Hansraj Mathur, Reduit’s First Professor of Political Science
— Professor J. Manrakhan
We mourn the passing away, at 70, of Hansraj Mathur, former Professor and Dean at the Reduit Campus and Chairperson at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (of which he was also justifiably proud), ever at the disposal of the press and the mass media on political, parliamentary and constitutional affairs, author of a seminal work entitled ‘Parliament in Mauritius’, and of many articles, contributor to several seminars and conferences, here and abroad, not least as a hard working Executive Secretary of the National Conference on Information and Society, held at the University of Mauritius in 1981.
He was an avid student of the affairs of society generally, and of Mauritian society, in particular, inclusive of parliamentary structures and practices, always on the lookout for signals of societal change, actual or potential e.g. the recent calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty in Mauritius, while gathering thoughts about how best to react to the eventual report of our version of the Truth and Reconciliations Commission, now working in earnest.
Yet, however successful he undoubtedly was as a political scientist, beyond opinion polls and swingometers and the like, he was to discover that the practice of politics was full of unexpected obstacles, even when sheltered in a Réduit campus, wholly hospitable to both national politics and general election. Thus it was that he found his hard-earned key ticket from his venerable political party migrating elsewhere, leaving him with no choice but to courageously stand as an independent candidate, certain to lose, before himself moving to the shade and solace of a more hospitable sun-drenched political entourage. Nonetheless, all that phase must have left deep scars; years later, he turned down an offer from high quarters to become a member of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, much to the chagrin of his well-wishers.
Oh yes, courage he had, and in plenty – at times too much.
He was among those who continued to fight for the maintenance of political rights for academic staff after those had been, in effect, removed by a decision of the Council of the University (as employer), after due consultation with the University’s Senate, coupled with alterations inspired by, or through, the Pay Research Bureau in Salaries and Conditions of Service at the Réduit campus (and elsewhere). He held out passionately, intending to fight ahead even to the Privy Council, but inevitably, had to knuckle under beyond the 13th hour when close friends persuaded him otherwise, but only just.
No wonder then he concluded that our ‘present parliamentary system is best fitted to meet the challenge of the years 2000 and beyond’ given certain minor changes to parliamentary structures, subject above all to a change of attitude on the part of the political elite’ (see the back cover of his ‘Parliament in Mauritius’.
Hansraj Mathur remained ever faithful to those values he considered worthwhile, appearing dogmatic at times; he stood firm in his opinions although with sufficient flexibility to accommodate other views, at times unfriendly, while remaining cool and calm, never losing his profound sense of purpose and dedication, his sense of humour or his infectious smile
And even if he remained far from the political ideals of Aristotle, he certainly was nowhere near those of Machiavelli (The Prince) or those much earlier and more potent as Chanakya (Artha Sastra), Raj Mathur was realistic enough to know that the ‘political élite’ was unlikely to oblige. But he kept trying. Because he was wise enough to remain ‘… a solid rock… not shaken by the wind’… falter not amidst blame and praise’ (The Dhammapada); chapter VI).
Time and again, he was to be found actively interested in the affairs of society, ranging from a long-past near definitive working seminar on Corporate Governance at Pailles to a much more recent launch at a new bookstore, at Belle Rose, of a text which chronicles and interprets the march of the Chinese form aliens to citizens of Mauritius, crafted by Huguette Li Tio Fane and Edouard Lim Fat.
With so many acquaintances in high places, he could have become haughty and unapproachable, arrogant and vindictive: to his eternal credit he stayed the usual ‘Raj’ we always knew and appreciated.
His absence will inevitably be deeply felt by family and friends in Mauritius and elsewhere.
Time now to end with the holy Gayatri Mantra – as translated from chanting of an ancient Aryan formulary:
O God, the Giver of Life, Remover of all pains and sorrows, Bestower of happiness,
and Creator of the Universe, Thou are most luminous, pure and adorable.
We meditate on Thee. May Thou inspire and guide our intellect in the right direction.
Professor J. Manrakhan