Friday, August 2, 2013

Siddis of India

Published Date:   Saturday, Jul 27, 2013
As a part of monthly seminar series, GRFDT organized a talk on “African Diaspora in India: A Socio-Political Journey” on 27 July 2013 at CSSS, JNU. Speaker Dr. Manish Karmwar, Faculty in the Department of History, Shyam Lal College(Eve.), University of Delhi gave an overview about the history of African migration to the Indian sub-continent since 6th century. India had first trade relation with the Arabs followed by Portuguese, through whom Africans came into contact with India and they came to India along with Arab traders. He mentioned that Africans who are now profoundly assimilated in India, constitute a very diverse community of traders, soldiers and workers at various levels.
Dr. karmwar  elaborated that  there were two African kingdoms, namely Janjira and Sachin. In the Janjira and Sachin kingdoms,  Africans rose from king-makers to Emperors. Historically African diaspora has been associated with various roles. There are traces of African’s role in socio-political and military life during the period of Delhi Sultanate, Nizamshahi, Adilshahi, Qutbshahi, Imadshahi, Mughal India and also in Hyderabad till India’s independence. The Africans, who arrived in Hyderabad, Deccan, apart from playing their traditional role as bonded guards and servants, were also recruited as the Nizam’s private bodyguard. The Siddi Risala (African Regiment) was retained until 1948. Other Siddis were elevated to the status of Khanazahs (proteges) and became trusted advisers of the Nizams.
Geographical Spread
African diaspora are widely spread out in India, especially in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Daman and Diu, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. Numerically, they are  in large number in Gujarat,  hence, one can  find them as socially cohesive and preserving  the  African culture in Gujarat, as compared to other states,  where they have become  very much assimilated.
Role in Dynasty                                                                                                              
Africans have played an important role in  India’s  different dynasties. The first Habshi, of whom there is a historical record, was probably Jamal al-Din Yaqut, royal courtier in the kingdom of Delhi, in the north of the sub-continent. Some of the Africans who rose to the positions of considerable importance were: Malik Kafur, Malik Amber, Malik Sarwar, Mubarak Shah, etc. Their role in the history of India is significant. The Afro-Indian dynasties of Sachin and Janjira are a reminder of the influence that Afro-Indians wielded in parts of India. While this glory was not to remain forever, the cultural contributions made by Africans are still alive, particularly in music and dance.
Issue of Marginalisation
Unlike many other diasporas or the African diaspora elsewhere, African diasporas in India are still marginalized. Why are they not economically uplifted? Dr. Karmwar  explained that there are only few thousands rich among Siddis, most of whom came to India as traders. Those who came as slave and low skilled workers,  remain marginalized. Dr. Karmwar also mentioned that there are affirmative policies to include them under Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes, and to provide  safeguards to them. . However, these measures  are less effective for their upliftment  as the social and cultural distinctions kept  them  outside the larger social benefits. Unlike the Indian diaspora
,who became economically upward
,in the second and the third generation
s, the African diaspora in India remain marginalized/unempowered.  Dr. Karmwar concluded that there is a need for collective effort by them as well as by state to uplift themselves.
The talk was followed by interactive session, where questions relating to marginality, social mobility and  policy issues to empower the African diaspora were raised.  Suggestions were made to conduct more research on this issue as there are dearth of literature. 






  1. Adil Abdalla
    Unlike many other diasporas or the African diaspora elsewhere, African diasporas in India are still marginalized. Why are they not economically uplifted?

  2. Kathleen Wells
    Because white supremacy is a global phenomenon.

  3. Adil Abdalla
    But; Indians are not labeled as white..!
    Could it be the other way around: Dark Failure..?

  4. Maliha Raza Khan
    They are a double minority - Muslim and Black.

  5. Adil Abdalla
    Maliha Raza Khan, I can see many of them mix Islam with Hinduism, with lots of African themes.. Yet, they decline to improve their livelihood, nor have the enthusiasm to compete in the volatile Indian society.. This was the core finding the researcher hi-lighted.. The question: Why?

  6. Kathleen Wells
    Whether Indians are labelled white or not, white supremacy has it's global tenticles out --I saw an Indian man on TV that bleached his skin white.

  7. Adil Abdalla
    Kathleen Wells, White-Black phenomenon is too old in history, relates to religion, philosophy and geography.. Agree that in the Western Hemisphere there are political and social legacies.. But in other locations it is anthropological rather than ethnic.. However, Equality Campaigns are notable led by Caucasians..!!

  8. Kathleen Wells
    We are in denial when we deny white supremacy global impact -- what else explains an Indian man bleaching his skin white -- this is absurd.

  9. Adil Abdalla
    They bleach their skin almost everywhere, even such cosmetics are in use by fair skin as well.. In all religion, since the dawn of time, blackness is a mark of curse, awfulness and disgrace.. Till date, Humans are afraid of dark, unseen and undefined.. Black properties are visually undefined.. This is why the matter is folkloric rather than political.. It is culture rather than economic.. Anyways, these two schools of thought can not reconcile..!

  10. Kathleen Wells
    Well, if darkness is a mark of curse that's a sign of white supremacy.

  11. Adil Abdalla
    This was far older than the term of White Supremacy.. When the related religious contextures were taught, Caucasians were minority on earth, with little resources, powers or competences to monopoly or rule.. These are undoubted historical facts..

  12. Kathleen Wells
    Well some argue that the concept of white supremacy started 2,000 years ago.

  13. Adil Abdalla
    Most religions were older, except Christianity and Islam.. Most of our cultural motives and stigmas are Jewish, Zardashtist or Hindu.. The world was epistemically ruled by Mesopotamia.. The world and human civilization are not Christian nor Muslim.. This is another fact..!

  14. Kathleen Wells
    The entire Middle East is run by white supremacy -- are you kidding.

    This concept of noblesse oblige and white man's burden goes back hundreds of years, at least. Before that, I don't know.

  15. Adil Abdalla
    I agree that always there is a supremacy of some race over the others.. This is a human legacy.. My point is the white one is too recent in time, mastering the western hemisphere since times of European Dark Age.. But the people of Orient and Africa are ruled by Dark Stigma; which does not need White to trigger.. Therefore, whiter shinned in the Orient are called Fair; not a description but distinction from the Dark.. There is no White skin in the orient, nor in Africa, apart from shores of the Gulf of Thailand and Kashmir.. Recent white in Iran, Turkey and else where are product of mixed breeding and/or genetic disorder..!!
    My Friend.. You talked present time and politics, I talked history and evolution..