Homage to Manilal

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Somduth Bhuckory

It is today exactly fifty years since Manilal Doctor came to Mauritius. But it is next Sunday that is going to be a memorable day in the history of Indians in Mauritius for it is on that day that the Manilal Memorial Celebration is taking place to mark the event.

From the communique issued in the press, it can be seen that the organizers have done their best to celebrate the occasion in a fitting manner. There will, first of all, be the laying of the foundation stone for the statue of Manilal in the Company’s Garden, opposite the Hindu Maha Sabha, at noon. Then at 12.30 p.m. a fancy fair will be opened at Taher Bagh with a view to swelling the Memorial Fund. And finally at 1 p.m. a public meeting will be held at the Gymkhana where homage will be paid to Manilal by various speakers.

The organizers have very rightly taken the decision of not issuing any individual invitation. This celebration should be a national celebration in which everybody must participate without being asked personally to do so. It is the duty of one and all to pay homage to Manilal by being present and by remembering fondly the great man who is no more but whose deeds cannot be forgotten.

There is one very striking feature about the celebration, viz. it is not an exclusive Hindu function. The readiness with which members of Muslim community have accepted to cooperate and have in fact cooperated deserves mention. It is also noteworthy how kind the Mayor of Port Louis has been in associating himself with the celebration and how helpful the Municipality has been in granting a site for the statue. The President of the Labour Party, Hon. G. Forget, has also shown his interest in the celebration by having accepted to speak at the Gymkhana.

Needless to mention the names of illustrious members of the Indian community itself. We don’t want to sound like blowing our own trumpet.

While homage is being paid to a distinguished son of India, we are fortunate in having in our midst a no less distinguished representative of that great land, Major General B. Chatterjee, who has kindly accepted to participate in the celebration.

On this auspicious day, we can’t help expressing our appreciation for the good work done by the Committee which is responsible for the Celebration. Team work has been much in evidence but a special mention should be made of Vanprasthi Dhoorundhar, and of Mr M. Sangeelee who has so ably seen to the execution of the project.

* * *

Today the time when Manilal came to Mauritius appears to be remote indeed. Much change has taken place since. In half a century, a community which was mainly associated with immigration has evolved to be associated with the ministry. Human nature being what it is, there is of course a lot of heartache and heart-burning because of this evolution.

So, when we find some people speaking ill of the celebration,  we are not at all surprised. We have said before how a section of the local press has reacted against the celebration. We have had the opportunity since of hearing something disgusting from the platform of the Parti Mauricien. Well, let pen-pushers scribble and let wicked tongues waggle: it’s good to know to what length jealousy and intolerance can go.

Those who are paying homage to Manilal know what a fearless man he was. He fought injustice and discrimination in the press, on platforms and in the courts. We shall fail in our duty if we allow injustice and discrimination to flourish unchecked in any quarter — be that quarter white or coloured.

It is sometimes noticed that Indians are not very enthusiastic in standing up for Indian causes i.e., when justice has to be done to the Indian community in general or to its members in particular. The reason for it is that we are afraid of being taxed with communalism. That fear of the next-door neighbour is responsible for the perpetuation of many an injustice. How long are we going to keep mum to please Tom, Dick and Harry?

Others can erect statues whenever they like and wherever they like, but the Indian community is listed in the black book if it dares to do anything of the sort. Others can be anti-Indian but mind you if you venture to be pro-Indian! This fear-ridden mentality bordering on moral slavery has to be got rid of.

When we pay homage to Manilal let us be inspired by him to assert our independence and put an end to the paralysing fear of this, that and the other.

* * *

After the din and bustle have subsided and the madding crowd has gone home, the memory of Manilal will pervade in the atmosphere never to leave it again. And soon the statue will be seen contemplating the contemporary scene. When it is unveiled sometime next year, let us hope against hope that dissident voices will by then be stilled.

Because the statue is being made in England, it should not be thought that it is going to be looked upon as more an objet d’art than an embodiment of gratitude. In this fast-moving world, it is comforting to think that there are people still who can be grateful to their heroes out of sheer admiration.

To perpetuate the memory of Manilal, the Committee has also the intention of publishing a symposium. We understand that the symposium will be published on the occasion of the unveiling of the statue. We are told that several local writers will be contributing articles on Manilall to it. An account of the celebration taking place on Sunday could be included with advantage.

And so, the memorial and the symposium will remain an ever-lasting testimony of gratitude to Manilal. Detractors may come and detractors may go but children of generation after generation will seek to know the secret of Manilal’s glory and pay homage to him in the secure belief that he has been a benefactor of their ancestors.

We wish the Manilal Memorial Celebration every success and we join with the rest of sympathisers in paying our homage to Manilal. By taking part wholeheartedly, everybody will be contributing his bit in making of the day a red-letter day. And in the course of history let it become a milestone to mark the progress made in half a century. From that milestone we have to go onwards with the burning desire of improving on the achievement left behind.

* Published in print edition on 6 July 2021

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