Why Fiji Indians are vulagi: Dr Ganesh Chand explains

Fiji academic and former politician Dr Ganesh Chand. Picture: STUFF.CO

AUCKLAND, 19 JULY 2019 (STUFF NZ) – The debate on whether Indians in Fiji are “vulagi” (visitors) has reached offshore, and discussion in the New Zealand media is getting intense.

First, there was SODELPA Party’s Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who referred to the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party as “vulagi” parties late last month.

“Vulagi” is a iTaukei (indigenous Fijian) term for “visitors” – in this case referring to the country’s Indian population who arrived in the country more than 140 years ago and have made Fiji their home.

Then, two weeks ago, another SODELPA MP, Mosese Bulitavu, in a social media post, said that stabbing and murders were only carried out by descendants of indentured labourers from British India, and was not part of iTaukei culture.

His comments have been widely criticised and he later apologised to the Indo-Fijian community, and the women of Fiji.

This week, Fiji academic and former politician Dr Ganesh Chand, while addressing a Forced labour and Migration Conference, said Fiji Indians should stop demanding to be called “Fijians”.

Chand, an Indo-Fijian himself, said they were actually “vulagi”.

On Radio Tarana, Chand explained the use of the word “vulagi”.

“Vulagi is actually made of two parts ‘Vu’ and ‘lagi’ – together they become ‘vulagi’’ Chand said.

“Vu, in iTaukei language, means ‘ancestor’ and ‘lagi” means ‘from over the horizon’, so ‘vulagi’ actually means ‘our ancestor from afar’.

Chand said every iTaukei family had a sacred ‘vu’, and that anyone from outside that extended family was referred to as “vulagi”.

Angry callers to Tarana shot down Chand’s comments, labelling him as out of touch with reality.

One caller said while in Fiji, he was a Fijian citizen, and now in New Zealand had become a New Zealand citizen.

“How dare he say that we are vulagi in the country. No way we are vulagi, no way.”

Another caller said the Indians were not brought to Fiji as “vulagi”, while some said everyone in the world was a “vulagi”.

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