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Unlike the majority of Fiji's Indian population, who are descendants of Indian indentured labourers brought to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, most of the Sikhs came to Fiji as free immigrants. Most Sikhs established themselves as farmers. Sikhs also came to Fiji as policemen, teachers and preachers. In recent years large numbers of Sikhs have emigrated from Fiji, especially to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Sikhs in Fiji are generally referred to as Punjabis.
Recruitment of indentured labour for Fiji did not take place in Punjab (the home of the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu people) but some people who stated their home province as being Punjab were recruited from other parts of India and boarded ships to Fiji from Calcutta. Between 1879 and 1900, out of the 21,368 emigrants from Calcutta, only 369 were from Punjab. Although no religious breakdown of these Punjabi migrants is available, because of the enterprising nature of the Sikh people a large proportion of these would have been Sikhs.
The first Sikh free migrants came to Fiji as part of the group of seventy Punjabis who were lured into coming to New Caledonia, in 1904, on the understanding that high wages were paid there. After finding working conditions unacceptable in the French colony, the seventy came to Fiji where some found temporary employment but most soon left for India dissatisfied at the low wages paid in Fiji. From 1905, when the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand began a regular service from Calcutta to Fiji, there was a regular flow of Sikhs and people from Punjab also known as the Saint Ravidass community to Fiji. Some came to Fiji to make it easier for them to enter North America, Australia, New Zealand and even Argentina.
The early Sikh and the Ravidass community migrants were mainly from the Jullundur and Hoshiapur districts, although some also came from Ludhiana, Amritsar, Ferozepore, Lahore, Ambala and Rohtak districts of Punjab. They were all young and mostly younger sons. They came with few women and those who stayed in Fiji married Hindu women and became prosperous farmers and some of them went back to Punjab to get married within their caste and culture and brought their wives to Fiji and started their family. Majority of the people maintained close ties with their families in the Punjab and remitted money back to their families.
From 1900 Sikh policemen were brought to Fiji from Hong Kong and Shanghai. C. F. Andrews and W. W. Pearson, in their report on Indian indentured labour in Fiji, in February 1916, expressed high regard for the Indian Police Force in Suva made up of Sikhs. They noted that unlike in India these policemen did not take bribes. They wrote that:
We found an extremely well-conducted Indian Police Force in Suva. These Indians, who were Sikhs, were paid a good monthly wage, and expressed themselves, on the whole, contented with their position. They had come out under an agreement, but there was nothing about it that was servile. Their passage was quite different from that of the ordinary coolies... They were treated well by their senior officers, who spoke highly of their men.
Walter Gill, who served as an overseer for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Lautoka during the final years of indenture, has also written about significant numbers of Sikhs employed in the Western Division of Fiji to police the Indian population.
Sikh Gurdwaras have been established in areas of Fiji where there is a concentration Sikhs. These temples do not only serve as places of worship but as a place where the food and shelter were provided for the needy. The first Sikh temple in Fiji was built in Samabula (near Suva) in 1922 to provide for the needs of new Sikh migrants. Once Tamavua and Nasinu areas (near Suva) had a large concentration of Sikhs and in 1943 First Shree Guru Ravidass Gurudwara was established in Nasinu 6 miles.The founding fathers of this Guru Ravidass Gurudwara (a.k.a.) AD-Punjab Association came from Punjab India in early 1900s. Registered trustee's are Mr. Lachhu Ram a.k.a. Lachhu Sheemar (f/n) Khema Ram, Mr. Rakha Ram (f/n)Phila Ram, Mr. Bakshi Ram (f/n) Melu Ram, Mr. Khushi Ram (f/n) Atchu Ram, Mr. Mehnga Ram (f/n) Nathu Ram. Most Sikhs from the settlements around Suva have emigrated to the United States and Canada and some have moved to the Western Division to undertake cane farming. There is a concentration of Sikh cane farmers in Mataniqara and Tagitagi which lie between Ba and Tavua and to cater for their needs, a temple was built in Tagitagi. There is another temple in Lautoka City, built to cater for the needs of the Sikhs in the Sabeto Valley, but many of these have either left for overseas or moved into the naighbouring settlement of Vutualevu. There is only one temple outside the main island of Viti Levu and it is located in the town of Labasa in the second largest island of Vanua Levu. All the temples in Fiji, except the one in Nasinu, are controlled by temple committees and funded by donations from the local Sikh community. The Ravidass Gurudwara also known as Nasinu Gurudwara is funded by the followers of the Ravidass community in Fiji.
The first schools built by Sikhs in Fiji was the Khalsa High School in Ba District, Fiji in 1958 to provide instruction in the Gurmukhi script of Punjabi to Sikh pupils. It is at present a multi-racial and co-educational institution open to students of all communities. In 1972, out of a total roll of 491 students, only 124 were Sikhs. The Guru Nanak Khalsa Parimary School was also built at the same site in Ba. A small school, the Naduri Bay Khalsa Primary School, was built near Sigatoka to provide for the needs of the small Sikh community in the area. The Guru Nanak Khalsa Primary School opened in Labasa in 1970 with a roll of 47 students.