June 05, 2020
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In The Isle Of A Storm

Essential reading in understanding the conflict in Fiji

In The Isle Of A Storm
Fiji: A Precarious Coalition
By Shubha Singh
Publications: Har-Anand Rs 295; Pages: 177

In Fiji: A Precarious Coalition, Shubha Singh takes the unusual route of explaining the conflict in Fiji through the experiences of her own family. Connections go back four generations. Her great grandparents left a village near Agra and reached Fiji as indentured labourers in 1885. Her grandfather was born there and her father, an ias officer, was appointed India's high commissioner soon after Fiji's independence in 1970. Singh and her brother Ajay, a minister in V.P. Singh's government, spent time there as teenagers.

Fiji is the only home for today's descendants of the indentured labourers. India faded away even in the memories of their grandparents. Leasing land from the indigenous Fijians, which they were never allowed to own, they toiled in the cane fields for the sugar mills owned by the Australians. Eventually, this combined effort of the communities brought prosperity to Fiji, unknown to the rest of the region. Till recently, race relations were surprisingly harmonious.

So what went wrong? Singh's book is essential reading in understanding the complexities that led to the turmoil and why the Fijians balked at the idea of having a prime minister who was ethnically an Indian.

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