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Address of MOS Dr Shashi Tharoor at the event commemorating the 175th anniversary of the arrival of indentured labourers in Mauritius

Your Excellency, The Rt. Hon'ble Sir Anerood Jugnauth, President of the Republic of Mauritius and Lady Sarojni Jugnauth;
Your Excellency, Dr. The Hon'ble Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius and Mrs. Ramgoolam; 
Your Excellency, Dr. the Hon'ble Rashid Beebeejaun, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Renewable Energy and Mrs. Beebeejaun; 
Distinguished Vice-Prime Ministers; 
Your Lordship Hon’ble Chief Justice Sik-Yuen and Mrs. Sik-Yuen; 
Your Excellency, the Hon'ble Rajkeswur Purryag, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Mauritius, 
Your Excellency, Dr. Vasant Kumar Bunwaree, Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources, and Mrs. Bunwaree, 
Your Excellency Mr. Paul Raymond Bérenger, Leader of the Opposition, 
Hon'ble Ministers, Hon'ble Members of the National Assembly, 
Your Lordship, Mr. Mahendra Gondeea, Mayor of Port Louis, 
The High Commissioner of India, High Commissioners, Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps, 
Dr. Vijayalakshmi Teelock, Chairman of the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, 
Vice Chairperson and Members of the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, 
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends, 

Pranam, Namaskar, Bonjour. 
Il est un grand plaisir et un immense privilège pour moi d’être parmi vous aujourd’hui a cette occasion historique. 

It is indeed a great honour and privilege to be present with you today on this august and auspicious occasion. I bring to you the greetings and good wishes of the Government and the people of India. 

As we commemorate the 175th anniversary of the day of arrival of the indentured labourers from India, I join you in paying homage to your forefathers who landed on this historic site 175 years ago. By celebrating this event, we emphasise that history never forgives those who forget it. “Le devoir de mémoire” s’impose sur nous tous. By remembering the historic date of November 2, 1834 we offer homage to those forebears who through their sweat and sacrifice, toil and tears enabled us in later generations to live in comfort and security. 

A little under a century and three quarters ago a group of people was herded on board the M.V. Atlas to arrive in Mauritius on this day, in what was then a rocky land, inhospitable both from nature's fury and human cruelty, to face lives of unimaginable torment and drudgery, where providing for one’s kith and kin was seen as an existential requirement but had to be undertaken in suffering, cruelty and despair. When they left the shores of India, the first group of indentured labourers was lost in the turbulence of the sea and consumed by fear of the unknown. And yet those who landed on these shores became the hardy forebears of a successful future. Their indomitable courage allowed them to triumph over the darkness, misery and uncertainty that enshrouded their arrival. They found the will to overcome. 

The history of these Aapravasis is a story worth telling – one which encapsulates the spirit of humankind embodied in a dedicated, motivated and disciplined group of human beings. The Aapravasi Ghat, which today is inscribed among the list of World Heritage Sites, is a living testimony of the legendary details of the legacy of that generation for all the generations that have followed and are yet to come. 

Having served in the United Nations for many years as a Pravasi, I can understand the significance and import of the inscription of the Aapravasi Ghat as a World Heritage Site. The Aapravasi Ghat brings out most poignantly the pain, anguish and sorrow of those resolute personalities and enshrines those first foot-falls which have led to the confident footprint of a resurgent Mauritius. 

Mauritius today reflects a success every country -- not only in Africa but globally-- yearns for. We in India take great pride in your many successes and celebrate your many achievements. Your recent recognition by the Ibrahim Foundation as No. 1 for governance in Africa is merely the latest such accomplishment, for which we are all thankful to those unheralded and unsung heroes of folklore who came to this Island 175 years ago. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Mauritius had a role in India's struggle for freedom. The Father of the Indian Nation, Mahatma Gandhi visited Mauritius in 1901, which led to the later visit of Manillal Doctor and the impetus to address the conditions of the labourers and give importance to the need for education. The Father of the Mauritian Nation, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, was himself a contemporary in London of the leaders of India's national movement. Since then every Indian Prime Minister, Indian Government and the people of India have enjoyed a special and unique relationship with Mauritius. 

India and Mauritius enjoy traditional bonds of friendship and kinship founded on a historical and shared cultural heritage. We are both pluralistic societies where democratic values are cherished and where we give importance to the creative ability and entrepreneurial skills of our citizens. We have opened our doors and windows to the many winds of globalisation but have ensured that we are not swept off our feet by them. Both our countries have striven to promote equality, harmony and peaceful coexistence in our societies with respect for all creeds and faiths. (I remarked to the PM how moved I was to witness the mosaic of ethnicities and religions whose prayers began this ceremony.) The right of the ordinary citizen is recognised and opportunities are equally available to all. Unity in diversity is the hallmark of both our societies. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we celebrate the successes of Mauritius, I would like to reflect very briefly on the affinities you share with India. India today is the world's largest democracy; it is a vibrant economy; a country with strong sense of social belonging, and with a deep sense of unity in purpose and thought. We have progressed economically and we are ready to share our successes with our friends and partners to make the world a safe and secure place for future generations. 

We in India are grateful to Mauritius for its strong support on issues of cardinal importance to us. We particularly appreciate the support we received from your leaders and your people nearly a year ago when Mumbai was the target of a heinous and dastardly terrorist attack, where one of your own was a victim. 

India is ready to share its experience with Mauritius and move towards consolidation and expansion of its multi-dimensional partnership. We are committed to a comprehensive engagement which is mutually beneficial, guided by the thought that we too could leave the world we live in with greater security and prosperity for future generations as those who arrived on these shores 175 years ago today. 

Vive l'amitié Indo-Mauricienne
Jai Hind! Jai Mauritius!

Port Louis
Nov 2, 2009


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