The poetics of Indenture in Mauritius

By Raju Mohit

1830s Slavery became unsustainable,

The fading out call liberation in masters’ mentation

Alternative labour speculation, Indenture in impregnation

1833 Fake Death Certificate of Slavery was crucified

Pretentious Birth Certificate of Indenture was certified

Wine remained the same, bottle remained the same

Stickers were changed, Trade mark was changed

1834 Started first Great Experiment on Indenture in Mauritius

Departed Atlas with immigrants on board from Calcutta

Horrorful Voyage, rough waves, dreadful kala pani

Dreams but worth dreaming, rose garden, golden stone

What was in wait, weighed healthier than sea-sickness

Jahaji bhai by side, whippers before sight, Geeta/Koran wrapped in hide

Ramayana, Tirukkural, Satya Prakash though sealed in luggage

Invoked vibes of courage, patience, endurance and hope

Many died, despite doctors on ship

Wept their comrades, smiled the sharks below the ship

Dead thrown in deep salted water, dying ones dumped on Flat Island

Survival landed at harbour, Port- Louis, Mauritius Island

Cattle like disembarked, registered and numbered

48 hours after, into sugar camps to discover fate in reserve

Ignited there from, Indenture, so called free labour against forced labour

Slavery was re-born and baptized as Indenture

Slavery was cosmetised with wage for this venture

Sun not setting in Colonial Empire, darkness settled on Indenture

1860-1885

110,000 complaints lodged in Colonial Court for non-payment of wages

Justice remained under trial, double cut system continued chopping wages

1871

Racial discrimination, De Plevitz petitioned, 9400 signed

Colonial Police insensitive, Administrative Authorities declined

1834-1922

300,000 arrests as vagrants, right of freedom denied

Frequent vagrant hunts, like hunters behind forest animals

Immigrant Pass compulsory, confinement to camps mandatory

Thousands died out of cruel treatment, harsh working conditions

More than hundreds committed suicide out of no hope for any hope

1870-1920

Cheated on cane weight, looted on land acquisition price

Exploited from rise to sunset, deprived of food healthy rice

Yet preserved tradition and culture, sang and dance in midst of turmoil

Mother tongue downgraded, attempt to obliterate, survived yet till day

1901

Ray of hope dawn out of blue, Mohandass Karamchand Gandhi transited

Stock of the Indenture plight came to light, M.K Gandhi was overwhelmed

1906

Gandhi sent Maganlal Manilal Doctor, dynamic French-speaking barrister

Began the beginning of Indenture’s end, started the non-violent Andolan

Fundamental human rights and needs, became the struggle targets

The pilgrimage stick of Manilal Doctor united the divided indentured Labourers

Hard work, savings culture, fraternity and unity in diversity were inculcated

Vital imperativeness of Education, keen interest in local politics transmitted Baithka, Maqtab took form to inform essentials of existential realities

A New Era started, nourishing in its womb the seed of freedom

1909

The Royal Commission under international pressure

Recommended Termination of the Indenture System

1910

The last ship Sudara landed at Aapravasi Ghat

With the last batch of indentured immigrants

And thus ended officially the Saga of Indenture

1910-1968

But the hangover continued

The old habit of exploitation continued

And so the Andolan, the struggle continued

Voting rights were denied, the Labour Party was born

The proletariat movement gained momentum

And thus was paved the way to Independence…

 

Raju MOHIT
Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund

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