Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Somduth Bhuckory
Mid February 1957 has been quite eventful for our small island. Le Cernéen has celebrated its 125th anniversary, Mr Rampersad Neerunjun has been appointed Procureur Général and a parliamentary delegation has left for London for fresh talks on constitutional reforms.
What a coincidence! What a combination of unusual events! Is it a conspirarcy of Fate? Or, is it just a glimpse of the march of time?
Haven’t we travelled a long way? The anniversary number of Le Cernéen, published on the 14th with a picture of its founder Adrien d’Epinay, makes us think, on one hand, of the sedate and stately life of days gone by and, on the other, of slaves whose salvation was what stirred decent souls.
That was a time when Indian immigration had not started. There was no fear of Hindu hegemony but there was perhaps a hope of turning into gold the sweat and tears of Indian labour. To-day Le Cernéen is still leaving the press as before. But the picture around it is different, ever-changing. Adrien d’Epinay must have never thought that the day his paper will be 125, it will find the offspring of the toiling moiling class at the head of the Parquet. Leaving d’Epinay aside, we wonder if many others today can get reconciled to the idea.
Le Cernéen formerly fought for the colons. Did not its animator Adrien d’Epinay leave for London to safeguard their interests? The people, the masses were then unborn words in the political world. How different it is today! The parliamentary delegation that left last Sunday contains six representatives of the people and two nominees. Power in our days does not come from above but from below. Every good politician makes it a point of duty to seek a mandate from the people. A day will come when those who are not elected by the people will not find a place in our parliament. We don’t know whether then Le Cernéen will be there to celebrate any anniversary and look thirty years ahead to find more towns built on the pattern of “Ramgoolam-metropolis”!
Anyway we wish N.M.U. long rocking in his rickety rocking-chair at Le Cernéen. Without him life wouldn’t be what it is. If N.M.U. only knew that!
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We don’t know what the ten successive editors of Le Cernéen have done for their community. But what the first “Directeur” N.M.U. has done for the Indian community is something so beneficial that, we think, the Indian community can never repay the debt of gratitude which it owes him.
We said once that N.M.U. was the architect of Hindu unity. By his nasty words and wicked attitude, he made Hindus realize where the real enemy’s camp was located. Was it any wonder then to find Hindus at loggerheads abandoning their intestinal warfare and dash for the right and real battle ground?
As N.M.U. helped to fashion the Hindu community, he added stature to the leadership of Dr Ramgoolam. He would not let any opportunity slip without pouncing on the doctor. Where is Dr Ramgoolam today and where is N.M.U.? The doctor is in London and N.M.U. still rocking miserably in his miserable rocking-chair.
When the Mauritius Times appeared, there dawned an unprecedented occasion on the horizon for N.M.U. to discredit and vilify the new-born paper and its young publishers. It was in a frenzy of delight that he waited for us every week-end armed with rotten tomatoes. He had thought of ridiculing us out of circulation. But his act had the opposite effect. Our circulation simply soared to unknown heights!
Needless to go on to show how valuable work N.M.U. has done for the Hindus with the money of Le Cernéen. He was imported from Paris presumably to guide the destiny of his community. He must have fancied himself a new St George sent to slay the dragon of Hindu hegemony. The pity was that he took his task so seriously and committed so many blunders that nobody would take him seriously today.
The only virtue of consistency that he seems to possess apart from that of standing for capitalists is his blind antipathy for Hindus and everything Indian. In this land where five communities, four major religions and eight languages have to live side by side his mission is one of creating more confusion by picking on the Hindu community in and out of season instead of finding ways and means of a peaceful co-existence.
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We think that it would not be an exaggeration to say that while time is marching on Le Cernéen is marking time.
The time of Victorias is gone. Cars which do not have ‘A’ before their registered numbers have started looking out of date. It’s the age of filling stations and cold drinks. And it’s the age of rock ‘n’ roll. But N.M.U. will go on rocking in his rickety miserably rocking-chair.
Will he grasp that in this age hatred, contempt and ridicule cannot be substituted for any sound social policy or political theory?
Will he get rid of his fear of Indians? He finds them everywhere — right and left, but more to the left! — ready to cut the throat of those near and dear to him. Their prolific nature fills him with panic. They will always be the majority, he thinks, and this thought is enough to send shivers down his spine.
Panic-stricken, he exposes the bankruptcy of Le Cernéen by advocating the formation of racial or religious organizations. Says he on February 8, while the paper was running the last lap to reach 125:
“Les hommes politiques de ce pays, qui se targuent de défendre l’ordre, ont fait preuve de beaucoup d’incompréhension en fondant les partis politiques sur les thèses idéologiques plutôt que sur les inclinations naturelles de notre population polyraciale. Les moins subtils furent, à notre avis, ceux qui eurent peur de fonder ici un parti chrétien, renonçant ainsi au surcroit de force qu’eussent conféré à leur initiative une foi commune et la puissance suggestive du vocable.”
That such propaganda is dangerous, cannot be gainsaid. And that is the wisdom Le Cernéen has acquired in the course of 125 years!
The very man who advocates the formation of racial or religious organizations in one breath speaks quite often of “la défense du bien public” in another. Can there be a livelier picture of a paradox? Isn’t it as paradoxical as to find Mount Ory in the place of Montagne Ory in a land which a French writer, Paul Ginther, writing in a recent number of Science et Voyages, has described as “la plus française des terres anglaises”!
Do what you like Mr N.M.U., but you cannot stop the march of time.
* Published in print edition on 15 November 2019