ETHNONYMS: French Tamils, Pondichériens, Pondicherry (name of town and territory)
There were 12,864 French nationals residing in India in 1988. Nearly all are in the Union Territory of Pondicherry in southeastern India (11,726 in 1988), with much smaller numbers in Karaikal (695 individuals), Mahé (50), Yanam (46), and 342 elsewhere in India. (These were coastal pockets belonging to the former French Empire.) While legally still citizens of France and resident aliens in India, they are ethnically Indian, about 90 percent being ethnic Tamils. Almost unaccountably, they vote in the French constituency of Nice. They form a small minority, accounting for less than 3 percent of the present population of Pondicherry.
The French in India are an artifact of the French Presence there, which began in 1673 with the establishment of French India and continued until 1962 when the French territory was formally transferred to India. The French presence was always small and minor compared with the British Presence and the French in India were generally ignored. Today, the majority of these French are Hindus or Christians of local or mixed family origin, and less than 50 percent of them speak French. At the same time, however, French is taught in schools attended by French Indian children and adult French classes are well attended, reflecting an interest in maintaining ties and an allegiance to France or in finding jobs with French companies. The French Indians are the wealthiest group in Pondicherry (aside from those running the Aurobindo Ashram), deriving much of their income from pension (some 20 percent are retirees), social security, welfare, and other programs of the French government. They are also entitled to emigrate to France, although few do so and the French Government does not encourage the practice.
Glachant, Roger (1965). Histoire de l'Inde des Français. Paris: Librairie Plon.
Miles, William F. S. (1990). "Citizens without Soil: The French of India (Pondicherry)." Ethnic and Racial Studies 13:252-273.
Ramasamy, A. (1987). History of Pondicherry. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.
Scholberg, Henry, and Emmanuel Divien (1973). Bibliographie des Français dans l'Inde. Pondicherry: Historical Society of Pondicherry.