<<...by way of clarification, Peter Nazareth and JM Nazareth are two different Goans from EA that have published.....the greater bulk of Indian immigration that occurred with the advent of the building of the EA railways in the late 1800's.>> 

Sorry for the mix up, I'm sure JM Nazareth would be equally gripping. 

As regards the bulk of Indians migrating to East Africa at the time of the building of EA railways in the late 1800's, it could have been purely coincidental. It stands to reason that the Indian settlement in East Africa comprised almost 80% Gujaratis and it's doubtful if they participated in the building of the railways. If at all they did then they must have been other than Vanias, Lohanas, Khojas, Bohoras and Memons who formed the bulk of the Gujarati population in East Africa. The later Gujarati migrants to East Africa were mostly backed by their relatives or contacts who had already established themselves in this part of the world. 

Take for instance the Khoja population (both Ismailis and Ithnashris) in East Africa at the time of 'independence', they numbered some 70,000 -100,000 but were in no way associated with the building of the railways, and probably some of their institutions were in existence prior to the advent of the EA railways. The same goes with the Bohoras, an enterprising community that had a number of old establishments including the famed 'Karimji Jivanji'. The Karimji brothers Sir Yusufali and Sir Tayabali had the honour of receiving knighthood.  

A fact finding study is required in this case and one needs to dig deep into it. It would then become evident that the larger communities in the coastal towns were not part of this exercise. They had their old foundations which were solid and could easily accommodate their brethren from the subcontinent. 

To illustrate my own community (Khoja Ithnashris) in Zanzibar, we'd by the year 1900 (or around that time) such institutions as the spectacular 'Nasser Noormohamed Dispensary' (now an ostentatiously displayed 'Cultural Centre') along Forodhani, 'Haji Remtulla Tejani Musafarkhana' (a Guest House to accommodate community members from outside Zanzibar) and Fazal Master's 'Printing Press' that published a bilingual (English & Gujarati) 'Samachar' every Sunday. Besides, the mosques, 'mehfils' and 'koranic schools' must have existed in different corners of the stone town at that time. 

Also throughout East Africa the Khoja Ismailis were always in the forefront putting up hospitals and schools. The Aghakhan hospitals and schools established decades back have gained international recognition. 

It would be just inappropriate to identify an East African Khoja or a Bohora or for that matter even a Bhatia or a Vania as a product of Diaspora that claims its roots in the builders of East African Railways. These are my views on a purely personal level.



Last updated November 2007 Copyright Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved