Mauritius Times: 60 Years Ago
Mauritius Times is two years old, just as we celebrated its first anniversary by publishing a special number, we are celebrating its second anniversary with the present special number. Two years is not a long time in the life time of a weekly in countries where week-end papers have come to stay. Here, the publication of our paper was nothing short of a hazardous venture. In course of time however, it turned out to be a thrilling adventure, and in two years, we are proud to say, our modest publication has become a militant part of the local press.
Our paper was born to meet a crying need of the moment. Its success is due largely to the fact that people were in the right frame of mind to receive it. Times were changing rapidly but the local press was refusing to move with the times. New voices were seeking expression; people with some self-respect were overflowing with indignation; the exponents of capitalism were hitting right and left: their attacks were not confined to political theories, they also embraced the way of life of the main community of this island. The atmosphere was such that to be silent anymore would have been an unpardonable sin.
We appeared in a small sheet — so small were we that the big man of Mallefille Street tried to mock us out of circulation by calling us feuille de chou. Our humble beginning made capitalists pour contempt and ridicule on our head. They went on and on until they realized that they were out of tune with public opinion. Has the truth dawned on them that it is better to have a small paper with sound principles than to have the biggest and the oldest paper with a decaying and tottering foundation?
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We stand for Socialism. We have not kept the public in the dark about our political convictions. But our opponents would point us as black as devils by calling us communist and nationalist. Any bad name, to hang us. We have been claiming justice and fair play in the political, economic and social spheres. How then can the beneficiaries of privileged befriend us? We have been hitting back whenever the Indian Community or India has been vilified. That is our nationalism.
It can be said without any fear of contradiction that our paper reflects that mind of the new generation. Those who choose to deal with us on the footing that they are superior because they are born in a particular community are grossly mistaken. More than that. They are doing a great disservice to the young people of their own community: they are turning they young people into misfits in the Mauritian society. We respect a man for his character, his convictions and his deeds. Empty words, emanating from any quarter, will not leave any mark. Those who dream of a happy Mauritian Community must drop that Bible of hatred which they carry about so ostensibly in their hand.
While celebrating our second anniversary it is encouraging to think that our paper is eagerly waited for by our readers. It has become part of the week-end. It is being read not only over here but also abroad. Our air-mail edition crosses the ocean every week to reach our friends and supporters abroad within the shortest delay possible. We are glad to see how welcome our two-year old paper is. Our efforts are amply repaid by such a generous response.
Those who read our paper regularly know with what zeal and devotion our contributors have been serving the cause for which we stand. We refrain from quoting any name but we cannot help expressing today our warm gratitude to one and all of them. Our contributors are not rich people who write to beguile their lazy hours or retired people who are prone to look back fondly upon their past only, having no future to look to. They are people who want to live in a better world. They write because writing to them is a mission, because by writing they picture in words the kind of world they would like to live in.
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When we cast our eyes on the second year of our paper we find as one of the most prominent events the visit of Mr Brockway to Mauritius. We are proud to remember today that we were so closely associated with the coming of Mr Brockway to our shores. We are confident that Mr Brockway must be thinking of Mauritius now in terms of its dire needs and not as some palm-fringed island washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean.
While our second year has been rolling by we have been witnessing epoch-making events like the proposed change of our constitution. We were the first paper to publish the spontaneous reaction to the proposals of the Secretary of State. “Boycott the Damn Thing!” and “Hang the Hindu!” contained the anguished cries of a down-trodden, misunderstood and misrepresented community. The Colonial Office had been told many things privately about the hindu monster of this island; it remained for the Mauritius Times to try to chase away publicly that horrible creature from the pale of sane politics. And we were quoted in THE TIMES of London.
During the second year of our existence we issued special numbers on the Police, the Constitution and Buddha and Tagore. Only last week the Kashmir controversy made us publish a supplement on Kashmir. Local matters as well as foreign matters affecting local politics halve received our continued attention. Without having recourse to a special number or a supplement, we tackled the problem of admission of children to schools to the best of our ability.
It is quite natural to look back when celebrating an anniversary. The past stands as something solid – a treasure, a legacy left behind. But our task is to look forward, to seize the uncertain present and give it some shape. The future remains fluids as long as we just sit back and stare into the void. It is on the efforts of all men of goodwill and action that the world of to-morrow will be built. So, let’s go ahead!
* Published in print edition on 7 September 2018