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Purewa - Chhota Jivanji 1896-1921

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Chhota Jivanj (Chhotu, Chhotubhai, Chhotalal or Chotalal) Jivanji (or Javanji) was born in 1896 – his grave says he is from Satem, Bombay (Mumbai). He arrived in New Zealand on the Medina from Colombo on 8 October 1916. His nationality was recorded as British. [1] 

He was almost immediately called up in the second ballot of the 2nd Division, his address being given as 22 Grey Street and his occupation as hawker. [2] His name was listed on the Auckland City Council bicycle register of 1920-21 as living at 153 Symonds St, Auckland City. [3] Chhota was a founder of New Zealand’s first Indian Association in 1918. He spoke fluent English, was well educated and was employed as a shipping clerk. However after suffering discrimination from his co-workers, he was forced to find work as a clerk in a jeweller’s shop. His personal experience of discrimination strengthened his resolve to defend the rights of Indians living in New Zealand. 

In 1919 he wrote to the Auckland Star supporting Indians trying to immigrate to New Zealand – “this country belongs to all Britishers, who reside in it, and have equal rights, no matter whether black, white or red, as was shown in the Great War. There were all colours, including white, red, brown and black, who fought the Germans, not distinguishing between themselves. The British Government is under a great obligation to India, who shed her best blood in the Great War, and is still working hard to assist in the burden of the war debts.” [4] When the New Zealand Government passed the 1920 Immigration Restriction Amendment Act which prohibited the entry of Indians and other non-white British subjects to New Zealand, Chhota wrote to Prime Minister William Massey protesting the stranding of Gujarati immigrants in Fiji on their way to New Zealand. 

The Government eventually allowed those who had left India before 21 November 1920 to enter New Zealand. Unfortunately Chhota died in 1921 when he was just 24 years old. [5] His burial record gives his occupation as accountant and his last address as 125 Victoria St, ex-Costley Home, which was a home for the incurably ill. His probable cause of death was given as consumption. His grave at Purewa Cemetery is in Block A Row 29 Plot 115.

References

[1] Fremantle, Western Australia Passenger Lists April 1913 to October 1917. Ancestry. 

[2] N Z Army Reserve Rolls 1916 and 1917. See also N Z Herald 7 November 1917. 

[3] Auckland Council Archives. http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/dbtwwpd/CityArchives/FamilyHistory/ACC043/searchbicycleregister.htm 

[4] The Indian immigrant. https://papespast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19190403.2.96.5 Auckland Star, Volume L, Issue 80, 3 April 1919 

[5] Leckie, Jacqueline. Indian settlers: the story of a New Zealand South Asian community. Otago University Press, 2007.