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Afro-Asians (African Asians) are African communities have been living in India and the Indian subcontinent for several hundred years and have settled in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. These communities are the Siddi, Sheedi, Makrani and Sri Lanka Kaffirs. One of the largest communities of Africans in India, are the Siddis.

History

Early Trade

Communities of African peoples of various backgrounds migrated to India and the Indian sub-continent over a long period of time. Interaction between Africa and India dates back to prehistory through exchanges of trade, ideas and people[1]. Africa contributed crystals, millets, ivory, gold, baobab trees, traders, soldiers and enslaved people to India since the early Bronze ages[2]. It is believed the first African enslaved people were sent to India by Arab merchants in the third century CE[3]. The slaves included Africans from Abyssinia, Berbers, and East Africans (Mozambique, Malawi and Swahili Coast)[4].

Slave Trade

The Slave Trade in Asia predated the Atlantic one, and it is generally believed that it was smaller in scale although accurate records were seldom kept because they were transporting less people, and because traders would intentionally not keep records [5].

Muslim Era Slave Trade (7th century - 15th century)

During the Islamic era of the slave trade, which began around the 8th century, slaves were traded by Arabs and Indians and were used mainly as domestics, soldiers and in the military [6]. The commercial expansion of Islam meant the growth of demands for slaves in the tenth century during the Arab slave trade [7]. During the era of Islamic rule, slaves were used for date plantation labor, pearl diving, domestics, troops, and eunuchs, and concubines (Harris, 1971).

Portuguese Era Slave Trade (15 century - 17th century)

During the 16th-17th centuries Portugal was trying to control sea access to India and needed slave labor to build its empire at the sea which spiked the demand for slaves [8]. Slaves here were mainly used for navy and military defense but were also used in business, farms, as domestics, teachers and priests due to the Portuguese shortage in personnel [9].

British Era Slave Trade (17th century - 19th century)

By the 17th century, a struggle for imperialism grew amongst the Arabs, Dutch, British and French [10]. The Dutch had needed labor for agriculture during the time and needed slaves [11]. The French needed slave labor for plantations [12]. The British needed slaves for their navy, marine yards and for work as caulkers in the East India Company. The battle supremacy in the area eventually led to British dominated era that lasted until the 19th century.

Conditions for Afro Asians During Slavery

Although slavery was oppressive and brutal in India and slaves were flogged or forced to work with little food, being a slave in India for most slaves, still meant access to some wealth or power, particularly during the Muslim era [13]. For example, As slaves, the Siddis were allowed some degree of social mobility so it was possible for them to achieve high posts in the military and governing bodies [14]. Muslim slaves were also allowed to become educated, marry freely, become political advisers, recruit other slaves through purchase, inducement, or capture [15]. Slavery in India and the Indian subcontinent was not the same as chattel slavery that was found in the Atlantic where people were treated like property.Most slaves were domestics or worked in the military, navy, or other trades. They could gain their freedom over time. The slavery found here encouraged assimilation.

Royal Dynasties and Elite Slave Class

Power over recruitment meant that often slaves would try and recruit slaved along their former ethnic lines. This led to the formation an African slave elite class in India beginning around 1626 [16]. The enslaved were able to build royal empires in places like Janjira [17]. The Siddis in India as an example, rose from slavery to royalty from 1626-1720, but Siddi power began to decline from 1720-1740, due to the rise of imperialism [18].

Resistance to Slavery

Some slaves run away and formed maroon communities in India to avoid slavery where they farmed [19]. Some slaves lived in open slave communities where they participated in government, military, and trade [20]. They also resisted colonialism. An anti-imperial Siddi revolt was quashed 1857 by the British, but some Siddi areas were granted status of principality and still retained control [21]. Slaves in these Princely states that were not under British rule, served as domestics, concubines, eunuchs, barbers, personal guards, and performed other duties [22].

Slavery Abolished

By the 18th Century, the British abolished the slave trade but efforts were made to circumvent this by the British in the colony, and other European Imperialists [23]. Across all eras though, there was a steady demand for personal slaves as slaves were seen as a social status and were employed as domestics [24]. This shows how the economic situation determined the demand for slaves and was the underlying factor in the nature of slavery that developed in the Indian Ocean. It also shows why assimilation was possible for slaves in India.Slavery in British India was abolished in 1860.

European Colonial Era

During the era of European imperialism and colonialism, the African Asians became further marginalized as it is believed that the imperialists brought in attitudes about race in to a complicated social and class system. Many of the Afro Asians were systematically divided into settlements so that they could not organize politically. They were encouraged to assimilate.

Assimilation and Acculturation

Assimilation

Due to the type of slavery that encouraged assimilation, many of the Afro-Asians assimilated in to the main culture of the country and adopted the language, religion, names, and rituals of the people. For survival purposes, the enslaved adopted the culture of their slave masters.

African Heritage & Identity

Many African descendant groups still retain some of their African traditions. The Siddis of India for example, still speak Swahili and Ethiopian language words, sing Swahili songs, and worship African Gods.

African Identity

In recent years, after the World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa. Many of them have been trying to organize politically so that they can improve there poor economic conditions.

Marginalization

Afro Asians have largely been marginalized after the rise of the imperialist or colonial era in India and the subcontinent. Many live in poor economic conditions.

Racism in Asia

A great deal of racism exists in Asia. Racism in Asia was worsened by the colonial period due to colonial attitudes toward color.

Influence on Afro Asian Culture

Religion

The Hindu system in India, has many Afro-descendant Gods like Bava Gor who is the African God that is in the Siddi lineage in India. Their are also many depictions of Shiva as a black God with dreadlocks. Many African descendant groups act as mediators for those making offerings to the Black Gods.

Art & Architecture

In India, some African Asian groups built large empires in India that have been declared national monuments.

Sports

There have been a few athletes that have risen to fame in the region due to sports like running and wrestling.

Afro Asian Diaspora in South Asia

Africans Diaspora in Bangladesh

Afro-Bangladeshis

African Diaspora in India

The Siddis are the largest settlement of slave descendants in India, many settled around the western coast and hinterland in cities like Janjira, Gujarat, and Goa. Today, it is estimated there about 6,000-7,000 Siddis in Gujarat (India), 400 in Bombay (Mumbai, India) and 40,000-50,000 in Pakistan (formally, India)[25].

Caste System

Caste, Class, Race and Religion were hard to separate under the caste system. Under the caste system in India, many of the lower castes that consisted of the Dalits or "untouchables" consisted of African descendant Indians and the dark skinned Dravidian or indigenous people of Indians who are of African decent [26][27].

Dravidians

There is on-going debate as to whether the Dravidian people are African descendants or not. Most Indian scholars do not consider the Dravidians African. The Dravidians though, are considered African by Indian Studies scholars like Cheikh Anta Diop and Runoko Rashidi.Rajshekar further corroborates this theory by referencing that because India and Africa used to be a single land mass prior to continental drift (Pangea), subsequently, the original peoples of Africa and India are the same people[28].

African Diaspora in Pakistan

Pakistani African descents consist of the "Makrani", "Sheedi" or "Habshi". The Makrani (Urdu/Persian: مکرانی) are the inhabitants of Makran coast of Balochistan in Pakistan and lower Sindh [29]. The Siddis (Sheedi) In Karachi live area of Lyari and other nearby coastal areas. Although most people use the term Siddis to describe many of the African populations in Pakistan, they are not all Siddis[30].

Sheedi

The Sheedis are divided into four clans, or houses: Kharadar Makan, Hyderabad Makan, Lassi Makan and Belaro Makan. The sufi saint Pir Mangho is regarded by many as the patron saint of the Sheedis, and the annual Sheedi Mela festival, is the key event in the Sheedi community's cultural calendar[31].Some glimpses of the rituals at Sidi/Sheedi Festival 2010 include visit to sacred alligators at Mangho pir, playing music and dance[32]. Famous Sheedis include army leader Hoshu Sheedi, Urdu poet Noon Meem Danish, and singer Younis Jani famous for singing an Urdu version of the reggaeton song "Papi chulo... (te traigo el mmmm...)."[33]

African Identity

Many of the Afro-Pakistanis have assimilated in to the dominamt culture. The Sheedis have assimilated in to Pakistani culture, the instrument, songs and dance of the Sheedis appear to be derived from Africa[34]. Linguistically, Makranis are Balochi and Sindhi and speak a dialect of Urdu referred to as Makrani[35]. Their local culture have been influential in shaping the dominant culture of Pakistan[36]. The musical anthem of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, "Bija Teer", is a Balochi song in the musical style of the Sheedis with Black African style rhythm and drums[37].

African Diaspora in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Kaffirs (cafrinhas in Portuguese, කාපිරි kāpiriyō in Sinhala, and காப்பிலி kāpili in Tamil) are a African descendant ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves[38]. Currently, there about 1000 Kaffirs in Sri Lanka.

Imperialism

When Dutch colonialists arrived in about 1600, the Kaffirs worked on cinnamon plantations along the southern coast. The Kaffirs ancestors were chained up and forced by the Dutch to take on the Sri Lankan army[39]. After the Dutch military thrust was successfully repelled by Sri Lankan army in 1796, the Kaffirs were further marginalized by an influx of Indian slave laborers Indian laborers who took most work on tea and rubber estates[40]. Their descendants survive in pockets along the island's coastal regions of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Negambo[41].

African Identity

Kaffirs are proud to be Sri Lankans, they also acknowledge their African history. Kaffirs have an orally recorded history by the families who are descents of former Sinhalease slave traders[42]. Many of them are believed to be from Mozambique. There dance and sining performances are the strongest indicators of African cultural retention[43]. The term Kaffir means 'non-believer' and does not hold the same meaning as it does in countries like South Africa [44]. It is not used as a racial slur[45]. Many speak a creole whic is a mixture of Sinhalese and Tamil[46]. They have assimilated over the years and have married Tamils and Sinhalese Sri Lankans[47].

Afro Lankans Today

Many Kaffirs have been denied education[48]. They have become disempowered (they used as soilders by the Europeans) since the European colonisers have left the island and have tried to find their role in Sri Lankan society[49].

References

  1. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana Univesity Press.
  2. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana Univesity Press.
  3. Campbell, G. (2008). Slave Traders and the Indian Ocean World: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanism, John C Hawley (pp. 17-42). Bloomington: Indian University Press
  4. Campbell, G. (2008). Slave Traders and the Indian Ocean World: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanism, John C Hawley (pp. 17-42). Bloomington: Indian University Press.
  5. Harris, J. E. (1971). The African Presence in Asia. Evanston: Northwestern University.
  6. Basu, H. (2003). Slave, Soldier, Trader, Faqir: Fragments of African Histories in Western india (Gujarat). In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 223-250). Trenton: African World Press.
  7. Campbell, G. (2008). Slave Traders and the Indian Ocean World: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanism, John C Hawley (pp. 17-42). Bloomington: Indian University Press
  8. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  9. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  10. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  11. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  12. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  13. Basu, H. (2003). Slave, Soldier, Trader, Faqir: Fragments of African Histories in Western india (Gujarat). In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 223-250). Trenton: African World Press..
  14. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana Univesity Press.
  15. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana Univesity Press.
  16. Chauhan, R. (1995). Africans in India: From Slavery to Royalty. New Dehli: Asian Publication Services.
  17. Chauhan, R. (1995). Africans in India: From Slavery to Royalty. New Dehli: Asian Publication Services.
  18. Chauhan, R. (1995). Africans in India: From Slavery to Royalty. New Dehli: Asian Publication Services.
  19. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  20. Oka, R., & Kusimba, C. (2007). Siddi as Mercenary or as African Success Story on the West Coast of India. In J. C. Hawley, India in Africa Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitans (pp. 203-224). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  21. Chauhan, R. (1995). Africans in India: From Slavery to Royalty. New Dehli: Asian Publication Services.
  22. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  23. Jayasuriya, S. D., & Pankhurst, R. (2003). On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 7-17). Trenton: Africa World Press.
  24. Alpers, E. (2003). The African Diaspora In the Indian Ocean: A Comparitive Perspective. In S. D. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African Diaspora In the Indian Ocean (pp. 19-51). Africa World Press.
  25. Basu, H. (2003). Slave, Soldier, Trader, Faqir: Fragments of African Histories in Western India (Gujarat). In S. d. Jayasuriya, & R. Pankhurst, The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (pp. 223-250). Trenton: African World Press.
  26. Rahsidi, R. (2007, Janauary 1). THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN INDIA: A PHOTO ESSAY. Retrieved December 4, 2010, from The Global African Community: http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/india.html
  27. Prashad, V. (2000). Afro-Dalits of the Earth Unite. African Studies Review , 43 (1), 189-201. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Proquest Research Library. (Document ID: 60737664).
  28. Prashad, V. (2000). Afro-Dalits of the Earth Unite. African Studies Review , 43 (1), 189-201. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Proquest Research Library. (Document ID: 60737664).
  29. http://www.wikipedia.org/ Makrani
  30. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  31. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  32. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  33. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  34. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  35. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  36. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  37. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi
  38. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka_Kaffirs
  39. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka_Kaffirs
  40. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka_Kaffirs
  41. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  42. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka_Kaffirs
  43. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  44. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  45. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  46. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  47. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  48. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
  49. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html
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