Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Somduth Bhuckory
On the eve of the seventh anniversary of the Republic of India, Le Cernéen published a news-item entitled Alerte aux Indes! It was a contribution of the Presse de l’Union Française, apparently a French news agency.
The note laid emphasis on the growing population of India and said what the Indian Government has decided to do to check the inordinate increase. We quote: “Il y a aux Indes plus de 300 millions d’habitants, et ils sont parmi les populations les plus prolifiques du monde… Le gouvernement indien a dû décider d’applique une sévère politique de limitation des naissances, seule mesure capable de freiner un accroissement de population qui deviendrait vite catastrophique”.
But that was by way of introduction only. The real target are Overseas Indians who seem to be giving a headache to the upholders of colonialism. That headache is becoming acute because there is no birth control in the colonies. It is amazing how the rising of the brown tide is haunting some Westerners. They are afraid that their descendants will be swept away lock, stock and barrel.
Let us see how the growing headache of the Westerner is expressed by the French news agency. “En dehors des Indes, il y a de nombreux Indiens, émigrés depuis un siècle de leur pays déjà surpeuplé, comme le signalait récemment M. Durand-Reville au retour de Madagascar. A l’ile Maurice, ils sont devenus la majorité, en Afrique du Sud, ils sont aussi nombreux que les Blancs et les dépasseront avant peu, à Madagascar, ils s’accroissent, en Afrique Orientale Britannique, ils deviennent un danger… Dans tous ces pays, les lois de la République indienne ne s’appliquent évidemment pas. Pour les Indiens de l’étranger, il n’y aura pas de limitation des naissances.”
* * *
The practice used to be to raise the cry of Hindu hegemony in the local press. A close analysis, however, showed that Hindu hegemony was but a myth. We were glad that it was being taken for granted here that the myth had exploded.
Now the cry of Hindu hegemony is coming from across the seas. Monsieur Jacques Chastenet voiced it in Les Nouvelles Littéraires. The French news agency, the Presses de l’Union Française, has taken it up. Incidentally, Monsieur Raoul Follereau, who is in the local news these days, has joined in the chorus.
Monsieur Raoul Follereau is a roving benefactor of mankind. He is known as “Le Vagabond de la Charité” and his mission is to relieve the suffering of lepers. Monsieur Raoul Follereau, who came to our shores last Wednesday for a short visit, has been here before and has given his impressions of Mauritius in his book, ‘Des hommes comme les autres’, which he has recently published. It is strange to find this man of charity speaking quite uncharitably of Indian invasion and exaltingly of the select ten thousand.
Says Monsieur Raoul Follereau inter alia:
“Maurice: une île de Polynésie envahie par les Hindous. Et cette “occupation” a quelque chose d’hallucinant parfois. Des villages et des villages au bord de la route, avec leurs pagodes, les femmes en sari autour de la fontaine ; et ce silence qui garde une sorte de majesté pour recouvrir tant de misères muettes.
“Je songe aux détresses que j’ai vues en parcourant les Indes et pour lesquelles, trop souvent, il n’y a point de salut.
“Mon ami me touche le bras: “Voici le bois des Amourettes”. C’est vrai: nous sommes à Maurice où dix milles sujets loyaux de sa Gracieuse Majesté demeurent Français par l’esprit, par la langue, par l’amour.”
And so Monsieur Raoul Follereau had to be reminded that he was in Mauritius while he was touring our island because he was struck by so many things that we have in common with India — including misery and wretchedness. The thought of the ten thousand whites delighted him. To hell with the others!
Monsieur Raoul Follereau is going to address the Mauritian public from the platform and the M.B.S. in addition to attending to the well-being of our lepers. He has a golden opportunity of working at the rapprochement of the ten thousand with the other communities. There is leprosy in many hearts to be cured, Monsieur Follereau – the leprosy of racial hatred.
* * *
That our population is growing at an alarming rate is no revelation. Even Government became conscious of the problem some time ago and appointed a Committee in 1953 to inquire into the matter and report. The Population Committee made its recommendations in 1955 and we know that birth control is one of them.
The Presse de l’Union Française must know all this. It should try to know why the recommendations of the Population Committee are not being implemented. Knowing that Indians are of a prolific nature is knowing but half the problem. The other half is concerned with the apathy of Government.
But it’s so easy to rail against a community when no practical steps have to be suggested to combat the ill. N.M.U., for example, has told us more than once what he told us last Wednesday, namely… “nous devrions découvrir sans délai le secret qui nous permettrait de faire vivre une population de plus de 550,000 habitants (qui doublera en un quart de siècle) et qui n’a à sa disposition que des ressources permettant la subsistance normale de 400,000 habitants à peine.” Let it be said to the credit of N.M.U. that he has not said that the extra 150,000 mouths to be fed are Indians. Will NMU, who is so alive to the population problem, accept birth control as a remedy? The answer is clearly NO because he has never advocated it.
The Presse de l’Union Française is sorry because “pour les Indiens de l’étranger, il n’y aura pas de limitation des naissances”. How can there be any birth control when Government seems to be caring more for the views of N.M.U. and his Roman Catholic brethren than anything else?
On the 31st December 1955, our population was 559,932. It was made as follows: General Population, 164,248; Indo-Mauritian, 375,899; Chinese, 19,785. It is the figure 375,899 that is the cause of headache here as well as elsewhere. It inspires fear as the elusive abominable snowman. Is it really as hard as all that to befriend the Indo-Mauritian community? Does it pay to treat Overseas Indians as strangers scheming to oust well-established Western individuals and institutions?
The brown menace is but a myth: it should not stand in the way of happy race relations. And birth control can be a reality. Government has to be asked why it has pigeonholed the recommendations of the Population Committee.
Friday 2nd February, 1957
* Published in print edition on 27 September 2019