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Address by High Commissioner Mrs. K. Nandini Singla on the occasion of the commemoration of the 188th Anniversary of arrival of Indentured labourers 2 November 2022



02 November 2022

Hon. Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius,

Vice President of the Republic of Mauritius,

Deputy Prime Minister,

Speaker of the National Assembly,

Vice Prime Ministers,


Leader of the Opposition,

Members of the National Assembly,

Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,

Lord Mayor of Port Louis,

Chairperson of the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund,

Lady Sarojini Jugnauth,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

मेरे भाइयों और बहनों

आप सब को मेरा नमस्कार!

         आज के दिन, छत्तीस भारतीयों ने मॉरीशस की धरती पर एक सौ अट्ठासी साल पहले, पांव रखा था; इस पावन अवसर पर हर भारतीय आज हमारे साथ उन्हें नमन करता है।

         I feel deeply humbled and greatly privileged to represent India on this solemn occasion marking the 188th anniversary of the arrival of indentured Indian laborers to Mauritius.

  1. On a personal note, I am profoundly moved every time I visit this sacred place which is no less than a pilgrimage site for all Indians. This is the place where the foundation of the special umbilical ties between Mauritius and India was forged – ties bound not only by the blood, sweat and tears of the indentured Indian workers but also by the beauty of our shared languages, our traditions and our culture. This is the place where it all began and so this was the first place I visited when I arrived here in Mauritius about 2 years ago for the first time, as the High Commissioner of India. It is for the same reason that when India turned 75 this year, we chose to celebrate the International Day of Yoga on 21st June here, at this iconic place. And today, as we embark on celebrating 75 years of the diplomatic relationship between Mauritius and India, I am happy to be able to commemorate this special day in its normal glory amidst a large gathering, after the restricted celebrations last year due to Covid.
  1. I visited Phooliyar Yesterday and had the privilege of attending a beautiful event at the village of Phooliyar organized by the government of Mauritius to honour the memory of the first 36 Indian indentured labourers who came to Mauritius on board the ‘Atlas’ in 1834 to work at the Antoinette sugarcane plantation. I am told that the last such event was held in 1984 to mark the 150th anniversary of their arrival. As I sat and watched the dramatic enactment of the arrival of the 36 poor, homesick and bewildered Indians, it struck me that this day is important not just for Mauritius and India, but for the whole world because it testifies to the triumph of the indomitable human will over all adversities. Imagine – the illiterate workers who were called ‘Girmitya’ because they did not know how to pronounce the word ‘Agreement’ (they called it ‘GRIMIT’ instead of ‘AGREEMENT’, became the educated backbone of the Mauritian bureaucracy and governance within a few generations; they who worked in almost slave-like conditions eventually became political leaders who ushered in the Mauritian Miracle through visionary leadership and hard work of the Mauritian people, transforming a poor, monocrop economy into a proud beacon of democracy, peace and prosperity in the entire region. And most importantly, this was achieved by a vibrant ‘Rainbow Nation’ that cherished, celebrated and leveraged its diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism. Yesterday, Hon. Minister Avinash Teeluck recalled in his speech how the foundations of multicultural cohabitation were laid long back in 1834 when the first 36 Indian indentured labourers lived alongside workers from Africa in Phooliyar village. I have felt truly blessed in the last 2 years to experience firsthand, Mauritius’s glorious diversity. For instance, yesterday, after enjoying a wonderful rendition of Bihar’s Jhoomar dance by the ladies in Phooliyar, I was treated to a beautiful rendition of Kuchupudi dance at the Andhra Day celebration last evening. A few days ago, I attended a beautiful Church ceremony to celebrate Diwali and was present at a memorable celebration of Eid a few weeks ago!
  1. It is this same spiritof resilience, aspiration, hard work and embrace of diversity that has also enabled India’s transformation from being one of the world’s poorest countries at the time of our independence to becoming the 5th largest economy in the world; from being a former colony to becoming the world’s largest democracy housing 1/5th of the world’s population,in a span of 75 years. I believe that it is this same spirit that has made the Pravasi Bharatiya or the Diaspora Indian, also a transformative force to reckon with globally – whether in business, politics, science or the arts. This Diwali, when I was in India with my parents, I got more celebratory messages about the Indian-origin Mr. Rishi Sunak’s appointment as the Prime Minister of UK than I did for the Diwali festival! Apart from Mauritius and UK, we have Indian-origin leaders today in countries like Portugal, Singapore, Seychelles, Guyana, Suriname and we look forward to more in the years ahead!
  1. It is to celebrate this very shared spirit that India will be hosting the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in a couple of months from 8 – 10 January 2023 in Indore, India’s Cleanest City, located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The theme of the Conference is "Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India's Progress in AmritKaal" and will discuss how the 30 million strong Indian diaspora can contribute to India’s growth in the next 25 years when India turns 100 in the year 2047. This Diaspora Conference which is held every 2 years on the day that Mahatma Gandhi, the most important member of the Indian Diaspora, returned to India from South Africa, is now being convened after a gap of 4 years, owing to Covid. The last PBD, as you would all recall, was held in 2019 in Varanasi when the Prime Minister of Mauritius Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth was the Chief Guest and had led a large Mauritian delegation. Given our special relations, Mauritius has always been one of the biggest participants in our PBD and since this PBD is taking place after a gap of 4 years, there is tremendous expectation in India that there will belarge scale participation of Mauritians in this flagship event. Having personally seen the touching affection and emotional connection of Mauritianswith India, I take this opportunity to urge our Mauritian friends to plan their end of the year holidays with a visit to Madhya Pradesh, which is at the very heart of ‘Incredible India’ and join the PBD. Madhya Pradesh offers a stunning array of magnificent tourist attractions such as UNESCO world heritage sites like the Bhimbetka caves with prehistoric cave art dating back 30,000 years and the Sanchi stupa – one of the world’s oldest Buddhist stupas; it has holy cities like Ujjain, Chitrakoot, Omkareshwar and Mahakaleshwar; the world famous Khajuraho sculptures that are more than a thousand years old, 24 wildlife sanctuaries, 6 world class Tiger Reserves and world famous hiking trails; of course there is also the mouthwatering food, great music, tribal handicrafts (there are 45 tribes in MP), and for the women – a special attraction are the Chanderiand Maheshwari sarees and Batik print textiles!
  1. There are special discounts for delegations of 50 or 100 members and special tour itineraries. I am very thankful to the Hon. Prime Minister and the government of Mauritius for setting up a committee under the leadership of the Hon. Minister of Arts & Cultural Heritage to tap into these and coordinate the visit of a Mauritian delegation to the PBD; our High Commission looks forward to liaising closely to make Mauritius, the ‘star and key’ of not just the Indian Ocean but also our PBD, as in past years!
  1. Before I end, I wish enhanced growth, peace, prosperity and wellbeing for the people of Mauritius and reaffirm the steadfast commitment of the Government of India to continue partnering Mauritius in this journey, through thick and thin, as we have done in the past. I am grateful to Hon. Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and the Government of Mauritius for their constant support in further strengthening our special relations.I am confident that this partnership will continue to grow and flourish further.
  1. आज के दिन, मैं और हर भारतवासी प्रार्थना करते हैं कि मॉरीशस हमेशा प्रगति और विकास के पथ पर ऐसे ही अग्रसर रहे। मैं यह आश्वासन भी देती हूं कि भारत हमेशा की तरह, मॉरीशस के साथ इस सफ़र में कंधे से कंधा मिलाकर चलता रहेगा।

Vive Maurice!

Jai Hind!

Long live India-Mauritius friendship!

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