Those with hindsight must engage themselves in sensitizing youngsters so that they do not internalize the kind of stigmatization whose vestiges still linger and periodically erupt, increasing the risk of polarization in society
By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
The recent protest march organized by some trade unions following concerns raised over workers’ interests and joined in by some opposition politicians a few of whom feathered their own nests for years, but have been writhing in pain for the past five years for being deprived of such opportunities, took an ugly turn with anti-India sentiment vented in the crowd. Unless you bury your head in the sand all year round, there is nothing surprising about it.
‘How much do the local pro-European followers know about the India against Corruption movement, triggered by Ana Hazare during Congress rule in 2012, which was a mainly grassroots mobilization to get the country out of a quagmire, re-appropriate its old spirit, uplift its economy and set it on a dynamic role on the international platform?’ Photo – economist.com
The younger generation of Mauritians may not be in a position to grasp the full meaning of race relations and politics in the country if they are not given the full account of the power equation preceding Independence until today. All aspects of politics, economy, ethnicity and crony capitalism in the post-Independence era cannot be addressed in a single piece of writing. Anti-Independence partisans in the press and society keep the old habit of equating what is seen as Hindu-led governments with the community at large. Hence the hostility was kept alive and regularly fuelled by any seemingly controversial policy adopted by different governments. From 1968 till today, the ranks of disgruntled groups have been joined by others who harbour an array of grievances against any country which does not promote their specific interests; hence, the hostility towards a BJP-led government in India, which is echoed in Mauritius.
Notwithstanding the grand speeches on the sovereignty of Mauritius claimed on rooftops whenever India comes into the picture, the fact is that Independence, hence the sovereignty of Mauritius, was obtained without the vote of those who, alas, had succumbed to the communal propaganda that was carried over from the days of NMU in Le Cernéen. These aspects of our journey towards Independence deserve to be studied in Sociology and Anthropology courses of their western mentors for the sake of historical objectivity – as also to draw lessons and avoid repeating any perpetuation of such prejudices that poison society and neutralize genuine efforts made at nation-building. The communal twist given to issues relating to any dysfunction at governmental level has been a constant feature peddled in the mainstream press since Independence. It was further aggravated in the 1990s and culminated in the 1999 riots, the end result of gatherings in forums where a mix of politics, social issues and religion is a traditional norm since the propagation of religious discourse in the Roman empire.
Social networks have opened an unlimited space to disgruntled hate-filled groups to rant against one community, mixed with anti-India sentiment. What beats it all is when citizens hailing from the oligarchy of a former colonial power have the cheek to pontificate from high grounds on racial implications in nepotism, conflict of interests and corruption, and put it down on social groups who are supposedly devoid of morals in politics.
Social network online messages exchanged among certain individuals aim to create the illusion that such anomalies are non-existent in European countries they identify with. It does not take into account the fact that the ‘frugal four’ in Europe, mainly Protestant countries currently refrain from subsidizing Italy, a country they suspect of being run by mafiosi interests. TIME magazine in the 1990s portrayed Italy as being an ‘ungovernable’ country, so much was corruption rife there. Catholic European countries like France, Italy and Spain are not lily-white in matters of good governance. To some extent tough laws and an uncompromising press in France manage to curb the propensity of politicians to have carte blanche in fake jobs for relatives and friends, conflict of interests, favouritism and embezzlement of public funds.
Locally, what is moral for a group of privileged people, heirs to 300 years of free labour, to lay their hands on every single major emerging economic sector for the past decades? Allusions to low morals of other groups would have led to an uproar and physical attacks in other small islands with similarly mixed populations as ours which pledge allegiance to France, or even independent islands in the West Indies.
What is more immoral than remote-controlling the killings of other people in their own countries organized by western forces, the CIA and all with the complicity of white mercenaries from Mauritius in former Zaire, now Congo, to hold their grip on diamonds and gold? Prior to the war on Iraq, a straightforward honest American citizen asked the priest at church in a live report: What is moral in laying your hands on other people’s resources? The priest dismissed the question, in full support of his government’s war plan.
Which European leader in their history to this day can one cite as having been or is endowed with the high moral stature of a leader like Nelson Mandela in his will for reconciliation, which avoided a bloodbath? How much does the mainstream western media, mainly in the US, reveal about big bucks poured in financial campaigns and the expectations of donors in return is an open question. A fair explanation is that corruption is carried out more smartly, less openly. How much do the local pro-European followers know about the India against Corruption movement, triggered by Ana Hazare during Congress rule in 2012, which was a mainly grassroots mobilization to get the country out of a quagmire, re-appropriate its old spirit, uplift its economy and set it on a dynamic role on the international platform?
In the 1970s Hindu parents warned against media brainwashing of youngsters with the old colonial anti-Hindu discourse, the promotion of mainly French language and literature, and the biased treatment meted out to English-language writings. For instance, Sir Kher Jagatsingh was viciously demonized, and every movement and sips of whisky in London scrutinized to project a negative image in the press while his writings in English were blithely ignored. Things have not changed much ever since. Those with hindsight on the issue must engage themselves in sensitizing youngsters so that they do not internalize this kind of stigmatization whose vestiges still linger and periodically erupt, increasing the risk of polarization in society.
* Published in print edition on 31 July 2020