Hindus seek apology from Australia over mistreatment of “coolies” in 1800s

Hindus are urging formal apology from Australia for reportedly severe maltreatment of Indian and Chinese “coolies” during their indentured servitude in 1800s, many of whom were Hindus.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that a multi-cultural society like Australia should have apologized much earlier on this odious issue of reported ill-treatment of “collies”. This systematic exploitation and dehumanizing behavior towards a group of people was simply immoral.

According to reports; these “coolies” faced abandonment, abuse, assault, beatings, brutalities, harsh working conditions, higher mortality rates, imprisonment, kidnap, manipulation, poor conditions on crowded ships during transportation, severely limited freedoms, slavery, starvation, etc.; resulting in the death of some. Many suffered because of not being adequately clothed, fed, paid; thousands of miles away from their home countries; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated.

Reports suggested that even those who were paid received a pittance of their labor. This system of indentured labor appeared like an alternative form of slavery; Rajan Zed noted.

In an article in Sydney Monitor dated February 28, 1838; and titled The Indian “Hill Coolies” (found under Trove of National Library of Australia); Indian labourers complained:… food, barely sufficient for one man, had been issued to four of them—that they had also worked two months without having been paid…

This article further said: The situation of these people is deplorable. A dirty piece of canvass, tied round their loins, was the sole clothing of some of them. What rags they had on, seemed to be the tattered remains of the clothing in which they left India, aided by gifts of old garments from somebody or other.

One contract of “coolies” with the owner reportedly included: one lota, or brass cup, for every four persons.

Zed further said that Australia should do some soul searching; acknowledge the wrongs done to the “coolies”; show some decency, fairness, humanity, integrity, responsibility, sincerity and truthfulness by issuing a heart-felt apology for this seemingly dark period of its history.

Addressing and self-correcting historical wrongs would show that Australia was not that type of nation anymore, it was much better than that; Rajan Zed added.

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