Different Shades of Diaspora - My Lived Experiences from East Africa. Part 3 of 3.
by Urmila Jhaveri
On December 9 -1961 we all celebrated the Independence of Tanganyika with equally great expectations and aspirations under the leadership of President Julius Nyerere. From the beginning the President had insisted that Asians born and brought up in Tanganyika and for whom it was the only home should not be considered any lesser Tanzanians.
ZANZIBAR REVOLUTION AND ARMY MUTINY IN TANGANYIKA
Meanwhile in Zanzibar people were getting restless against the Arab Sultan. They staged a bloody revolution and toppled his regime on 12 January 1964. Within a week this was followed simultaneously by Army Mutiny in Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda in quick succession. The Sultan fled from Zanzibar and scores of Arabs were killed on sight (Jacopetti, 1964) .
The Revolutionary Council members in Zanzibar married many Arab and Asian girls -teenagers and under age picked up from classrooms while parents tried to escape with their daughters under cover of darkness. In Dar -es-Salaam as well the mutineers had gone on rampage, looting Indian shops and killing the Arabs. It was all a very frightening situation as the President and his PM had gone incognito.
In Dar-es-Salaam, Manmohan Shukla and a group of Sikh boys were arrested when they were counting bullet marks on the Gurdwara wall. So as an elected MP, Jhaveriji was going round to the police station with Mr. Tara Singh to get them out. Others requested him to chase their car which had been hijacked by the mutineers. By and by President and the PM returned and the mutineers were disarmed with the help of British Government. To avoid any further upheaval Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined hands and Tanzania was born on 26 April 1964.
MULTIPLE MIGRATION & EXODUS
Fortunately the Zanzibar Government allowed the resident Indians to take certain amount of cloves with them and leave if they wanted to. Many resident Asians of long standing took advantage of this offer and left.
In1967, President Nyerere established Arusha Declaration, codifying Leadership code and
Ujamaa - policy based on Socialism. This was followed in 1970-71 by nationalization of all private properties, banks, hospitals, schools, foreign trade, industries, and so on. Foreign travel and even educational allowances for students studying in foreign institutions was stopped. Our two houses were nationalized and our kids barely in their teens were left dangling without any support in a foreign country. It was a very distressful chapter of my life.
These whole sale take overs and restrictions affected Asians drastically and over night there was an exodus of Asians from Tanzania. With the help of the Aga Khan most of the Ismaili families migrated to Canada, Europe and Australia, while others found their own way out. In addition, Africanization policy resulted in 3750 British passport holding Asians leave Tanzania for Britain.
From 1952 to 1960 Kenya had suffered the bloodiest Mau Mau uprising against the British during which time, according to Kenya Human Rights Commission some 90,000 Kenyans were executed and 160,000 were detained and tortured during the crackdown. This had started the trend of outward bound migration of Asians from Kenya. It was followed by Africanization. In addition in 1968, a new Immigration Bill introducing quota system to limit the entry of Asian immigrants holding British passport in Britain was introduced in the British Parliament. Before it became an Act, majority of the Asians who were affected left Kenya overnight in a hurry.
That apart, the worst blow fell in 1972 when some 80,000 British Passport holding Asians were forced to flee with their lives to Britain when Idi Amin of Uganda expelled them with a short notice of 90 days.
It so happened that on August 4 1972, we went to receive our niece Vinodaben, who had arrived by early morning flight from Nairobi and were surprised to see that she was detained inside the airport. Upon enquiry we were informed of Idi Amin's order expelling the British passport holding Asians from Uganda. It was shocking news. She was put on a flight back to Nairobi. In Nairobi Airport they took away her passport and brazenly told her that they had misplaced it and that her luggage has been sent onwards to Germany. She spent two frightening days and nights in the Nairobi Airport anxiously chasing her passport and ultimately reached Kampala sans her luggage. By that time the situation all over Uganda was getting worse day by day with looting, shootings and killing indiscriminately. It was no longer safe, so once again she was on a flight to UK.
But her nightmare was just beginning again. At Entebbe Airport she was searched at gun point. They snatched all her jewelry, money and all her certificates including all her official papers and then only allowed her to proceed onwards.
By and by like her all those 50 - 60,000 British Passport holding Asians including our family left Uganda penniless and scarred. And each of them has equally horrible experiences to recount!
Their properties and businesses were randomly appropriated and mismanaged beyond salvation. That apart, Amin's henchmen carried out systematic genocide so much so that it was alleged that so many corpses were dumped in Lake Victoria that drifting corpses regularly blocked the Owen Falls hydro electric Dam. His actions affected us all as we all had extended families and friends spread out all over EA.
Lots of water has passed under the bridge since then .The new settlers that is 'double and triple Diaspora‘ have migrated and re migrated in the Western countries, Canada, America where they have created all kinds of interesting roles to suit the changing environment world over. They enjoy Indian music, movies, food, and fashion, follow Indian culture, customs in their own way and celebrate festivals with gusto. That notwithstanding their home remains their new homelands and now there is no looking back for them.
Perhaps some of them may be lost in the maze of life but then on the other hand most of them have set their priorities right and aspire to reach highest goals and surpass new horizon in their new found home lands!
I thank you all for your kind attention.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
Postscript; eventually before the ninety days notice expired, Motabhai and family including my 95 years old Mother-in-law-Ba left Uganda and settled down in Britain. Late Motabhai and Bhabhi used to remember fondly the kindness and care given to them by the British people when they had arrived in the country painfully scarred. Especially pointing out that even close family members would not have been able to look after our Ba so lovingly!
Born in 1877 Ba followed her husband to Rajkot at a young age. After his death she came to Jinja - Uganda to join Motabhai around 1948. In 1972 following Amin's diktat migrated with the family to UK. She died peacefully in her sleep in 1981 at the age of 104 in Red Bridge -Illford.
Vinodaben retired recently after working all these years with Kodak Ltd. Vipinbhai a Banker who was Departmental manager in the Barclays Bank Kampala opened his little corner shop in Letchwork, worked hard and opened his own high street stores in London. He is now retired. Late Illaben qualified as a nurse initially, continued her education and branched out in banking and insurance while earning and raising her family. In fact, those enterprising Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin thank the despot for creating the crisis, which enabled them to start their life afresh. Our son Atool & family are in Dublin, daughter Abha & her family in Delhi, granddaughters Ratna is in New York with UNO, the second one Meera in Rome with UNDP. Rohaan a banker is in Zurich and the youngest Roohi, an established artist is getting ready to get married and moving on!
In retrospect, it is gratifying to see our new generations well settled and independent, owning properties. Best of all their kids are well educated with the added advantage of having a fighting chance to prosper and progress in a developed country.
END NOTES :
Sourabh NC and MyllyntausTimo (2015), ‘Famines in India in the Nineteenth Century’ available at http://www.environmentandsociety.org/exhibitions/famines-india/timeline/famines-india-timeline, Last Accessed 27 January 2016. Also see India's forgotten holocaust by Churchill
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_major_famines_in_India_during_British_rule, Last Accessed 27 January 2016
Somjee, 2013, ‘Bead Bai’, 2013 and the blog on the book by the author available at http:/thebeadbai.blogspot.ca/. Last accessed on 27 January 2016
The Agora, (2015) ‘A Tale of Two Railways’, available at http://www.theeagora.com/the-lunatic-express-a-photo-essay-on-the-uganda-railway/ Last Accessed on 27 January 2016
[Dukawala; Kersi Rustomji (2015) , ‘Ode to the Indian Dkawala on the East African Plains’, available at http://simerg.com/essays-and-letters/ode-to-the-indian-dukawala-on-east-african-plains Last accessed 27 January 2016
Regunathan Fischer, Lavanya and Shah Ramnik, (2015) The right to Belong ;An Overview of Historical and Recent Developments in Indian Citizenship Laws , the Journal of Immigration and Nationality Law Vol,29, no .3 of 2015, pp 256-272
Below is an excellent link that describes the full history, including photos of Kampala at the time of expulsion of Ugandan Asians prepared by The Canadian Immigration Historical Society
http://carleton.ca/africanstudies/wp-content/uploads/Molloy-UGX40-fall-speaking-tour-Carleton-shared.pdf Last Accessed 27 January 2016
e.mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper presented at the GRFDT National Conference on Migration, Diaspora and Development at the Indian International Centre, New Delhi during 20-21 February 2016
(with thanks to Opinion Magazine for permission to re-publish this story and to Bhadra Vadgama for alerting me to Urmila Jhaveri's amazing story).