Introduction / History Indo-Fijians (or Fiji Indians) are mainly descendants of labourers brought to the Fiji Islands by the British colonial government from 1879 to 1916 to work on sugar cane and other plantations. In the early twentieth century, other Indians came to Fiji as free agents working in the public service and as highly skilled workers and professionals.
By 1966, Indo-Fijians comprised 51 percent of the total population while the Indigenous Fijian population fell to 42 percent. The Indigenous had lost large numbers largely through exposure to foreign diseases such as measles. The colonial government feared that the Indians would take over the country and thus through legislation and various institutions tried to ensure that the indigenous Fijians would never lose their land.
Due to several coup de etat beginning in 1987 primarily against Indo-Fijians, the demographic structure of Fiji has undergone a change. The 2007 Fiji census shows the Indo-Fijians were about 38 percent or 313,798 of Fiji's total population.
Where are they located? The Indo-Fijians are largely found in northern and western coasts of the biggest islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu in sugar cane areas. Others are located in the south and inland areas of these islands and few are scattered in other smaller islands.
What are their lives like? The majority of the Indo-Fijians are Hindi speakers and most can speak English. Others are proficient in other Indian languages such as Bhojpuri, Urdu, Tamil, Bihari, Gujarati and Punjabi. Since Indo-Fijians have come from different parts of India they have developed their own language known as 'Fiji Hindi' which is apparently formed mainly from the Indian dialects of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
India remains an important cultural beacon for the Indo-Fijians, influencing ritual practices, culinary tradition, dress and entertainment. The sub-continent's impact provides cultural distinction between Indians and non-Indians.
But despite the sub-continent's influence, most Indo-Fijians today have not been to India. Over a century of living together with indigenous Fijians has shaped the Indo-Fijian identity and lifestyle. One key impact is that Indo-Fijians have largely done away with the caste system.
Indo-Fijian meals also include starch and relishes, and men and women may eat separately. The staple tends to be either flatbread made from flour and/or rice. Relishes are primarily vegetarian, but some meat and fish is consumed. Many Indo-Fijians obey religious prohibitions against beef (Hindus) or pork (Muslims).
Indo-Fijians traditionally have permitted their children much less freedom but have now begun to adopt Western ideas about child raising. In traditional homes, the relationship between father and son is formal and reserved, but fathers are more affectionate toward their daughters, who leave the family after marriage. Mothers are indulgent toward their sons and strict with their daughters, whom they prepare for the role of a daughter-in-law.
Domestic norms are determined by gender and age. Sons are expected to treat their fathers with respect, and younger brothers defer to older brothers. Females can be socially segregated, but urban living has eroded this.
In terms of sports, there is a general interest in soccer and, while few play the game, in rugby as well.
What are their beliefs? The 1996 census showed that 77 per cent of Indo-Fijians were Hindus, 16 per cent were Muslims, 6 per cent were Christians and about 0.9% were Sikh.
According to the same census, about 74% of the Hindus belong to the Sanatana Dharma sect, 4% are Arya Samaj and there are smaller unspecified sects comprising 22% of the Hindu population. Muslims are mainly Sunni (60%) or unspecified although there is an Ahmadiya minority of about 4%.
Indo-Fijian Hindus follow a variety of religious customs and are divided between the reformed (Arya Samaj) and the orthodox (Sanatan). The religious practices of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs inherited from India are characterized by fasts, feasts, and festivals as well as prescribed rituals that cover major life events.
Among Indo-Fijians, Hindus may cremate their dead; Muslims insist on burial. These two religions differ in their view of the after life. Hindus assume that the deceased's soul will be reborn and Muslims say the true believer will be rewarded with eternal life in paradise.
What are their needs? Indo-Fijians as a group have a higher than normal prevalence rate of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They have a high fat diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
Due to political instability since 1987, there is a high rate of emigration of Indo-Fijians which has adversely affected the sugar industry, the economy and caused skills shortages. Political differences between the native Fijians and the Indo-Fijians drive the emigration.
At some time or other Indo-Fijians have been made to feel like they do not belong in Fiji and there is a continuous striving to belong. Some Indigenous do not want the word "Fijian" applied to the Indians. The experience of political instability and government policies against them have made them feel unwanted, which fuels emigration.
Insecurity based on the inability to own land has increased focus over time on education and the need to have money. Consequently, Indo-Fijians dominate the professions and business.
Prayer Points While the majority Indo-Fijian Hindus do not have anything against Christianity, sometimes viewing it as another path to God, they do associate Christianity with the Indigenous Fijians, who they feel do not want them in the country. Christianity has been used as a rallying force by politicians and coup perpetrators to galvanise the Indigenous behind them. This makes it very difficult for Indo-Fijians to leave their religions for Jesus Christ. Pray that Satan's veil of deception is removed and they realise Jesus as their only saviour and source of every security that the Indo-Fijian longs for.