Yes, “Quelle Inde?”

To Gilbert Ahnee

Mr Ahnee, it is widely believed that you are a sort of Minister Mentor at l’Express, the sort of position that was given to Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the Singapore Cabinet on his retirement from active prime ministership. Your abilities and qualities for such a position are recognised, and indeed most have come to look upon you as the voice of reason in the national debate. Imagine therefore my disappointment, and indeed for many of us, anger, on seeing your comments entitled “Quelle Inde?” in last week’s Express Dimanche. If that is your idea of good taste, then we must substantially change our views about you and, because of your important if undeclared position at l’Express, about that paper. Is the era of Malbar Pas Oulé coming back?

How would it go down with a certain religious community if, in connection with a visit by His Holiness, some senior contributor at Mauritius Times had the indelicacy of mentioning the recently publicised but long-standing events around the world concerning priests and crimes against children, both boys and girls, and young women? Or the goings on during the reign of Pope Alexander VI? Or the matters revealed in Nigel Cawthorne’s The sex lives of Popes? Or the events of the St Barthélémy Festival in which more than 3000 people in Paris, and an estimated 30,000 in the whole of France, were butchered merely because they were Protestants?

While the highly condemnable massacre (reportedly of 2000 odd innocent Muslims) of 2002 in Gujarat you so kindly refer to were carried by angry Hindu street mobs in retaliation for the burning alive by a Muslim mob of 50 odd returning Hindu pilgrims, those in France were on the basis of faith only. “Tuez les tous,” the King, i.e. the head of State and of the Government, had said, “afin qu’il n’en reste pas un pour me le reprocher après.” (My generation had to study French History at the primary level; this quotation comes from our school textbook.) While pogroms have happened in many countries, what was special about this one was that when news of it reached Rome, Pope Gregory ordered all church bells in the city to be rung for 24 hours in celebration of the events in France! How can we forget this, when every now and then we have to refer to “l’an Grégorien”? And if the said contributor were to end his or her observations with “Questions méritant réponses avant de resserrer une fois de plus les fameux liens?”

While we do not wish to compare Shri Narendra Modi with His Holiness, Shri Modi does represent to the Indian Diaspora, particularly to those of us whose ancestors helped build up the economies of the Sugar Colonies but who were nevertheless crushed and trampled upon in every possible way, a new source of hope and strength for re-asserting our dignity and self-esteem as equal citizens of the world, a status many and sundry still think we are not entitled to.


* Published in print edition on 19 March  2015

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