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About Belonging to Certain Groups  

The great physicist Albert Einstein, an ethnic Jew born in Germany, is reported to have stated, in an address to the French Philosophical Society, that if his path-breaking theory of relativity was proved successful, Germany would claim him as a German and France would declare that he was a citizen of the world. But if on the other hand his theory should prove untrue, France would say that that he was a German and Germany would declare him to be a Jew. The very young must perhaps be told in this context that Germany and France were very hostile to each other and that in the first half of the last century, they fought two wars that came to be reckoned as World Wars because of the number of countries that participated in those wars. They must also know that in those days Jews were hated, despised and severely persecuted in Germany. They should also ask themselves how, when subsequently Einstein’s theory was proved right, that particular fact made Germans great and gave them the right to conquer others and rule over them. 

Mahatma Gandhi belonged to the Bania caste, which is a sub-caste of the great Vaish caste, but nobody thinks he was a great man because he belonged to such-and-such caste or sub-caste. Actually some people in India think it is derogatory to be called a whatever because of their caste; they want to be taken for what they are, not for the group they happen to have been born in. If some people take pride in belonging to the same caste as Mahatma Gandhi or to any other caste for that matter, we should not begrudge them that. But if they use that privilege of birth to deny other people their rights, that would be a totally different matter.  

The Mahatma drew his inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita and from the writings of Tolstoy, not from his Baniahood or Vaishness. It may be all right to do some chest-beating in private that one is of the same caste as Mahatma Gandhi or to some other caste of some other famous person, but it would be absolutely ridiculous and stupid to do something of that sort in public. If one can follow the example of Mahatma Gandhi in living a righteous life, one becomes great without any chest-beating. But if one considers oneself as belonging to the Mahatma’s caste but actually leads a life of corruption and dishonesty, only the very foolish or the very dishonest would agree that belonging to the “proper” caste overrides the objectionable conduct aspect. That would be equally applicable to any other person priding himself as belonging to whichever other great man’s caste. 

Since my childhood I have believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Ramgoolam family belongs to the Kurmi group. In some parts of India the Kurmis are regarded as a sub-caste of the Kshatriya group, whereas in Mauritius, probably because of their association with agriculture and land in Bihar, they are usually regarded as part of the Vaish group. But I do not think that SSR was motivated into following the course of life and action he chose because he was a Kurmi or a Vaish or even because he was a Hindu. Having grown up watching the sufferings of workers who happened to be Hindus in the majority, I have no doubt that he must have been motivated by those sufferings; we doubt whether he would have had a different view of life and of sufferings had the poor and wretched people he watched been Muslim or Christian. 

To quote a wise man, silence is foolish if one is wise, but wise when one is foolish. 

P. Soobarah

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Jean Marie F. Richard. Coordinateur Grupman
Larkansyel Kreol

Discours de Mukeshwar Choonee à d’Epinay : « Un appel responsable à l’unité nationale »  

A l’issue d’une longue et franche rencontre avec le ministre de la Culture, Mukeshwar Choonee, ce jour autour de la polémique suivant son discours à d’Epinay dimanche dernier, je souhaite faire la déclaration suivante : 

M. Choonee était l’invité d’une association socioculturelle Vaish qui commémorait son cinquième anniversaire. Dans le cadre d’une fête culturelle, le ministre, M. Choonee, a fait un discours de circonstance devant un auditoire comprenant toutes les composantes de la population de la circonscription numéro 5 en présence des deux colistiers du PM, Messieurs Faugoo et Rittoo.  

Après avoir parcouru le discours écrit de M. Choonee, il est évident qu’à aucun moment il n’a eu l’intention, ne serait-ce que celle-ci, de tenir des propos contraires à l’unité nationale. 

« ki ham saath ra hein  saay jihey ekta mein pragati  karein mamoona banyhein »  

« Demeurons ensembles, soudés, continuons à vivre ensemble, progressons ensemble et faisons de ce pays un modèle. »  

Comment appréhender ces propos autrement qu’un appel responsable à l’unité nationale dans la ligne prônée par le Chef du gouvernement ! 

Et qu’aurait-il dû dire d’autre à une assemblée de mandants du Premier ministre que ce sont  eux qui « l’ayant élu » ont fait de lui le Chef de l’Exécutif de ce pays et le Premier ministre de tous les Mauriciens.  

A mon avis, le seul reproche à adresser à M. Choonee est d’avoir pour cette raison relativisé le droit des autres électeurs du pays au profit de ceux, indistinctement de la circonscription no. 5.  

Jusqu’à preuve du contraire, Navin Ramgoolam est le premier député de la circonscription, leader du Parti travailliste, de l’Alliance de l’Avenir et Chef du gouvernement. En tant que tel, il représente le pays dans sa diversité. Pour ce qui nous concerne, sa catégorisation par la naissance importe peu.  

D’aller à la source et de placer dans le contexte sont deux exercices que nous avons pris la peine d’effectuer avant de prendre pareille position.  

Jean Marie F Richard
Coordinateur Grupman Larkansyel Kreol

* Published in print edition on 5 September 2010

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