Fourteen years prior to the independence of India in 1947, a group of Anglo-Indians journeyed to a remote part of eastern India to inaugurate what they thought would be their very own Eden within the vast sub-continent as it hurtled towards separation from Britain. Ernest Timothy McCluskie had brought them there to establish McCluskieganj.
In 1933 McCluskie a Irish-Indian bought 10,000 acres of land in the remote jungle hills of eastern India and beckoned Anglo-Indians (of British, Scottish, Irish and Eurasians Portuguese descent within India) all over India to gather and start building their very own nation home. To protect their identity, their heritage and their social status once the British left India, the creation of McCluskieganj (in honor of its founder and “ganj” loosely means gathering) was seen as the ultimate cry for preserving a sense of status quo in the newly emerging India, and the pastoral landscape of the region would keep them reminding of their motherland England.
Over the decades the grand design of McCluskieganj began to fail its people. The Anglo-Indians were an integral part of the British Indian bureaucratic system; they were office workers and not farmers. Growing agricultural produce became a major obstacle. Orchards and gardens with green lawns reminiscent of England is what they managed. Lack of communication, transportation, electricity, and basic necessities meant that families were forced to move out. The steam train gave away to the faster electric trains and the passing trade of the railway diminished.
The images created in McCluskieganj and the interviews with its current remaining 22 Anglo-Indian families look at what future the community has in the India of the 21st Century where smaller communities are increasingly being threatened by the economic and political developments that do not have the mechanics in place to help the minorities such as the these.
Brijesh Patel is a British Indian artist living in London whose relationship with his birth country has been strongly influenced by his interest in photography. For the past six and half years he has been exploring the “idea of India” and investigating the major changes the subcontinent is going through.