November 2015 \ News \ Baba and Mai
Suriname Memorial in Kolkata

  • Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Mrs Sushma Swaraj at the Suriname Memorial. Others in the picture include West Bengal Governor, Mr K N Tripathi, MOIA Secretary, Mr A.K. Agarwal and West Bengal Finance Minister Mr Amit Mitra

 In October, Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs, Ms Sushma Swaraj unveiled a memorial here to honour thousands of Indian indentured workers forced to work as labourers in sugar plantations in Suriname. She inaugurated the 'Suriname Memorial' in the presence of West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi and Suriname envoy to India Ms Aashna Kanhai.

It has been set up at the Suriname Jetty under the Kolkata Port Trust, from where the indentured workers from India set sail in ships to the small country located on the north-east Atlantic coast of South America from 1873 to 1910. Gifted by the Surinamese Government, the memorial is a bust of 'Baba and Mai' - a depiction of male and female indentured workers known as father and mother - and a replica of a monument in Suriname capital Parimaribo. It symbolises the first Indian man and woman to set foot in the Dutch-speaking nation. "This memorial is not only in the honour of those who went to Suriname but thousands of our forefathers forced to migrate to other countries as indentured workers," Ms Sushma Swaraj said at the event.

"There are numerous heart-rending stories of Indian indentured workers who faced numerous hardships. It was their endurance, hard work and determination that they not only survived despite all odds, but went on to become successful in all fields. Two of Suriname's presidents – Mr Ramsewak Shankar and Mr Ramdat Misier - were of Indian origin," said the minister. She also lauded the Indian diaspora in foreign countries for preserving Indian culture and values and tradition.