Sushma Swaraj India will always support Mauritius
Published on Nov 2, 2014
Today, sunday 2nd november, marks the 180th anniversary of indentured labourers in Mauritius. Sushma Swaraj, the minister of External Affairs of India, arrived in Mauritius as the guest of honor to commemorate this important day at the Aapravasi Ghat and inaugurate the Beekramsingh Ramlallah Interpretation Center. Mauritius and India have a strong relationship, and India will always support the island, she said during her speech at the ceremony.
Sushma Swaraj continued her visit at the Human Service Trust at Calebasses, where she talked about her visit in Mauritius. The minister also met Prime minister Navin Ramgoolam at his office this morning, as well as Pravind Jugnauth, leader of the opposition, in the afternoon.
Monument Inaugurated of Sacrifices by Indian Labourers in Mauritius
By Kul Bhushan
On 2 November 20014, the 180th anniversary of indentured labourers landing in Mauritius, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj commemorated the historic day by inaugurating the Beekramsingh Ramlallah Interpretation Center. Mauritius and India have a strong relationship, and India will always support the island, she declared during her speech at the ceremony.
Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam was present with other ministers and dignitaries at this well attended ceremony that started with Indian dancing and the famous Mauritian ‘sega’ dances. The new Beekramsingh Ramlallah Interpretation Center displays historical documents and artifacts related to the Indian immigrants who arrived on this island to work in sugar plantations owned by the colonial European masters.
Their hardships and tribulations followed by their grueling struggle to obtain their basic human rights is the foundation for the independent island state today. They suffered the worst form of racial discriminations and the worst form of unabashed institutionalised exclusion. The island’s Labour Party led by the late Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, father of the current prime minister, who campaigned for human rights and independence that dawned in 1968.
The persistent efforts of Beekrumsing Ramlallah, who belongs to an illustrious family and founder, publisher and editor The Mauritius Times, to bring up the Apravasi Ghat since 1970 as a memento of Indo-Mauritian history has culminated in this ceremony. Earlier, this spot was called Coolie Ghat and it was renamed to honour these immigrants who built this nation. Two researchers of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute summed up Ramlallah’s contribution to the Aapravasi Ghat in one sentence: “On the suggestion of late B. Ramlallah, a commemorative plaque was installed on June 4, 1978, in memory of the arrival of the indentured labourers on November 2, 1884, and the abolition of the indentured system on May 31, 1924.”
Ramlallah made special effort to include a visit of the then Indian Prime Minister, late Indira Gandhi, in 1970 to this venue and that speed up matters to honour the immigrants. Since then, all Indian Prime Ministers and other dignitaries make it a point to visit Aapravasi Ghat to offer their homage. The Mauritian government has in 1985 included the Apravasi Ghat in 1987 as a National Monument of Mauritius.
Researcher S.J. Reddi writes, “In the 1830s, the British government abolished slavery in 1835, and in Mauritius the planters were seeking a new type of labour which could meet the requirements of the sugar industry. Thus the system of indentured labour was developed.
“Between 1834 and 1920, about half a million of labourers were brought to work on the sugar cane fields and factories. The result of this new form of labour exploitation was to bring about a sugar revolution in Mauritius. Whereas in 1812, Mauritius produced 467 tons of sugar, by 1878, it produced 130,732 tons. The labourer was beaten, often his wages withheld. If he was ill and absent for one day, his wages was cut for two days.”
A noted leader of Mauritius Sir Satcam Boolell, wrote, “Just as the Jews cannot forget their Holocaust, in the same manner the descendants of those labourers can never forget their tribulations. We do not want to harbour those sad memories as a weapon of revenge. We simply want the generations to come to be fully vigilant so that human dignity is never trampled upon so cruelly…”
If Beekrumsing Ramlallah has succeeded in spite of the modest means at his disposal to help rekindle the once fading memory of his ancestors, he was fired with a sense of firm commitment to a cause. Following her speech, Sushma Swaraj unveiled a bust of Beekrumsing Ramlallah and toured the centre to appreciate its displays.
Sushma Swaraj continued her visit at the Human Service Trust at Gourds founded by Swami Krishnanaand Saraswati, a former judge from India in 1983 now engaged in various educational, social and religious activities. Here she talked about the strong cultural bonds between the two countries and how Indian culture is alive and well in Mauritius.