Pulicat town of Tamil Nadu , India- a symbol of former Dutch colony's notoriety in "slave trade"

 In the1500s Slave trade was a  profitable business in Europe and though the Portuguese were early pioneers in this trade by 1600s, it was the British who made enormous profit in this trade. Thousands of British families became rich on the slave trade or from the sale of slave-produced sugar, in the 17th and 18th centuries, but a new BBC documentary tells how a trove of documents lays bare the names of Britain’s 46,000 slave owners, including relatives of Gladstone and Orwell. Their stories of ill-gotten wealth are carefully swept under the carpet to save their  names.

 The Dutch East India Company also  became a main player in this dirty slave trade. Primarily VOC was a merchant or mercantile trading  company interested mainly in agricultural produce, spices, etc.,  but to protect their business in SE Asia (Dutch East Indies) ,it acted as a military power and quasi government for the Dutch government.

Obviously, in their quest for more profits, in  Dutch settlements slavery and slave trade started taking deep roots. This led them to  commodify the  slaves  as if they  were sellable  properties by owners. VOC, without any hesitation, practiced  forced relocation, coercive labor, deportation as their focus was more on profit than on the welfare of the slaves in distress. 

Dutch  slave trade activities were centered in Bengal and Malabar coast in the 17th and 18th century. Comparing  other areas in the Indian  subcontinent, a few Dutch colonies on the  Coromandel coast remained the hub  of temporary and brief  slave trade throughout the seventeenth century because of short lived boom often affected  by famines, wars, etc.  However, Dutch exported thousands of slaves from the east coast of India. In 1618–20 saw the first large-scale export of slaves from the Coromandel coast in the seventeenth century. Between 1622 and 1623, 1,900 slaves were shipped from central Coromandel ports, such as Pulicat and Devanampatnam. Company officials on the coast declared that 2,000 more could have been bought if only they had the money.

 Slaver’s Bay, Tamil Nadu  :scroll.in/magazine

Dutch Cemetery, Pulicat, Tamil Nadu, scroll.in/magazine

Dutch Cemetery, Pulicat, Tamil Nadu, images.findagrave.com

Above image: Dutch cemetery, Pulicat town, Tamil Nadu. Close to the market place,  the burial ground in this Dutch settlement dating back to 1600 is under the control of the ASI and is fairly being maintained by them. There are tall tombs of various shapes  over the graves with inscriptions in 
Latin. In 1825 this area became part of the British India under the jurisdiction of the Madras Presidency........ 

Centuries ago the little known slave trade actives took place in a place called Pulicat or  Pazhaverkadu, supposedly  the capital of the Dutch slave business in India. The Dutch landed in Pulicat in 1610, after gaining a foothold in 1605  in  Masulipatinam in AP.  Arriving with their large war ships, they replaced  the Portuguese traders  with support from the local chieftain. The Portuguese  had been operating here since 1502 and established a trading post to prove their power in this region but, their relationship with the local Chieftain turned sour. 

The coastal town of Pulicat,  60 km to the north of Chennai with Asia’s second-largest brackish water lagoon called Pulicat Lake is a famous tourist spot for some  reasons. It has a rare migratory birds (Oct. to March) sanctuary. The other being it is famous for  fishing and sea-food export and boast riding in the long scenic lake.. The island has lots of Palmyra and Casuarina groves.

Dutch East India Co trading hips1800.en.wikipedia.com

coastal town, once Dutch settlement Pulicat,TN researchgate.net/

Dutch Fort Geldria, Pulicat, Tamil Nadu. indianetzone

This ruined 400 year fort - Geldria  once built during the hey day of the  Dutch East India Company, or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, (that  landed in India  in the 16th century) was once a major  colonial power in this part .  One can  see the vestiges of the fort in the form of broken brick structures - hidden under the thick thicket. Not visible to public, people are afraid to go near the site for fear of poisonous reptiles and other critters.  The fort and other  evidences like Dutch cemetery   prove the dominance of the Dutch power in the by-gone era. 

old Dutch houses, Pulicat, Tamilnadu-favtourism.blogspot.com

old Dutch houses, Pulicat, Tamilnadu-favtourism.blogspot.com

Being a primary export centers, government records point out that the Dutch had a flourishing export business to western countries that includes many exotic items like spices  -  nutmeg, cloves, raw diamonds,  pearls. Indico gunpowder (Dutch had a gunpowder factory here - 17th century) to supply to their settlements besides diamonds, pearls For two centuries they ran the administration from here. 

Based on the documents of the VOC from he National Archives of Netherlands, Wil O Dijk, a research scholar states, “The ‘master list’ of slaves transported in VOC ships within and from the Bay of Bengal from June 1621 to November 1665 shows a total of 26,885 men, women and children – of which 1,379 died.” There was great demand for slaves from the Coromandel coast in Europe, particularly by Dutch. Slaves from Bengal and from settlements further in the South at Tegenpatnam and Carcal were brought to Pulicat, A slave in Pulicat could could be sold between 4 guilders to 40 guilders (he currency of the Dutch). The Dutch had brokers at Madras who could do the catching and shipping in the port itself. The nefarious activities continued despite restrictions and limit.  Majority of the slaves were from  places like  Tondi, Adirampattinam and Kayalpatnam along the Tamil Nadu and part of the reason was the fall of Vijayanagara rulers and invasion of Bijapur army, according to Wil O Dijk Very much affected were the farm workers of the delta district and other places of Tamil Nadu.

England slave owner's statue dumped into the bay. bbc.com/

Above image: As part of Black lives matter in Bristol, England angry protestors in 2020 dumped the statue of Edward Colston (1636 – 11 October 1721) into Bristol harbor.  He was a Tory MP and philanthropist. Colston and his family became wealthy by running slave trade.  Through the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692, the company is said to have  transported over 84,000 African men, women and children to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas. Among them  about19,000 may have died on the journey. The slaves were sold for labor on tobacco, and  sugar plantations.................

Pulicat became a center of revelry among the competing European powers, exploiting natural resources and relegating the gullible natives to the edge of exasperation by selling them as slaves abroad.  Slaves in Pulicat were occasionally categorized as Muslim, Hindu or even caffers, an offensive term for Black Africans.

Pulicat symbolizes the notoriety of Dutch slave trade. Centuries ago Netherlands would have produced countless Orwells and Gladstones who had built their fortunes on the sweat, agony, blood  and death of of innocent slaves!!