Indians in Tanzania - History, Communities and More

Indians in Tanzania: History, Communities and More

Historical Background

  1. Indians have long been a part of Tanzanian society, dating back before the country was introduced to the world in the 1960s. For millennia, the monsoon winds dictated the speed of commerce between the Indian territory and Eastern African territories, making it risky for traders. Cotton fabrics, spice, and ivory were among the principal commerce items transported by dhows. Most Indian merchants established a few temporary operations in African ports long before Arabs overtook the East African Coastline and introduced a brand new architecture by building mosques and strong towns. Nonetheless, if the famous explorer Vasco da Gama were to be trusted, a considerable number of Indians may have lived in the two cities of Malindi and Mombasa.
  2. When Oman’s capital, Zanzibar, was established in 1832, many Indians residing in Muscat decided to follow King Seyyid Said to Zanzibar because of the protection they would benefit from. Indians were assigned to major administrative roles like port commanders and chiefs of customs. Following the arrival of the United Kingdom in East Africa, Indian communities, particularly those who had acquired UK citizenship, reaped significant benefits. Seyyid Said with the UK Government signed a trade agreement that allowed Indians to live and trade in Zanzibar under the Sultan’s protection. The number of merchants from the Indian subcontinent increased steadily after the establishment of a UK consulate, from around 2,500 in 1870-6,000 in the early 1900s.

    King Seyyid Said to Zanzibar
    King Seyyid Said to Zanzibar
  3. Most Indian merchants were originally of Muslim faith, primarily the lthnasheri and the Shia Khoja. The Hindi people were bound to a religious edict prohibiting them from crossing the sea. Hindus of elite status thought Africa to be “naturally evil” and “dirty.” They reasoned that if their wives stayed in India to care for their homes, kids, family, and property, they would be adequately protected. In general, single Hindus who travelled to Africa returned to India to get married, then abandoned their spouses in India to migrate to Zanzibar. Regardless, it appears that a limited number of Indian ladies resided in Eastern Africa for a while before journeying back to their home country to give birth and raise their children. Concerned about the situation, Seyyid Bargash, the 2nd Sultan of Zanzibar, invited Hindus to come to Zanzibar with their wives. The Sultan is said to have dispatched his personal vessel to welcome the 1st Hindu woman who arrived in Zanzibar, to whom the Sultan presented a sum of money. After installing silver taps and water pipes, his intention was to bring Hindu ladies to the ancient fort settlement. This ensured that no lady would be seen in public and that she wouldn’t be vulnerable to pollution risks. While several Hindu business people in Gujarat protested the restrictions on crossing the seas outside the Brahmanes, this inspired a good number of Indians to travel to the African shores [Oonk 2005: Singh -2003]. Cooks, traders, and clerks were among the Goan immigrants who arrived in Zanzibar simultaneously.
  4. When the GEA [German East African] colony was established in 1885, a few Zanzibar Indians moved to the city, while many others came straight from India to take a job on the railroad construction. Because the German colonial authority did not recognize them as British subjects, these Indian immigrants were treated harshly, much like Africans. They had to wait until the British administration was established at the end of WW1 to improve their social and economic position. Because they were proprietors of small shops, Indians were placed 3rd after the Europeans as first and Arabs as the second [dukawallah]. However, business contacts between shopkeepers, wholesalers, exporters, importers, and seafarers – sometimes from the same religious group – inside the trans-oceanic “Indian connections” provided a substantial advantage above Arabs and Swahili competitions [Oonk, 2005]. In colonial Tanganyika, traders from Kutch, Gujarat, Kathiawar, and other regions of western India, notably Goan house helps as well as Punjabi craftsmen, were helpful as skilled workers and intermediaries to imperial mechanics. Despite the fact that they accounted for less than 1% of the colony’s overall population, their contribution to the economy was significant. They profited from the imperial administration’s continuous backing, which favoured Indians over the African community in terms of commerce and access to land. Racial segregation between Indians, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans was thus formed, and it redefined all important divisions such as religions, languages, castes, as well as social classes. The different khanas, mandirs, wadis, mosques, jamaats, and other religious structures of the Lohanas, Patels, Ithnasheris, Ismailis, Sikhs, Bohras, and Goans arose practically without interference from “foreigners.” Even after Tanganyika’s independence in 1961, the trend persisted.
  5. During the 1964 Zanzibar revolution, nearly 10,000 Indian nationals were forced to flee to the mainland due to violent attacks in which they and Arabs were both targets. The majority of them resettled in Dar City and continued their businesses there until Julius K. Nyerere’s new socialist regime implemented the “Africanization” strategy. The Acquisition Bill of 1971 had a significant impact on the Indian population as a whole [Singh 2003]. Several Indians then chose to migrate to another country, primarily the U.k. However, Harold Wilson’s government in the U.k. swiftly enacted ad hoc measures to restrict the influx of East African immigrants. Others sought asylum in the United States and Canada.
  6. After the country’s economic liberalization in the 1990s, a new surge of Indian traders arrived in Tanzania, largely relatives of some few thousand teachers and businesspeople who had stayed back in the country following the country’s civil unrest that led to secession. By forming networks with crooked politicians, these new migrants took advantage of new financial opportunities to make life tough for African businesspeople. They attempted to maintain their culture and religion despite their isolation from the African community. Indian Muslims have similarly cut themselves off from Africans. Even interactions with Africans who had the same religion were limited, particularly in terms of marriage.
  7. In addition, two more recent political and technical changes in Tanzania brought to the spotlight the behaviour of Indian groups and assisted in the rebirth of their Indian heritage. While a few families’ ties to their homeland have weakened with time, the rise of mass news and digital forms of communication like email and the internet has increased the effect of “reconnecting” the Indian international community with their homeland. While Bollywood music and videos were distributed all over the world, the Indian diaspora suddenly had access to a multitude of Internet websites where they could express themselves, talk politics, and virtually return to their “motherland.” Second, in September 2000, the Indian administration announced a new policy and legal framework to improve the linkages between the Indian international community and the metropolis, in contrast to the present and prior policy of apathy towards “Indians Diasporas.” This shift in attitude, however, wasn’t universal, and it didn’t necessarily result in stronger economic relations with India because several overseas business people entered business from a global perspective. Focusing on partnerships with other nations [ Japan, Britain, etc.] while knowingly and willingly maligning their Indian counterparts, particularly Gujaratis.

A Brief Review of the Indian – Origin populations in Tanzania

8.Tanzanians of Indian ancestry can be divided into three groups based on their place of birth in India, religion, and socioeconomic standing. Tanzanian Indians, like those in other Eastern African nations, are largely from the northwestern section of India [Punjab and Gujarat, and secondarily from Goa and Maharashtra]. Hindus make up a large portion of them [ schismatic and orthodox]. However, Muslims make up more than 40 per cent of the population, with a tiny minority of Goan Christians. Other religious groups are fully represented, including Sikhs [known as the Sing Sing in the area] and a few ultra-minority religions, including Zoroastrians, Buddhists [Parsis], as well as Pentecostal Christians.

  1. There are two types of Muslims in India: Shia and Sunni. Sunnis are split into five or six social, economic and socio-regional groups, all of which are descended from ancient Hindu clans [ Memon, Kokni, Kumbhar, Cutch, Hajjam, etc.]. Other Sunni Muslims include the Pakistani Kadian or Wahab, while Shia Muslims include the Ithnasheri [Shia orthodox], or Ismailis, Bohras, and Khoja.
  2. the majority speaks Gujarati of Tanzanian Indians, and it has also become the diaspora’s commercial language. Gujarati, along with English, French, and Swahili, was an elective course in schools during colonial times. Cutchi [a Gujarati subtype], Punjabi, Dalda, Urdu, Konkani, and Goan are other indigenous dialects still spoken at household levels. Furthermore, some immigrants are fluent in Hindi, which is an international language and one of India’s official languages. Gujarat has assimilated several Swahili words into its wording, such as kabat to kabati [cupboard], madaf to madafu [coconut], and fagyo to fagio [broom]. It’s also worth citing that 90 percent of Indians don’t speak Swahili in their homes, preferring to use it only while interacting with Africans.
  3. Tanzania is a secular nation as far as the constitution is concerned. Only the major Christian and Muslim holidays are recognized public holidays as a result of this. Tanzanian Hindus own temples and participate in important Hindu festivals such as Navratri [9 days of worship followed by Dandia Gujarati singing and dancing every night], Diwali [the celebration marked by the display of candles and lamps in the houses temples, and firecrackers], and Holi [the celebrations of colours with a matching of devotees just around the temple]. Another prominent celebration is Raksha Bandhan [apology for the sister\brother with a sister wrapping a coloured thread just around her brother’s wrist].
  4. Sunni Muslims, like Africans and Arabs, celebrate Mouloud and Eid [or Maulid]. Ithnasheri Muslims conduct a ten-day mourning period in honour of the Karbala martyrs. The community arranges a parade around the local mosque on the ninth evening of mourning.
  5. It was earlier reported that the majority of Indian Christians were Goans, with Catholics dominating the group. Nevertheless, there have been major conversions to Assemblies and Pentecostal Churches among Hindus in recent years. Most of these prayer sessions take place in private homes, with prayers conducted in Gujarati and Hindi.
  6. Hindus in the United Republic of Tanzania recognize that society is divided into classes, which correlate to the presence of statutory as well as socio-regional groupings or sub-community organizations. [ For example, Brahmins, Patels, Lohanas, Kumbhars, and so on] Despite the fact that class membership appears to be primarily confined to older people, allegiance to one’s caste is often shown at religious rites and marriage. Commercial castes are classified primarily by geographical origins [Patels, Lohanas, Bhatias, and so on). Artisan classes are divided solely by professional qualifications [kumbhar [potters], dhobi [laundry] workers, soni [goldsmiths], mochi [shoemakers], suthar [masons], and varan [hairdressers], etc. Each commune [jati] does have its own meeting spaces and a mosque where religious events and other traditional rituals, including marriages and burials, are held.
  7. Relationships amongst different jati frequently extend beyond the religiously prescribed boundaries. This is most likely due to migration, the loosening of ideological standards, and the occasional desire for all classes to band together in the face of challenges to Hindus in general.
  8. In Tanzania, merchant classes [or Vaishya rank] are the people with better social prestige, with the exception of Brahmins and a tiny proportion of kshatryia. Some of them own properties ranging from major industries to large corporations [wholesalers, processors, and supermarkets]. Since they migrated to Africa, artisan classes have mostly maintained their customary activities [which can be verified by 3 or 4 generations]. Only a few of the artisans have had the opportunity to pursue academic careers [lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.). On the other hand, the present generation is increasingly critical of conventional family occupations. This generation publicly challenges social distinctions and claims the entitlement to university education as well as respectable professions. Furthermore, the present generation barely considers social differences when it comes to marriage. They believe that the days of parents arranging marriages are over. Today’s men and ladies do meet on a daily basis in schools, universities, and parties, as well as at local events. They claim that they tell their parents concerning their partners’ choices without regard for class.
  9. Indian Muslims, on the other hand, reject the class system since, according to Islamic beliefs, all Muslims are brethren in the eyes of God. However, as previously stated, a closer examination of their sub-groupings reveals that they have observed status-based classifications similar to classes. Sunnis are classified into subcategories such as kumbhar [sculptors and potters], sunar [goldsmiths], hajjam [hairdressers], luhar (blackmiths] and suthar (masons), not to mention the Sayyed (a superior community whose members say they are descendants Allah’s servant Prophet Mohammed). Cutch, Kokni, Damania and other tribes have divisions similar to Hindu tribes based on geographic origin.
  10. The majority of Goans are Catholics and hail from South-West India. This clarifies why there aren’t any official divisions in this community based on social class. However, it is doubtful that they mingle with other social groupings, especially in relation to matrimony.
  11. Tanzanian Indians place a high value on the depth of family ties in general. The extended household is a residential-style in which a married woman stays with her partner’s family, which may include 3 – 4 generations [great grandparents, grandparents, parents, married sons, their spouse and their children, young sons and single daughters]. A family interview with a grandma, her daughter-in-law, her son, a married grand-son, his spouse, and 4 children indicates a strong bond with the extended household:

“My mom’s house was not totally different from this one,” the daughter-in-law stated. “My two brothers, as well as two younger sisters and I, shared a three-bedroom apartment with our parents, grandma, and grandpa.” Our relatives from Arusha occasionally visited us and remained with us for a while. I enjoy being in a large house with a lot of people. We cook, watch movies, and go shopping together; there is absolutely nothing to hide. Yes, there are times when I wish I could be alone with my partner or watch a specific type of film with him, but we just can’t if the entire family is around. I occasionally want to go out with only my spouse, but it doesn’t happen very often because my sisters in law have to tag along.

12. Among Tanzanian Indians, the extended household residential model is unquestionably the most common, although it is not entirely exclusive of the nuclear family model. Couples who live far away from their husbands’ parents, on the other hand, retain strong relationships with the ascendant generation by meeting up with them at least one time a week and bringing food offerings. Even when sons are adults, most survey participants said it is uncommon for them to leave their parents’ homes, especially if the house is a component of the family land and has a wholesale business or a shop on the 1st floor. Indeed, sons or brothers are meant to inherit their dads’ businesses and homes, while daughters are expected to marry. However, among wealthy Indians in Tanzania, newlyweds regularly receive a mansion as a wedding present from their mom and dad. As a result, sons can purchase their own residences with their spouses and kids without giving away their power to the family land [in this example, their parents’ existing residences]. Even though Indians residing in Tanzania are distributed across the country, the family functions as a nodal entity. For example, a couple residing in Tanga, 500 kilometres north of Dar city, with relatives in Zanzibar, Arusha, and Dar city, makes at least 6 journeys annually from Tanga to see them. According to one reply, funerals and weddings are some of the most typical causes for these visits:

“I had been in Arusha for two days in the last week for my cousin’s beautiful bridal shower, but now I’ve heard my wife’s mother is very ill in Zanzibar, so I’ll be travelling to check on her. Making all of these journeys is expensive — particularly when I am unemployed; my husband’s pay is insufficient to support our three daughters, but we have to consider the family; I can’t claim we don’t have funds to visit the sick; it really doesn’t work that way”.

13. Outside of the extended household, the institution in each community is primarily responsible for maintaining social bonds [jati]. Each neighbourhood has its own mosque (in Dar city, Hindu mosques are almost all found along Kisutu Street]. Domestic temples are where most religious practices take place on a daily basis. Important events such as Holi, Navratri, and Diwali, on the other hand, bring all important members of the local communities together. Non-religious events are also held, which are usually coordinated by women’s boards of directors. Sports and games are used to maintain continuous interactions between dispersed community members (Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, other areas of TanzaniaSome inter-communal relationships exist [bonanza]. Other inter-communal celebrations, like Dandiya Nights or Dandia Nites, a dancing celebration in honour of the deity Durga], are held by Hindus but are also attended by members of other faiths. As a result, non-Hindu tribes are invited by individuals from the hosted zone.

14. Apart from the residential family unit, kinship links are still at the heart of the Indian diaspora’s social functioning. Kutumb is a patrilineage made up of extended families. Each lineage is subdivided into nath [gurajati] and jath [urdu\hindi] segments. The protocol requires kutumb followers to observe certain rituals, particularly at funerals and weddings. Marriage restrictions among Hindus are centred around the idea of exogamy, which states that no marriage within the bloodline or clan is permitted. Because norms require that a wedding must take place inside one’s group, this familial exogamy is paired with class endogamy. As we witnessed earlier, the couple’s home after the ceremony is her parents’ in-law residence.

15. Indian Muslims, like Hindus, follow the patrilineal principle and the rule that the newly married bride stays with her in-laws. They do, however, practice endogamy to some degree at the family stage, unlike Hindus. The habit of marrying 1st and 2nd [patri-lateral] cousins is widespread. It’s also worth noting that the maternal family are included in the pre-marriage counselling and negotiations. Despite the fact that Koranic regulations enable men to take up to four women, the majority of Indian Muslim men in the United Republic of Tanzania practice monogamy. Nonetheless, it is absolutely true that a few of them have side lovers; however, if they accept them as spouses, the marriage is kept hidden, and the kids born of this relationship aren’t permitted to take part in any inheritance.

16. Women’s standing differs depending on the group to which they come from, their religion, their family’s social status, and their degree of education. Ithnasheri women, for example, must wear black veils, although Hindu and Ismailia women are not required to do so. There is a broad spectrum of behaviours in social life, from liberal literacy amongst the Ismailia to preservative behaviour in other groups. The more enlightened a woman gets, the more she claims her independence, although religious conventions and traditional customs sometimes limit her. Indian women suffer the same obstacles as African and Arab women in daily life.

17. Modesty and virginity are two key social ideals enforced on all women. This answers why families continue to exert tight control over young people’s relationships. Unmarried women who are not escorted by a relative cannot accept parties or picnics invitations. In practice, though, both boys and girls succumb to adolescent love and secret rendezvous. Despite this, few of them are willing to engage in a sexual connection for worry of being disowned by their group if the relationship’s secret is revealed.

18. In most circumstances, whether married or single, women remain essentially submissive to men. Unmarried girls live with and are cared for solely by their parents. If not, the females are cared for by their brothers, uncles, or relatives. Even if they have professional employment, married ladies are supposed to be in charge of domestic activities. They are anticipated to have children. They must also treat their in-laws with respect and serve them. In Tanzania, certain Indian women have achieved success in a particular field, such as commerce or politics. On the other hand, their community measures their achievement in terms of children and their marriage. Women don’t have the same privileges and freedoms as males of the Indian elite in urban life, even when they’re financially independent. If an Indian lady went to a bar alone or decided to be single, she would be chastised. Consumption of alcoholic beverages and smoking are both strongly discouraged.

19. Despite the fact that a major part of Indians inTanzania were previously employed in commercial operations, this is set to change. Apart from wholesale and retail enterprises [hardware, food, and ironmongery, clothes and textiles, and so on], the spectrum of employment performed by Tanzanian Indians has significantly expanded, ranging from marketing managers and corporate directors to clerks to taxi drivers to shop salespeople, as well as receptionists. While finance, engineering, information technology, and medicine are the most common activities, several Indian-origin teachers are usually employed in private colleges. A small number of Indians own industrial and commercial enterprises, especially in the tourism as well as manufacturing industries.

20. Intra-communal contacts are still strong in commerce because they often give simple answers and because the community’s coherence is seen as essential for its members’ survival. This clarifies why the spiritual head of the Bohras encouraged them to cooperate with individuals of their own group in their business operations. However, business contacts between other local communities are now expanding, fueled by a young generation that is exposed to meeting other local communities through school, clubs, movies, and discos.

21. On the other hand, social ties with Africans remain limited. Indians in Tanzania have compiled a list of Indian-owned clubs, restaurants, and pubs that feature dances, music, and melodies from India specific to Indian flavour. As a result, it’s difficult to run into an Indian at any of Sinza’s or Kinondoni’s African pubs or at a msondo or taarab dance. Mixed marriages are frowned upon in India, and Afro-Indian partners are frequently excluded. While the community struggles to accept a collaboration among an African woman and an Indian man, the contrary is even more harshly denounced and condemned: a partnership between an Indian woman and an African man. Marriages between European men and women, on the other hand, have a certain level of tolerance. No progress has been put to break down these racial and cultural barriers among Christians and Muslims, religions that teach brotherhood\unity in the name of Jesus Christ or Allah to their followers. As long as this pattern continues in Tanzania, it will not be strange to hear an African using derogatory phrases towards Indians on the road and on public transportation.

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