History of Indians in France

30 November, -1



While the Indian giant made a grand entrance on the international economic scene, its Diasporas have twenty million people worldwide, including nearly 400 to 500 000 in France. For thirty years, France, including the Île-de-France, became a privileged land of migration for these populations. For the first time, the magazine Homes et Migrations devotes a folder.

Pakistani grocery store located in the neighborhood of the Faubourg Saint-Denis (Paris).
Seller Nocturnal flowers restorer of the modern entrepreneur in the small trader, they fit in small steps in our everyday urban life, for thirty years. However, populations of Indian origin, mosaic complex, remain largely unknown. Vasoodeven Vuddamalay, geographer and sociologist, educational director of the Graduate Institute of Development in professionalization of the University of territory of Every Val d'Essonne and Catherine Servant-Schreiber, indianite the India Study Centre and the South Asia (CNRS / EHESS), coordinating an issue of Homes et Migrations * on the Indian Diaspora, partly remedy this situation. "The authorities have not seen fit to fund research on these populations, advanced Vasoodeven Vuddamalay, particularly because they do not pose a political problem. In fact, the decolonization of the former French trading posts in India was conducted so less passionate than in Africa. “Their discretion, their limited speaking out, these communities are not yet fully be imposed in the public space. And relatively recent in France, they are just beginning to produce young intellectuals of the second generation, able to question their origins.

Finally, if the researchers were indeed seized of India, they have so far favored the immersion in the country. "Long, financial and scientific priorities have been given to studies in India, all at once by a sort of intellectual honesty - go to the source - and a certain contempt for the nearby school," adds Catherine Servant-Schreiber. The extent of the migration phenomenon and therefore its impact on the Indian subcontinent, have revived interest in these Diasporas, at the time of the emergence of India on the global economic stage.

Also, in order to apprehend this multifaceted reality, the researchers crossed disciplines. History, geography, economics, political science, anthropology, international relations and ethno psychiatry were convened, to outline the contours and try to decipher the integration strategies implemented by these communities. However, it is relatively easy to trace the steps of this implementation, the authors have faced the shortage of sources to accurately assess its contemporary diversity. This study, because pioneering is piecemeal.

Some pointers before diving into these Diasporas: the Indian subcontinent, geographical area of South Asia, including present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Colonized by the British (from 1764) but also by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French, who established trading posts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, India "historic" reaches its independence in 1947 but can not avoid partition with Pakistan Muslim. In 1971, East Pakistan accessed in turn to independence, under the name of Bangladesh. People of Indian origin in France are from very different ethnic communities, distinguished by cultural traditions, religion, language, geographical origin, or by crossing the criteria.

The population of Indian origin in France comes from several nationalities: Indians from India (Tamils, Gujaratis, Sikhs, Parsis), Pakistanis, Sri Lankans (Tamils), Bangladeshis (Biharis and Bengalis), French Pondicherry, West Indies * or Reunion, Mauritian and Malagasy (Bohra and Khoja). They sometimes already experienced interbreeding (including overseas territories) but are always defined as Indians. If this presence has strengthened over the past thirty years, the history of this migration is linked to the colonial past of France and England. Confidential the seventeenth and eighteenth, it arouses from the twentieth century an exalted admiration throughout the visit to Paris of artists and acrobats. Thus, Theophile Gautier ignites for the talent of a troupe of dancers and musicians Pondicherry. "In colonial universal exhibitions, they won considerable success and it raves about their outstanding location," said Catherine Servan-Schreiber. The mystery of fakirs, controlled the pace of the mahouts then feed the myth of the Far East.

During the Great War, more than a million Indians noticed (especially by the French and English) for their fighting spirit, come to defend the trenches alongside the African riflemen. In 1954, under the government Mendes France, when India gained independence, France decided to surrender its territories: Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe, Yanam and Chandannagar. Former nationals have the possibility to opt for French nationality and 5,000 Tamil families make this choice. Those who choose to emigrate are mostly civil servants or teachers. Mainly from Karaikal and Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu (state in the south of India and the Tamil people which takes its name), they are now about 50 000 to reside in France with more than half of French nationality (for the reasons mentioned above, most had French nationality before leaving, which does not exclude that some, though lesser extent, the have obtained locally).

Many, however, have passed through Indochina where they spent at least part of their life and even settled there for several generations. Some, particularly the Muslim merchants have even started a family, hence the presence of Indo-Vietnamese of mixed parentage. The arrival of Tamils in Indochina, returnees and refugees according to their status, is accelerating in the late sixties. Still others come from the Antilles or Reunion, descendants of coolies.

Conversely, Sikhs, ethno-religious group from Punjab in northwestern India, are experiencing precarious when they arrived in France at the beginning of the eighty years. Paperless or fixed housing or even links with the French company - but the Sri Lankans discouraged to immigrate to England - they have to wait to come out of hiding to begin to structure themselves. Fleeing insecurity in Punjab ***, some of them trying to get political asylum in 1984 by militants claiming khalistanis (supporters of secession Punjab). Estimated at 10 000, they are composed of Keshdharis and Monas. As for Pakistan for which the installation in France was originally a fallback, failing to Britain, the United States or Canada, they first emigrate for economic reasons. They are considered at least 50,000 currently, legal and illegal.

Finally, the Indo-Mauritians (about 60,000 Mauritians in France) occupy a special place within these diasporas, their identity at the crossroads of cultural influences and historical ties with France. They not only do not experience difficulties integrating, but especially because they come from an island where the coexistence between different ethnic groups was the rule, they play a mediating role with other communities in Indian-continent.