Mauritius owes its independence to many great personalities and prominently to Mahatma Gandhi. He was the one who inspired them to fight for Freedom and taught them “the future depends on what steps you take today”.
- Savita Tiwari
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his respects to Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Mauritius.
Before coming to the point of Importance of Gandhi in independence of Mauritius I would like to draw Readers attention on the neighboring island Reunion. Just apart with 150 air miles from Mauritius. And very much similar to Mauritius in geography and demography. Still there is one major difference. And that is Mauritius is an Independent Democratic Nation where as Reunion is just an Island Number-974 under ‘Oversea Department of France’.
Mauritius owes its independence to many great personalities and they attribute this to the Mahatma Gandhi. One Mahatma who inspired them to fight for Freedom. Mahatma who taught them “the future depends on what steps you take today”.
Mauritius island is lucky that Gandhi came to Mauritius and saw everything with his own eye that with how much difficulty Indian indenture labors and their generation are living on the island. So he kept a tab on progress of our island. Gandhi even mentioned Mauritius dozens of times in his speeches and wrote in his books about this not so paradise island in those days. He sent Manilal Doctor to Mauritius who is a big name in the history of island. But as Gandhi never visited Reunion island so he never sent anyone there to help Indians and till date Reunion is not a Democratic country in spite of being very similar to Mauritius. That’s the difference made by 18days Gandhi’s visit to Mauritius island in 1901.
When Gandhi came to Mauritius
Former Foreign Minister Late Smt. Sushma Swaraj paid her respects to Mahatma Gandhi during her visit to Mauritius.
On its way from Africa to India the ship in which he sailed cast anchor at Port-Louis on the 29th October 1901. Most of the local newspapers spoke of this event. Before Gandhi his fame has reached Mauritius. The Standard – a local newspaper published in French wrote that “A great Indian lawyer Gandhi has arrived in Mauritius on Nawshara ship which is going to India from South Africa. As he disembarks in Mauritius, the Indians propose to celebrate him. Mr. Gandhi is the advocate who defended the cause of the Indians in Cape Town”.
The first activity of Gandhi as reported in three to four dailies stated that on 6th November 1901, M. K. Gandhi accompanied by advocate Henri Bertin went to the Supreme Court, and there he was introduced to the members of the Bar. Here he saw that a country where Indians were in big majority, but there were no Indian Barristers or Attorneys in their midst and this fact has agonized him. So when he was given a grand reception at Champ-de-mars by Indian Community. In his speech Gandhi said “Indian community should rise but not the battle against the Government, but to claim its rights and its place under the sun and under the flag of freedom." He then asked the parents to provide proper education to their children and asked the Indians of this country to take active part in the country’s politics.
Gandhi left Mauritius for India on 15th October. After this visit many Mauritian kept in touch with Gandhi through letters and other means. Eventually Indian community of Mauritius started sending their children to India for higher education, who made sure to visit Gandhi at his Ashram. As Gandhi kept rising in India so does his followers in Mauritius when Gandhi sat down to write his Experiment with Truth. “So I sailed for home. Mauritius was one of the ports of call, and as the boat made a long halt there, I went ashore and acquainted myself fairly well with the local conditions.”
Manilall Doctor, R.K. Boodhun, Pandit Sahadeo, Dr Maurice Curé, Basdeo Bissoondoyal, and Sookdeo Bissoondoyal these are the few name which are associated with the pubic awaking and Independence movement in Mauritius during Early 90’s. They all are National hero and have chapters in history books on their name. And the interesting fact is all of them were encouraged by Gandhi himself. In year 1907 Gandhi himself sent Manilall Doctor a barrister from Baroda to Mauritius to fight cases of Indian origin peoples. Eventually Manilall Doctor started first Hindi Newspaper “The Hindustani” on Gandhi’s advice to propagate the message of awakening in the Indian community and fight for justice under British regime.
Between the 1910s and 1940s, Mahatma Gandhi came in touch with several Mauritians such as R.K. Boodhun, P. Lutchmaya, J.N. Roy and B.Bissoondoyal. He encouraged them to work for the social, political and economic betterment of all Mauritians.
President Ramnath Kovind and former Presidents of India Pranab Mukherjee and Smt. Pratibha Patil had paid her respects to Mahatma Gandhi during their visit to Mauritius.
In Mauritius the voice for freedom took momentum after India’s independence in 1947. But after the demise of Mahatma Gandhi most of the Indian political encouragement that Mauritius received during Gandhi came to a halt. So it took more 20 years for Mauritius to get freedom in 1968.
We have Mahatma Gandhi street in capital city of Port Louis, we have mahatma Gandhi avenue, Mahatma Gandhi institute, mahatma Gandhi secondary school, we have various stamps with Mahatma Gandhi on them, we have mahatma Gandhi Ayurvedic hospital. There are many statues of Mahatma throughout the island. When any Indian dignitary visit Mauritius the first activity is to pay visit to offer prayer to Mahatma at Mahatma Gandhi Institute. Many parents still keep the name Mohundas of their child on the name of Mahatma. Mahatma Gandhi did have a long-lasting impact on our small island Country Mauritius. Today Mauritius is enjoying the freedom that Gandhi paved the way for. Thank you Mahatma.
(Savita Tiwari is a writer from Mauritius)