African tribe, long marginalised in India, seeks sporting glory

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Siddi community is believed to have descended from Bantu peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and mostly live on India’s western coast.

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Rohit Majgul has weathered racism and rejection in India as part of a marginalised community tracing its roots back to Africa – but he still dreams of bringing sporting glory to his country.

The 16-year-old is part of a group of teens practising martial arts in a sun-baked field near Jambur village in India’s western state of Gujarat’s Junagadh district, where his parents work as manual labourers.

Growing up around open drains and swarms of flies in the remote village, he and other members of the local Siddi community have been abused for their distinctive dark features and curly hair.

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Majgul, a school dropout, sees his judo training as the only way to escape a life riddled with poverty and discrimination.

“No one believes me when I say I am Indian,” he told AFP news agency. “They think I am African, they call me by different abusive names, they tease me.

“I have also been thrown off the bus because of my colour, but I quietly endure everything because I want to do well in sports and carve my own identity.”

Two years ago, Majgul won silver in judo at the Asia-Pacific Youth Games.

His determination to represent India on the international stage was boosted by a government push to identify athletes in the Siddi community, which is believed to have descended from the Bantu peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.

Some are believed to have been brought over during the Islamic conquest of the subcontinent as early as the eighth century.

Many others were likely brought by the Portuguese to India between three and five centuries ago, researchers say.

But they are still viewed as outsiders.

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‘No one cares about us’​

When British colonial authorities abolished slavery in the 19th century, Siddis fled to the jungles in fear of their safety.

Gradually they settled on India’s western coast, working as farmhands and labourers while adopting the local culture and languages.

India is now home to about 250,000 Siddis, according to researchers, with most living in Gujarat and Karnataka – with both coastal states facing the eastern tip of Africa from across the Arabian Sea.

Those living in Gujarat are Muslim, making them targets for further discrimination in Hindu-majority India.

“No one cares about us. There are no facilities in our village – no piped water, no proper toilets, nothing,” said Majgul.

Near his home, children with tangled, unwashed hair ran barefoot across narrow alleys lined with shanties.

Hope came in the form of a scheme launched in 1987 by a government eager to boost the country’s dismal Summer Olympics tally, with Indian athletes taking just nine gold medals in the last century.

“We were exploring whether the Siddis had a genetic advantage,” athletics coach R Sundar Raju, who was part of the project, told AFP.

“Normally an Indian athlete takes some years before making it to the national level, but the Siddis were doing so in barely three years.”

But authorities ditched the project seven years later, after realising the impoverished Siddi were more interested in a linked programme that encouraged Indians to pursue sporting careers by giving them highly sought-after government jobs.

“They came from such poor families that the moment they secured jobs under a sports quota, they grabbed the opportunity and left the training midway,” Raju said.

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‘I used to curse my fate’​

In the years since, some Siddis in Gujarat instead eked out a living by staging dance performances for tourists or trained as forest guides for Gir National Park, a sanctuary for endangered lions.

The state government revived the programme in 2015, focusing mainly on judo and athletics. Promising Siddi youngsters now train at a state-run sports academy.

A non-profit group in Karnataka is also mentoring 50 aspiring athletes from the community.

“We felt that this particular group has high potential but has been highly neglected,” said Nitish Chiniwar, founder of the Bridges of Sports Foundation.

Shahnaz Lobi, an aspiring shot-putter from Jambur, jumped at the chance to pursue a sporting career after watching her labourer father struggle to feed his family.

“I used to curse my fate. But one day I got to know about the sports trials and I took part in them,” she said.

Lobi told AFP that she dreamed of competing in the 2024 Olympics.

“I was selected and sent to the state sports academy. I have no friends there but it doesn’t bother me. I just want to win an Olympic medal and let the world know I am Indian.”



 
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So now India is trying to exploit them for sports recognition? Smh. At least they're getting funding and attention now but the Indian subcontinent really does have a bad history of exploiting people who look SSA or recently descend from them.

There's an Island called the "Andaman Islands" that have some of the most beautiful and lovely people I've seen. Unfortunately, they're being exploited by the Indian government and people. The Jarawa people are being abused, raped, forced to be addicted to substances, ran off their land, treated as human safari... pretty much being colonized in the 21st century.

Warning: This video might upset you
 
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So now India is trying to exploit them for sports recognition? Smh. At least they're getting funding and attention now but the Indian subcontinent really does have a bad history of exploiting people who look SSA or recently descend from them.

There's an Island called the "Andaman Islands" that have some of the most beautiful and lovely people I've seen. Unfortunately, they're being exploited by the Indian government and people. The Jarawa people are being abused, raped, forced to be addicted to substances, ran off their land, treated as human safari... pretty much being colonized in the 21st century.

Warning: This video might upset you
Damn this is really sad. Why can't they let these people be? Like they are 100% right with everything they said in the first video about 'our' world. Ancient people that don't bother anybody and just want to keep living how they have always lived, just leave them alone
 
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But authorities ditched the project seven years later, after realising the impoverished Siddi were more interested in a linked programme that encouraged Indians to pursue sporting careers by giving them highly sought-after government jobs.

So, their own weak sauce athletes can have access to jobs for coming in last but Black Indians get to win, glorify their racist ass woman hating country, and go back into poverty. Got it. Fuck all of them, I hope all their best athletes get offers to emigrate to other countries and win gold for fucking Norway or dumb shit.
 
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I feel so sorry for that African group who have been living in India for abouta hundred years. They are treated so disgustingly. Many of them want to return back to Africa but do not have the funds
 
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I feel so sorry for that African group who have been living in India for abouta hundred years. They are treated so disgustingly. Many of them want to return back to Africa but do not have the funds
Any source? I have a feeling they just feel very much Indian (and rightfully so ofcourse) despite how they are treated. Just like black Americans, afro-brazilians etc. Even watching videos about them I don't get the feeling of them wanting to go back. Their culture is very much Indian. And besides where would they even go? Africa is a continent.
 
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Any source? I have a feeling they just feel very much Indian (and rightfully so ofcourse) despite how they are treated. Just like black Americans, afro-brazilians etc. Even watching videos about them I don't get the feeling of them wanting to go back. Their culture is very much Indian. And besides where would they even go? Africa is a continent.
I understand what you are saying. The African-Indian talk about the stark differences between how they, descendants of continental Africans are treated compared to Indian people. From my understanding, they are aware they came from the Eastern side of Africa. I hope they don't get too comfortable thinking they are Indian as that is where the problems start. But I now what you mean about they might feel Indian as that is all they know. Trinidad has quite a big Indian population and many of them look down on the black Trinidadians as being inferior to them. There is a similar thing in Turkey where there are quite a few African-Turks and many of them are from Tanzania and they expressed a desire about visiting Tanzania
 
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I understand what you are saying. The African-Indian talk about the stark differences between how they, descendants of continental Africans are treated compared to Indian people. From my understanding, they are aware they came from the Eastern side of Africa. I hope they don't get too comfortable thinking they are Indian as that is where the problems start. But I now what you mean about they might feel Indian as that is all they know. Trinidad has quite a big Indian population and many of them look down on the black Trinidadians as being inferior to them. There is a similar thing in Turkey where there are quite a few African-Turks and many of them are from Tanzania and they expressed a desire about visiting Tanzania
Yeah it's sad how they are treated and you have to think there are dark skin Indians who are treated the same. Such a fucked up country India is. Yeah, they've been in India for like 500 years that is really all they know. They speak the language, wear Indian attire and their whole culture is probably more Indian than anything else. I loved watching videos from this African man who went to their region to learn more about them. Beautiful people.
I'm not very familiar with Trinidad & Tobago but I've read about this. Seems like everywhere these Indians are they look down others and it's really weird to me. I wonder if this is the case in Guyana too. There is a big Indian population there if I remember correctly but I don't really hear or read anything about that place.
I never knew there were black people in Turkey. At least they know exactly what country they come from. I hope they all get the chance to visit Tanzania.
 
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Yeah it's sad how they are treated and you have to think there are dark skin Indians who are treated the same. Such a fucked up country India is. Yeah, they've been in India for like 500 years that is really all they know. They speak the language, wear Indian attire and their whole culture is probably more Indian than anything else. I loved watching videos from this African man who went to their region to learn more about them. Beautiful people.
I'm not very familiar with Trinidad & Tobago but I've read about this. Seems like everywhere these Indians are they look down others and it's really weird to me. I wonder if this is the case in Guyana too. There is a big Indian population there if I remember correctly but I don't really hear or read anything about that place.
I never knew there were black people in Turkey. At least they know exactly what country they come from. I hope they all get the chance to visit Tanzania.
Yes, Guyana is like that. I worked with an Indian-Guyanese women who was horrible and nasty and was shocked to see me as a black person in a front of house role. I also have worked with an Indian-Guyanese who would talk to me and be really nice when I had my hair in a brazillian weave but when i had my hair in braids i noticed he did not talk to me as much. I met an Indian-Trinidadian woman and I told her she probably had black Trinidadian blood in her and she looked at me with disgust. They see blacks as being beneath them and I am not sure why that is since they are not exactly white themselves and their culture and history has no prestige to it at all and alot of them are very dirty people. Also met a white women who went to India with her black boyfriend and she said their Indian female hostess offered her drinks and snacks but did not offer her black boyfriend anything at all and when he went out of the room the Indian women asked her "why on earth would she have a black partner". She said she thinks Indians are more racist to black people than white people are and she hears alot of them make anti-black comments in the workplace not realise her boyfriend is black
 
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Yes, Guyana is like that. I worked with an Indian-Guyanese women who was horrible and nasty and was shocked to see me as a black person in a front of house role. I also have worked with an Indian-Guyanese who would talk to me and be really nice when I had my hair in a brazillian weave but when i had my hair in braids i noticed he did not talk to me as much. I met an Indian-Trinidadian woman and I told her she probably had black Trinidadian blood in her and she looked at me with disgust. They see blacks as being beneath them and I am not sure why that is since they are not exactly white themselves and their culture and history has no prestige to it at all and alot of them are very dirty people. Also met a white women who went to India with her black boyfriend and she said their Indian female hostess offered her drinks and snacks but did not offer her black boyfriend anything at all and when he went out of the room the Indian women asked her "why on earth would she have a black partner". She said she thinks Indians are more racist to black people than white people are and she hears alot of them make anti-black comments in the workplace not realise her boyfriend is black
Damn, really sad how they treated you. I seriously wonder where the superiority complex come from. They are indeed very dirty people I noticed and in their country they shit in public like it's something normal to do in this day and age... Ain't no way one of those can try to feel superior to me smh.
I think it's funny when white people think others are 'more' racist than them. I mean your ancestors invaded people's land and killed them off and/or treated them like subhumans, it can not get more racist than that to me.
 
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These families have been in India for hundreds of years, so any 'go home' notion doesn't work.

They are Indian, and they are trapped in a caste system that is impossible to escape, with little will from those at the top to change it.

Hopefully, bringing positive global attention will start to change things.
 

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