For the 47th Independence Day Celebrations
Narendra Damodardas Modi brings to the 47th Independence Day and 23rd Republic Day Celebrations of Mauritius the aura of Eternal India. The 15th Prime Minister of India brings in his bag, not only the assurance that India is there for the tiny Mauritius nation which is also a large Ocean State with its geopolitical strategic islands cast over the huge expanse of the potentially rich Indian Ocean. The dawn of the future lies with the ocean: a new Samudra Manthan.
What Modi brings in his bag
He brings the eternal philosophy and value system that has sustained the huge sub-continent of India, that is, Bharat and its asmita in an unbroken civilizational ethos that has reached modernity in a continuous form since 5000 years. That value system is ingrained not only in the poorest of the poor of India’s one billion plus but equally in its most modern of rulers since Chandragupta Maurya, Harsh Vardhan or Prithviraj Chauhan: Narendra Modi imbued with India’s glorious essence of peace, tolerance, respect for others – friends and foes alike and whose motto is ‘sab ke sath, sabka vikas.’
Beyond the joint bilateral and multi-lateral agreements that will make of Mauritius a vibrant nation looking ahead beyond the smallness of petty considerations, Modi brings the guarantee of making of Mauritius a bridge not too far in connecting India to the vastness of the giant continent of 54 nations: Africa. No more black Africa of the dark days of despair, of loot and slavery. But the captains of their own souls in the emergence of a South-South dialogue with the growing powerhouse that India is slated to be.
His 24-hour plus visit will take Modi to the official celebrations but also to meet the masses that have given Independence to Mauritius at a civic reception at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. No doubt, the raising of the four colours of the Mauritian flag in the evening of 12th March at the Champ de Mars will remind us all of the glorious contribution of the Father of the Nation, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, with his vision and mission for breaking the shackles of Mauritius. Along with the leaders, we also pay homage to the thousands of the unsung heroes of common masses who staked their everything for this glorious day. It will be remembered that the symbolical date of 12th March was chosen by the Father of the Nation to coincide with the date of Gandhiji’s Salt March.
And Narendra Modi’s stepping on Mauritian soil for the second time since last he came to give his memorial lecture on Mahatma Gandhi on 2nd October 1992, will not only add a few more drops of eternal and sacred Mother Ganga in the Ganga Talao to make of it a world class pilgrimage site as desired by the Mauritius government. It will also remind the Mauritian nation that there is no better help than their own respect for themselves, and their capacity to reinvent themselves and for them to gird their loins and develop their own potential through hard work, diligence and frugality.
Languages, cultural values and their intangible cultural heritage are some ingredients that the poor, but proud indentured labour, girmitias from India brought along with them since 2nd November 1834 when they landed at the sixteen symbolical steps of the Aapravasi Ghat.
World Hindi Secretariat takes off
At long last, the Prime Minister of India will now set the symbolical spade for the construction of the headquarters of the World Hindi Secretariat… long overdue. Who better to give this first shovel in the construction of the WHS headquarters than Narendra Modi himself who has given Hindi its prestige and dignity in the world and in the eyes of India’s own people by delivering all his official addresses in Hindi whether in Madison Avenue, USA or in Tokyo, Japan.
Narendra Modi has no cold in the eyes when it comes to give the right value system. This will be a stepping-stone towards making Hindi an official language of the United Nations. The people of Indian Origin of the diaspora need to gather their own lost values and beware of language loss. This is decried by UNESCO itself, and it urges all governments of the world to provide adequate safeguarding measures to preserve, promote and protect languages as vehicles of intangible cultural heritage before the disappearance of 3000 of the 7000 languages of the world.
Bhojpuri and its intangible cultural heritage
This year, Mauritius Government will be sending the Nomination Dossier of Bhojpuri Geet Gawai (Bhojpuri traditional songs of Mauritius) to UNESCO to be inscribed on its World Heritage Site of Patrimony of Humanity after the successful inscription of Sega Typik last year. Mr Modi’s constituency represents the Bhojpuri belt of Vanarasi, temple of Indian ethos and from where many Mauritians have their origin. He had mentioned in his pre-electoral address in Vanarasi in December 2013 that when he becomes Prime Minister of India, he will see to it that Bhojpuri enters the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
We PIOs who now have a lifelong visa to India thanks to Modiji, are awaiting that glorious moment. For in the diaspora countries of the plantation economy, the girmitias have suffered innumerable forms of oppression, humiliation, injustice, scorn and ridicule to preserve and practise till today Bhojpuri their mother tongue, resilient language of 250 million Bhojpurias, all over the world, and its attendant cultural heritage. It was in Bhojpuri that the campaign for the Independence of Mauritius was carried out in the village baithkas of the rural areas. The villagers learnt to sign their names in Hindi, Tamil and Urdu to pass the literacy test to gain the right to vote; this revolutionised the process of democracy here. Once Bhojpuri enters the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, it will automatically give it credence and a halo of dignity and respectability in the world academia and the social milieu.
In Mauritius, we are proud that Government has set up by Acts of Parliament several Speaking Unions including the Bhojpuri Speaking Union and Hindi Speaking Union to give official status to all the ten written and spoken languages of Mauritius. The MBC TV operates a 24-hour Bhojpuri Channel, unique in the world, an audiovisual element that gives remarkable visibility to the language. Both these elements are unique to Mauritius in the whole world. We need support from India to maintain these channels and Speaking Unions to promote, preserve and protect the Bhojpuri language, culture and rich literature. It is Bhojpuri that has nurtured the Hindi language and literature of Mauritius through the Awadhi-Bhojpuri Ram Charit Manas of Tulsidas, Kabir Bani and dohas, Dadi Nani ki Kahanis-kissas, and sanskar lok geet parampara. If Hindi is to survive in Mauritius, we need to promote Bhojpuri at its roots that feed and nourish it. Language loss is a glaring factor in several plantation countries of the Indian diaspora such as Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Jamaica where the PIOs cry desperately for the fact that their language “has been taken away, stolen from them.”
Modiji can infuse the pride of the indic values in our youth, who tend to be eurocentric. The libraries of the Universities, the Municipalities, District and Village Councils of rural Mauritius and the National Library are not equipped with enough reading materials on India either in English or Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu or Marathi neither for adults nor for children. We appeal to Modiji to look into these significant aspects of maintenance of indic languages and values and our connectivity with India. Nowadays, India has revolutionised Hindi and other Indian languages through its ingenious application of IT and multimedia. These can be accessed to Mauritius as a priority.
There is a saying in Mauritius that says: “Bhasha gayi to sanskriti gayi, Sanskriti gayi to sidhe Narakkund mei gir jaayeinge.”
* Published in print edition on 13 March 2015