Chhota Jivanji was born in Mumbai, India in 1896. He arrived in New Zealand on the Medina from Colombo in 1916 and his nationality was recorded as British. He was almost immediately called up to join the 2nd division fighting in WW1. In 1918 he helped establish New Zealand’s first Indian Association.
He spoke fluent English, was well educated and employed as a shipping clerk.However, after suffering discrimination from co-workers he was forced to find work as a clerk in a jeweller’s shop. This 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 newspaper supporting Indians trying to immigrate to New Zealand. He wrote, “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 black, white, brown and red, 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.”
When the Government passed the 1920 Immigration Restriction Amendment Act prohibiting 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 this country. The Government eventually allowed those who had left India before November 1920 to enter New Zealand. Chhota died aged 24 in 1921 of tuberculosis. Chhota Jivanji 1896-1929 is buried in Block A, Row29, Plot 115.
Block A, Row29, Plot 115