would have sur-
rounded them at home in South Asia. This was the beginning of per-
manent settlement and the development of stable ethnic communities in
the UK. The issues to be addressed in this new phase of the migration
process are discussed in the next chapter.
Many of those who came directly to the UK from South Asia in the
1950s and 1960s were rural people of some local standing in their origi-
nal homes and none were abjectly poor. However, few had specialist skills
which they could immediately deploy in their new home, unlike the more
22 G. Baumann, Contesting Culture. Discourses of Identity in Multi-ethnic London (Cam-
bridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 54; A. Shaw, ˜The Pakistani community
in Oxford™, pp. 35“57 of R. Ballard (ed.), Desh Pardesh. The South Asian Presence in
Britain (London, Hurst, 1994).
23 F. Robinson (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka,
Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 381.
(Punjab had a rural female literacy rate of 19.9 per cent which was higher than many
states in India, but this would not have been literacy in English.)
Making a modern diaspora 45

educated East African South Asians who came in subsequent decades.
Consequently most of them found unskilled or semi-skilled jobs in fac-
tories and with a variety of urban employers. Southall Sikhs, for exam-
ple, worked in a rubber factory and then branched out into local food
processing factories. Gravesend, another popular Sikh destination, had
paper mills and engineering works. Pakistanis were lured to Oxford in the
1950s when the City of Oxford Motor Services could not ¬nd cleaners
and conductors for its buses, as white labour gravitated to higher paid
jobs at Morris Motors. Many more South Asians found work in the great
Northern and Midland industrial conurbations, where unskilled work in
heavy industries was plentiful at this time. This led to a heavily urban
pattern of settlement “ striking in view of these migrants™ rural roots “
and also strong spatial clustering. The 1971 Census discovered that 65 per
cent of Pakistanis and 58 per cent of Indians were concentrated in Greater
London, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyneside and
West Yorkshire. London was the major centre for both groups but par-
ticularly for Indians, while for Pakistanis the West Midlands and West
Yorkshire were also very important. Twenty years later these patterns
persisted: by far the greatest number of Indians were to be found in
Greater London, as were Bangladeshis, whereas Pakistanis were almost
equally heavily concentrated in London, the West Midlands and West

Second time migrations
The impact of politics and of national policies on migration has already
become clear, as we have seen how immigration law in many places
denied access to South Asians at different times in the twentieth cen-
tury. Nowhere was political in¬‚uence more obvious than in those places
where established groups of South Asians in the diaspora were forced to
move on from the places where they had made their homes after their
¬rst overseas movement. Most of these second migrations occurred in
the aftermath of the European colonial empires, particularly the British
Empire, in places where South Asians had become signi¬cant groups of
incomers who now for various reasons were seen as a threat to the new
nation state and its indigenous peoples, and denied citizenship in their
new homelands. Two of the most signi¬cant of these movements occurred
in South Asia itself as people of Indian origin went ˜home™ to India from
24 V. Robinson, ˜Boom and gloom: the success and failure of South Asians in Britain™,
chapter 12 of Clarke, Peach and Vertovec (eds.), South Asians Overseas; A. H. Halsey
and J. Webb (eds.), Twentieth-Century British Social Trends (Houndmills, London and
New York, MacMillan and St. Martin™s Press, 2000), pp. 140“141.
46 Global South Asians

Burma and Sri Lanka. The Second World War led to the ¬‚ight of proba-
bly half a million Indians from Burma in the face of the Japanese advance
through South East Asia. When Burma gained independence in 1948 the
national policy was to restrict Indians™ access to citizenship, and eventu-
ally in 1962 those remaining were expelled, though some remain on the
fringes of society, disguised by Burmese dress and names, and lacking any
formal citizenship status. Similarly, independent Ceylon (later known as
Sri Lanka) made most of its Tamil Indian residents non-citizens. Negoti-
ations between the Sri Lankan government and the government of India
did not completely resolve the issue, though under a series of agreements
some were allowed to take Indian citizenship, and others Sri Lankan
citizenship, while some thousands were repatriated to India. Ironically,
probably more Sri Lankan Tamils ¬‚ed the island to India when the civil
war on the island broke out in the 1980s than the numbers of Indian
Tamils who had been repatriated.
Outside the subcontinent there were a series of acute crises facing
once-migrant South Asians who were now forced to move again in the
post-colonial era. One of the most dramatic and publicised was the fate of
Indians who had migrated to East Africa and now found themselves under
pressure and sometimes acute threat from the policies of the new nation
states of East Africa. Most of those who had gone to East Africa were from
western India, and particularly the area which is now the Indian state of
Gujarat. They had taken with them higher levels of technical and com-
mercial skills and better educational quali¬cations than their compatriots
who had left with little but their labour to offer. In Africa they had capi-
talised on these and they and their children had by the 1960s secured key
and highly visible roles for themselves in the economies of these areas, as
traders, managers, technicians and artisans, and also in the civil services.
But it must be remembered that they were a tiny minority “ 2.3 per cent
in Kenya and 1 per cent in Tanzania and Uganda. Denied the right to buy
land, by imperial policy, they were now primarily resident in urban areas,
and tended consequently to cluster residentially. They also continued
their tradition of marrying only within their own communities, and they
had little social contact with black Africans. Clearly they had prospered
under colonial rule and it was not surprising that Africans often viewed
them with suspicion as colonial collaborators. As independence came
Indians faced the prospect of an uncertain future and also the speci¬c
issue of citizenship in a post-colonial Africa. Some began to take defen-
sive measures, for example by moving capital out of Africa to Britain,
sometimes illegally, or by taking British rather than local African citizen-
ship. In Uganda by 1969 just about half of local Indians had taken British
citizenship, under one-third Ugandan citizenship, and under one-seventh
Indian citizenship. In Kenya Indians were equally reluctant to take local
Making a modern diaspora 47

citizenship. The exception was Tanganyika, where the Aga Khan directed
his followers to apply for local citizenship. The Indian government was
reluctant to believe that in a post-colonial era other newly independent
nations would actively discriminate against Indians in their territories,
and the only advice it gave to Indians was to integrate locally and become
good citizens of African states, advice which Indians found unrealistic
and even threatening.25
All these aspects of their presence made them easy targets for new lead-
ers in struggling post-colonial states, who had numerous client groups
needing visible and tangible proof of the bene¬ts of independence. In par-
ticular, emergent African trading groups and African intellectuals anxious
for government jobs would reap bene¬ts from policies of Africanisation
or from the more extreme case of the departure of Indian communities.
Indians began to be squeezed out of jobs in all three East African coun-
tries. In Kenya for example an Immigration Act and a Trade Licensing
Act in 1967 began to exclude Asians from the public services and many
commercial positions, while the need to gain a licence to trade in certain
areas was aimed at the Asian commercial concentrations in Nairobi and
Mombasa. By 1968 the number of Asians in the public services stood at
8,000 compared with 12,200 in 1961. Not surprisingly a growing stream
of Kenyan Asians headed in panic for Britain in the mid-1960s. In 1965
5,000 arrived, 6,000 in 1966 and 12,000 in 1967. It was thought that in
the ¬rst two months of 1968 alone another 12,000 arrived; and in March
Britain banned the entry even of British passport holders, unless they had
what were called ˜patrial™ links with Britain. In Tanzania Julius Nyerere™s
African Socialism programmes put pressure on Asians, particularly those
in the rural retailing sector. Here, too, South Asians began to move on,
and Dar-es-Salaam experienced the same clear change as had Nairobi.
Once an Indian-dominated city with 29 per cent of its population Indian
in 1960, by 1969 Indians were only 11 per cent of the population.
However it was in Uganda that the most dramatic exodus of Indians
took place “ under threat of force “ though it occurred slightly later
than the mass departures from Kenya. In 1969 the Ugandan govern-
ment followed Kenyan example with Immigration and Trade Licensing
Acts which threatened the large number of Indians who had taken British
citizenship (c. 36,600). A considerable number “ over 24,000 “ left
between 1969 and 1971, most to the UK while smaller numbers went to

25 See V. Robinson, ˜The Migration of East African Asians to the UK™, in R. Cohen
(ed.), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
1995), pp. 331“336; an excellent collection of essays is in M. Twaddle (ed.), Expulsion
of a Minority. Essays on Ugandan Asians (London, Athlone Press, 1975); H. Tinker, The
Banyan Tree. Overseas Emigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 1977), particularly chapters 4 and 5.
48 Global South Asians

the USA and Canada, and some, particularly the retired and elderly,
returned to India and Pakistan. At this stage many found it possible
to bring out their capital, despite the limits on what could of¬cially be
exported. The crisis for the Ugandan Asians ¬nally erupted when Idi
Amin took over power in January 1971. By the end of the year it was
clear that this meant no respite, and in August 1972 he announced that
Asians would be expelled from Uganda in 90 days, and that they were
guilty of economic sabotage and encouraging corruption. This under-
standably caused turmoil in Britain, where race and immigration were
already deeply contentious issues, and the law had been strengthened in
the face of the exodus of Asians from Kenya. The British city of Leicester
even went as far as advertising in the Ugandan Argus in mid-September
1972 to warn Asians not to attempt to settle there as the city™s educa-
tional and social services were stretched to the limit. It had already expe-
rienced an in¬‚ux of 3,000 Kenyan Asians in early 1968. Ealing (a London
borough) and Birmingham also declared that they could not accept any
more immigrants. There was also hostile reaction from sections of the
press and public. But eventually the Conservative government accepted
that it had responsibility for those with British passports. Plans were also
laid to divide the refugees among different Commonwealth countries,
the United States and Europe. Eventually around 29,000 came to the
UK, 10,000 or more returned to India, Canada accepted 8,000 (mainly
Ismailis), Europe about 6,000, the USA took around 3,000 and Pakistan
2,000, while Malawi, Australia and New Zealand all took small numbers.
Some of these were airlifted out, while the Indian government transported
its quotas in closed trains to Kenya for processing. When Amin™s deadline
was reached only 2,000 Asians remained in Uganda “ a tragic end to a
community who had made such a contribution to the evolution of the
country and had often, like the Ismailis, been deeply committed to it as
Many of these refugees left with little or virtually nothing: although
their assets were thought to be worth between £100 million and £150
million, they were only allowed to bring out £50 each. Resettlement was
partly a matter of self-help, and partly the work of governments and char-
itable and religious organisations. In the USA the resettlement work was
largely done by ¬ve voluntary agencies, such as the Tolstoy Foundation,
which resettled refugees in South Carolina, where their skills were wel-
comed by local businesses, and their small numbers and middle class sta-
tus made them welcome neighbours socially.26 Britain set up a Uganda
Resettlement Board which housed many in special centres, staffed by

26 E. F. Strizhek, ˜The Ugandan Asian expulsion: resettlement in the USA™, Journal of
Refugee Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1993, pp. 260“264.
Making a modern diaspora 49

charity volunteers, when they ¬rst arrived. Although the government™s
policy was to disperse the refugees so that they were encouraged away
from areas where there was already pressure on employment, housing
and schools and social services, in practice many (probably around 60
per cent) gravitated to those areas because there were already Asian com-
munities there and often kin who had migrated before the ¬nal crisis.
The result was a high concentration of East African Asians in London
and Leicester in particular. However, despite the fears of local people and
their elected local authorities, and the political protests by some sections
of the press and politicians, it was clear that this was a distinctive strand of
migration, very different in kind from that of the unskilled Pakistanis and
Bangladeshis who had arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. The East African
Asian migration was familial in type, rather than being male pioneer and
chain immigration. Further, those who came had signi¬cant resources
either of wealth or of experience and skill. Some had managed to bring
out capital before the ¬nal crisis. But all of them were comparatively well
educated and had been in a range of jobs such as commerce, government
service, teaching and artisanal trades. What was also striking was that the
women were also well educated and used to paid work outside the home as
nurses, teachers and secretaries. Of men who came to Britain 77 per cent
were ¬‚uent or fairly ¬‚uent in English, as were 57 per cent of women. Over
the years that followed it became clear that they had put these resources
to good effect and that even if they had had to take comparative lowly
jobs immediately after their arrival, many became upwardly mobile, mov-
ing into their own homes, encouraging their children to high educational
standards, and becoming self-employed or professional rather than man-
ual workers.27
Very soon after this forced migration from a former area of British
imperial rule, another occurred in part of the former Dutch empire,
Surinam, formerly Dutch Guiana. Here, too, as to so many Caribbean
colonies, Indian indentured labourers had gone between 1873 and 1917.
Although probably one-third returned to India when their indentures
expired, there remained a sizeable South Asian population “ nearly 40
per cent of the total. But as independence neared (1975) there was a mass
migration of about half the population of ˜Hindustanis™ to the Nether-
lands, for fear of Creole domination. By 1987 as many as 94,000 Indians

27 V. Marett, ˜Resettlement of Ugandan Asians in Leicester™, Journal of Refugee Studies,
Vol. 6, No. 3, 1993, pp. 248“259; V. Robinson, ˜Marching into the middle classes? The
long-term resettlement of East African Asians in the UK™, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol.
6, No. 3, 1993, pp. 230“247. See also a case study of ex-East African Sikhs in Southall
by P. Bhachu, Twice Migrants. East African Sikh Settlers in Britain (London and New
York, Tavistock Publications, 1985).
50 Global South Asians

are thought to have migrated to the Netherlands from Surinam.28 Finally
at the end of the century there was a further signi¬cant movement of
twice-migrants from a former British colony where Indians had gone as
indentured labourers “ Fiji. Here again ethnic con¬‚ict as a result of colo-
nial migrations was at the root of Indian ¬‚ight. Even before independence
from the British in 1970 it was clear that there was acute tension between
the native Fijians and the Indian population, with the Indians just out-
numbering Fijians as a percentage of the population. Because of colonial
land policies Indians at independence owned very little land, and had
leased land on which to grow sugar, as well as moving into other sectors
of the economy. They were also poorly represented in the police and mil-
itary and at the top levels of the civil administration. Although the vast
majority had taken Fijian citizenship, they were fearful of their political
and constitutional future. These fears were ful¬lled by a military coup
in 1987 and an attempted coup in 2000, both of which were accom-
panied by widespread violence against Indians and their property. This
prompted a mass emigration of Indians from Fiji, to Australia and New
Zealand and even further a¬eld to the USA and Canada. By the end of
the century about 40,000 were living in Australia alone. Like the Asians
from East Africa, they tended to be ¬‚uent English speakers, and compar-
atively well educated and skilled; and many went into white collar work
or have subsequently become self-employed. They also have been part of
broad family movements, with relatives sponsoring successive waves of
migrants.29 The onward migration of so many Fijian Indians is an aspect
of decolonisation, in part re¬‚ecting the movements of people in an impe-
rial world. At the same time it has helped to fashion a new post-imperial
world. Like the forced migration of East African Indians, these migration
¬‚ows have contributed to new patterns of globalization. These groups of
˜twice-migrants™ are now part of genuinely global, transnational families,
as relatives have spread across the world, binding together Europe, north
America and Australasia with new kinship networks.

The lure of the Middle East
The later twentieth-century movement of South Asians into the Middle
East is an aspect of yet another facet of globalisation “ the development of
28 C. J. G. van der Burg, ˜The Hindu diaspora in the Netherlands: halfway between local
structures and global ideologies™, K. A. Jacobsen and P. P. Kumar (eds.), South Asians in
the Diaspora. Histories and Religious Traditions (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2004), pp. 97“
29 C. Voigt-Graf, ˜Indians at home in the Antipodes™, chapter 7 of B. Parekh, G. Singh
and S. Vertovec (eds.), Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora (London and New
York, Routledge, 2003); B. V. Lal, (ed.), Bittersweet the Indo-Fijian Experience, (Canberra,
Australian National University, Pandanus Books, 2004) chapters 18 and 19.
Making a modern diaspora 51

a world economy dependent on international ¬‚ows of labour of different
kinds. From the 1970s the oil-producing nations of the Middle East have
experienced a major economic boom as their energy resource has been
urgently needed throughout the world to fuel transport and industry and
has risen dramatically in price. As a result they have become capital rich
but labour scarce: their own populations are comparatively sparce, they
are in general averse to lowly forms of labour, and are not technically
trained in any numbers. The oil industry and the development of the
infrastructure of the Gulf States and their increasingly prosperous soci-
eties demanded the import of large amounts of foreign labour. By 1975
they were ¬nding that they could no longer recruit enough labour from
their neighbouring Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Yemen,
which had originally plugged the gap. From then South Asians began
to come in, in signi¬cant numbers, recruited by relatives and private
recruiting agents, and encouraged by their own governments, particu-
larly those of Pakistan and Bangladesh, which saw the extent to which
workers™ remittances could prop up fragile South Asian economies. (At
this stage all three of the main South Asian countries were struggling
with rising populations, low national incomes, and the juxtaposition of
traditional forms of agriculture with sluggish industrialisation.) Pakistan
and Bangladesh not only set up recruiting agencies to market their labour
force, but also educational and training courses for workers aspiring to
work in the Gulf. In 1980 the non-national workforce in the Gulf had
reached 2.2 million and by 1985 5.1 million. Indians and Pakistanis dom-
inated the movement of labour out of Asia in the 1970s but in the 1980s
more were recruited from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Far East. In
1975 people from India and Pakistan accounted for just over 97 per cent
of the 93,100 who left for the Middle East. From 1980 these countries
produced one-quarter to one-third of the growing out¬‚ow. By contrast
the Far East was becoming the major supplier, with up to 57.7 per cent
of the ¬‚ow in 1987, while the share of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the
supply grew steadily to produce nearly a quarter by the last decade of the
century. Even the Gulf War of 1992 and the fear that migrant workers
might all have to be repatriated did not stem the longer-term ¬‚ow.
The early migrants from Pakistan and India tended to go into the
construction industry in roles ranging from engineers, managers and
accountants, to mechanics, cooks and labourers. By the 1980s 42.5 per
cent of Pakistanis were unskilled labourers, 40.6 per cent were skilled
labourers, and the rest were professionals or in various types of service,
who had advanced themselves compared with their original employ-
ment in construction. Among Indians at the same time there were ini-
tially similar ¬gures for the unskilled but a growing percentage of skilled
workers, white collar and high skill workers, and business people: their
52 Global South Asians

main destinations were Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and
Oman. This out¬‚ow from South Asia certainly did not constitute a ˜brain
drain™. Evidence from India suggests that the migrants came from many
different areas of the country, but that probably between 40 per cent and
50 per cent came from Kerala, a state on the south western coast with
an unusually large population of Muslims and Christians. A signi¬cant
majority of Indian migrants were Muslims (as of course were Pakista-
nis and Bangladeshis), Christians made up as much as a quarter, while
Hindus were a small minority. This was unsurprising given the dominant
Muslim culture of the Middle East. Demographically this ¬‚ow of South
Asians was distinctive. Most were young unmarried males, and there were
very few women among their number because there was little employment
for women in the region, and the objective of most male migrants was to
earn high wages, save as much as possible for remittance back to South
Asia, and eventually to return home. Even had they wished to remain
they would have found it almost impossible to gain local citizenship. So
despite the consistently high numbers of South Asians in the Gulf, this
was not a settled diaspora as in the UK, where family reunions led to
the growth of a locally born South Asian community, but one which was
constantly replenishing itself with new migrants who knew they would be
temporary workers.30

The movement of the skilled
The ¬nal large-scale international movement of South Asians in the later
part of the twentieth century occurred as countries which had once barred
their doors to people of non-European descent now opened them “ par-
ticularly Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. This enabled
the entry of many thousands from the subcontinent, particularly the
skilled and well educated. The emphasis on education and skill favoured
Indians rather than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, because of the stan-
dard and availability of education in India, and within India it favoured
those areas and groups with access to higher education. Of course there
are still many millions in India with little or no formal education, but at
the apex of the educational triangle there are universities, colleges and lat-
terly technology training institutes which produce men and women with

30 On the South Asian migration to the Gulf see M. I. Abella, ˜Asian migrant and contract
workers in the Middle East™, in Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration,
pp. 418“423; P. C. Jain, ˜Culture and economy in an ˜incipient™ diaspora: Indians in
the Persian Gulf region™, chapter 5 of Parekh, Singh and Vertovec (eds.), Culture and
Economy in the Indian Diaspora; B. Knerr, ˜South Asian countries as competitors on
the world labour market™, chapter 8 of Clarke, Peach and Vertovec (eds.), South Asians
Making a modern diaspora 53

internationally desirable quali¬cations. As such new doors have opened
it has also enabled the onward migration of some who had originally
made their homes in the UK, for example, and had now improved the
skill levels of either themselves or their children and were looking for new
New Zealand dismantled the immigration restrictions dating from the
end of the previous century in 1986, and opened the way for people
to make applications for entry based on skills and quali¬cations. In the
decade before only about 8,000 Indians lived in New Zealand, but by
the end of the century the number had risen to over 42,500. This was
made up of people born in India, in Fiji (who had migrated for a second
time), and the generation born in New Zealand itself. The nature of
the Indian community greatly diversi¬ed in the process, as those coming
direct from India as professionals of various kinds originated in many
areas of India, compared with the pre-1970s Indian population which
was heavily Gujarati.
In Australia a ˜white Australia™ policy dating from 1901 had shut the
door to new migration from the subcontinent until the 1960s. After that
immigration was regulated by skills offered, and the Indian population
increased signi¬cantly, drawing migrants directly from India, and twice-
migrants from Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries. Some were
even three times migrants by the time they reached Australia, like one
Punjabi who was born in Jullundur, original home to so many migrants,
moved to Uganda in 1953 after completing higher education, and worked
as a teacher until he was forced to ¬‚ee to the UK. He trained as a teacher
while in Britain and a year later, in 1974, moved to Australia.31 By the start
of the new millennium there were probably rather more than 200,000
Indians in Australia, just above 1 per cent of the population, very similar
to the proportion of Indians in New Zealand. Of the Australian Indians
just under half were born in India. Two areas in particular have pro-
vided the new ¬‚ows of ¬rst-time Indian migrants into Australia “ Punjab,
through a network of staff and students from the Punjab Agricultural
University in Ludhiana, and latterly Karnataka, the Indian state in which
is located the thriving modern city of Bangalore, the training ground for
some of India™s brightest information technology (IT) professionals. The
latter have done particularly well in Australia and many of them hope to
use the country as a base from which to move to the USA or to return to
a career in India. India at the end of the last century had abandoned its
older socialist-inspired policies which had sti¬‚ed economic growth and
now encouraged private investment and entrepreneurship, leading to the
31 Voigt-Graf, ˜Indians at home in the Antipodes™, in Parekh, Singh and Vertovec (eds.),
Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora, p. 149.
54 Global South Asians

growth of a large and vibrant professional middle class who enjoyed a
lifestyle previously unheard of in India. In 1996 nearly 75 per cent of
migrants from Karnataka in Australia held higher quali¬cations, closely
followed by Punjabi migrants with a ¬gure of just over 71 per cent. (By
contrast, only 47.5 per cent of those who moved from Fiji had higher qual-
i¬cations.) However, the Punjabis have not done as well as those from
Karnataka and many have become train guards, taxi drivers or postal
workers. Indo-Fijians by contrast have tended to be self-employed, often
opening ethnic shops which cater for an Indian clientele by selling spices,
Indian clothes or lending Indian videos. A ¬nal category of South Asians
in Australia by the end of the century were the large numbers of Indian
students “ about 10,000 in 1999. Australia has worked hard to attract
over a quarter of the Indian market of students wishing to study abroad.
The levels of fees, living costs and visa regulations have all made Aus-
tralia attractive as well as the quality of education on offer. Students are
permitted to work in vacations and for a substantial number of hours
in term, which helps with ¬nances. But more signi¬cant for longer term
migration is the way that a student visa can easily open the way to per-
manent migration, as students have been permitted since 1999 to apply
to live in Australia after they have ¬nished their studies, and if they do so
within six months they are exempt from the normal visa requirement of
skilled work experience.
The other two major destinations for South Asians, as immigration
policies were relaxed to admit people with much-needed skills, were
Canada and the USA. Canada modi¬ed its immigration rules in the
1960s and rapidly became the globe™s second largest recipient of migrants
from the third world. India became by the 1990s the fourth largest send-
ing country. By the 2001 Census the South Asian immigrant population
stood at 503,895 out of a total of nearly ¬ve and a half million immigrants.
(Only the UK, southern Europe, and East Asia had sent more immi-
grants.) Those from South Asia came mainly after 1961 compared with
the European migrants, from northern and southern Europe and the UK,
whose numbers tailed off after 1961. South Asian immigrants numbered
just 26,600 in the decade 1961“1970, but then the numbers accelerated
rapidly “ 77,230 in 1971“1980; 101,110 in 1981“1990; and 295,110 in
1991“2000. The visible South Asian minority (including the Canadian
born) stood at 917,075 in 2001, making them the second largest visible
minority in the country after the Chinese.32 As the new immigration rules

32 See the 2001 Census statistics available on the of¬cial Canadian statistics website,
www.statcan.ca; also G. S. Basran and B. S. Bolaria, The Sikhs in Canada. Migration,
Race, Class and Gender (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2003).
Making a modern diaspora 55

placed heavy emphasis on professional quali¬cations as well as charac-
ter, the early migrants in this new stream from South Asia were highly
quali¬ed “ in 1968“1972 nearly 43 per cent of Indians entering Canada
were professionals. However the level of quali¬cation tailed off markedly
as more came in later in the category of sponsored relatives; in 1983“
1984 only 1.5 per cent of new immigrants from India were professionals.
Some of these later, less well-quali¬ed incomers, were older parents, as
the South Asian population included by 2001 a signi¬cant group of the
over 65s, including over 16,000 who were over 75. The Sikh minority
among the South Asians in particular did not have high levels of educa-
tion and were mainly to be found in construction and transport. All South
Asians tended to cluster in Ontario and British Columbia, particularly in
the cities of Toronto and Vancouver.
The USA became the Mecca for aspiring emigrants from many places
in the less-developed world when it, too, revised its immigration laws in
1965, abandoning the National Origins System set up in 1924. Under
the new dispensation there were quotas for the eastern and western hemi-
spheres with 50,000 more available to the eastern hemisphere. Further,
encouragement was given to family reunions as, over and above the quotas
for different areas, US citizens could bring in spouses, unmarried minor
children and parents, while even those who had permanent residence only
and not citizenship were given preference for the importation of spouses
and children. The ˜Green Card™ enabling permanent residence and fam-
ily migration became so desirable that it began to ¬gure prominently
in marriage advertisements in Indian Sunday newspapers, where fami-
lies advertise for brides and grooms and lay down not only the desirable
social and physical aspects of those they seek but the attributes of their
own children who are available for marriage. The points system deter-
mining access to the USA took account of much-needed skills as well
as existing relatives already in the country, and this again as in Canada
and Australasia favoured those with higher education and professional
The rise in the Asian American population from the later 1960s was
dramatic, rising from c. 878,000 in 1960 to nearly 1.5 million in 1970, 3.5
million in 1980 and well over 7 million in 1990. By contrast, European
migration into the USA was declining and by the 1980s was just over
11 per cent of the total. In the last decade of the century Indians with a
population nearing 1 million were the fourth largest Asian group in the
USA, coming after the Japanese, Filipinos, and Chinese. Not surpris-
ingly, many of those entering the USA from India (or indirectly via East
Africa for example) had higher education and were professionally well
quali¬ed, and they have continued to invest heavily in good education for
56 Global South Asians

their children. By the 1980s nearly all Indians, men and women, aged
25“29, had high school education, and almost two-thirds of young men
and just over half of young women have completed four or more years
of college education. Indian men and women also earned more than
their white counterparts, and the most striking contrast was between


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