The Deo Gosine Foundation collaborated with Indira Gandhi National University and Benaras Hindu University in holding a historic conference on People of Indian ancestry and culture, focusing on indentureship and its aftermath. The conference was held on Jan 19 and 20th at the Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. The conference was organized by Prof. Kapil Kumar, Chair of History of Indira Gandhi National Open University (Delhi) with collaboration from the Indian Diaspora International Center (IDIC, India) headed by Shri Pawan Upadhyay and Dr. Vishnu Bisram, and the Indian Diaspora Council of Australia (led by Dr. Satish Rai). Indira Gandhi University (IGNOU) and BHU branch played host to the two days conference that was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellors -- Profs. Nageshwar Rao (IGNOU) and Rakesh Bhatnagar (BHU). This was the first indentureship (girmitya) conference to be held in Varanasi and in India.
The idea was conceived by this writer and Dr. Satish Rai of Fiji (& Australia).
The conference sought to understand the experience of indentureship diaspora and to encourage its participation and engagement in the development and growth of India and their home country.
Participants from around the globe (including Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Trinidad, etc) presented papers on the indentureship (girmitya) diaspora that were followed by lively discussion and question and answers. There were some half a dozen panel sessions with over thirty speakers. There was a valedictory session chaired by Shri Deo Gosine who also delivered opening remarks at the inauguration that were well received by a packed auditorium.
The conference illuminated the experience of the indentured laborers from a historical perspective and the plight of their descendants. It also reflected on their progress -- how far the descendants have come since indentureship ended in 1917.
Mr. Deo Gosine said he was very pleased with the conference including the focus of the papers although he would have liked to see more presentations on the diaspora going forward in development. The main organizer, Prof Kapil Kumar, described the event as a stunning success that he said was undertaken with limited resources. He expressed his gratitude to Shri Deo Gosine (and his Foundation) for his co-sponsorship. Mr. Gosine was honored for his significant contributions to the Indian diaspora in Trinidad and USA. Expressions of gratitude were also heaped on local coordinator, Dr. AN Tripathi (Director of IGNOU Center, Benaras) who was thanked for his hard work to put the conference together.
Mr. Upadhyay said everything was very beautifully done. It was a great experience bringing people together to discuss issues impacting on the diaspora. Many issues were discussed and resolutions passed. Participants said they were pleased to have been part of the proceedings. Prof Kapil thanks everyone who played a role in making it happen.