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THE AFRICAN/INDIANS (AI’s) STORY (SIDDIS)

 

Over Five hundred years ago Africans were taken to India by the Portuguese and British to be used as slaves for cheap manual labour.  The slaves faced a cruel and hard life under their Colonial master’s. At the present time there are approximately 500,000 African/Indians (AI’s) known as SIDDIS still in India spread over 200 villages in the forest areas of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka and basically most are still being used as slaves today. They are mainly uneducated and have no real status other than manual labourers to be used by the rich Indian landowners as they see fit.

The AI’s are categorised as scheduled tribes, backward class, under developed and uncivilised. They are abused, mistreated, persecuted, discriminated and victimised, even the children are humiliated by their teachers, which in turn leads to the children dropping out of education. Most live in poverty trying to scrape a living from approximately 25/30 rupees per day picking cotton or carrying out other manual jobs often on a day to day basis. Due to their lack of education and their financial situation they do not own shops or have access to decent healthcare or proper legal representation.

When India gained Independence in 1947 the AI’s did receive some land and financial help from the Indian government to settle and buy houses. However most of the AI’s have been cheated out of their lands by unscrupulous Indians or simply by getting into debt trying to keep above the starvation threshold or to pay for medical treatment.

Through sponsorship and support from the Seventh-Day Adventist church and very hard-dedicated work one young AI has achieved a masters degree in education. After gaining experience as a teacher in an Indian school and with assistance and financial support from an Austrian family he returned to his hometown of Haliyal in Karnataka and opened a small school for 40 children. This is the first school of its kind in the history of the Africans being in India and the AI’s children are now being treated just like any other school children. 

Due to the location of many of the small villages, some deep in the forest, the school needs to provide boarding facilities for the 21 girls and 19 boys who are aged between 5 and 13. The rented school building has two small classrooms plus a tiny kitchen and storeroom. The school has one cold tap and one toilet. But the children go for toilet in front of the school were herds of village pigs roam. The school is the home for these children for many months sleeping head to toe, eating, washing and receiving lessons with the minimum of school equipment. During term time the children have little contact with their parents while at school due to the lack of travel facilities and costs. However they do receive three rice and vegetable meals everyday something they do not always get at home and appear very, very happy. All the children work extremely hard at everything they do and considering the cramped conditions of the school are exceptionally well behaved.

After many years of dedicated work to get the AI's situation recognised an organisation called the AFRICAN-INDIAN TRUST FUND-INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPEMENT ASSOCIATION (A.I.T.F.-I.R.D.A.) has managed to be registered under the Indian charity act (reg. no. 400/2001-Bgm). This organisation is supporting the school and also helping to provide improved healthcare, legal support and assistance in many other areas to the AI’s.

The A.I.T.F.-I.R.D.A. and the AI villagers have future plans to build a new complex in the forest on land, which was partly purchased by NAPS America (National Association for the Prevention of Starvation). The complex shall include a Health Centre, Rural Training facility, Church and a College/School for 500 students (not exclusive to AI’s children) of which 5 classrooms  already have been finished. They hope to occupy the new school with nearly 70 children in June 2007. If these plans are carried out there is a possibility that the children and the children born to AI’s in the future will put an end to the African slave trade once and for all in India.


      


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Changed to: 16. Februar 2011