The Repatriation Debate after the Abolition of Indenture

Main Article Content

Heena Mistry


While campaigning for the abolition of indenture, Indian elites encouraged indentured Indians and their descendants to repatriate to India to contain the dispersion of Indian unskilled labourers. After the abolition of indenture in 1917, the repatriation of ex-indentured communities became a source of contention between Indians globally, as many repatriates faced marginalization and ostracization within India. Some, such as M.K. Gandhi and Charles Freer Andrews, revised their position from promoting repatriation as a strategy for containing the tragedies of indenture, to arguing that Indian national liberation from empire would better position an independent Indian state to negotiate on behalf of Indians abroad. Others, such as ocean-crossing activist, Bhawani Dayal Sannyasi, and journalist, Benarsidas Chaturvedi, argued that blanket calls for repatriation ignored the needs of repatriates and left Indians in British colonies who chose not to make a life in India at the height of the Indian anticolonial nationalist movement. These diverse and conflicting perspectives surrounding repatriation shed light on the global Indian diaspora in the context of late colonial India.

Article Details