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186th Anniversary Arrival of Indentured Labourers in Mauritius

Ministry of Arts & Culture
Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund

186th Anniversary
Arrival of Indentured Labourers in Mauritius
2 November 2020

Hon. Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth

Hon. Vice President Mr. Marie Cyril Eddy Boissezon

Hon. Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Steven Obigadoo

Hon. Speaker of National Assembly Mr. Sooroojdev Phokeer

Former President Rt. Hon. Sir Anerood Jugnauth

Hon. Vice Prime Minister Mrs. Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun

Hon. Vice Prime Minister Dr. Anwar Husnoo

Hon. Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage Mr. Avinash Teeluck

& other Hon. Ministers

Lord Mayor of Port Louis

Chairperson Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund Mr. Dharam Yash Deo Dhuny

My colleagues from Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

आप सब को मेरा नमस्कार

My warm greetings to all of you.

I am privileged to represent the Government of India here today for this important commemoration.

This solemn occasion recalls an important passage in the lives of our countries. A bygone colonial era, when our ancestors did not live free lives. Times of exploitation and suffering.

That transcontinental mass migration of indentured workers was devised to sustain the colonial plantation economies in the absence of slavery, by maintaining supplies of cheap mass labour. It was termed a ‘Great Experiment’ by those in power. It helped fuel capitalism and left deep imprint on uprooted families, societies and economies across the world.

This ‘Experiment’ sought to replace enslavement but only just. Millions of Indians were transported thousands of miles to distant shores to toil under harsh conditions not only to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, but once this ‘experiment’ started producing profits, they were sent further across the Atlantic to Caribbean and to the Pacific islands.


Here in Mauritius, the arrival of indentured workers, mostly from India, carrying precious little except the memories of the customs, faiths and traditions of their homeland, is among the most important phases in the history of this country.

Their courage and camaraderie, memories of the lands of their forefathers, belief in the almighty, hard work and sheer determination, contributed to the economic prosperity of their adopted homeland and transformed the lives of their subsequent generations.

They struggled and sacrificed to invest in education of their children that empowered them and helped build a better future. The ongoing story of these workers and their families is intimately linked to the story of Mauritius.


While today we commemorate this episode in our history of mass migration under a colonial arrangement, Indians have traded, traveled and settled across land and seas in different continents since millennia both to the east and west of India - as far as Europe, Arabian Peninsula, Persia, East Africa and Southeast Asia.

They brought their culture and customs to new lands, but they did not go out to conquer or subjugate. They have contributed to their adopted homelands through successive generations.

Today, Indian Diaspora is estimated at around 25 million. More than 10 countries have 1 million or more each of Indian origin persons. They have distinguished themselves in business & corporate world; science, academics & teaching; engineering, & healthcare; arts & sports; and also governance & politics.

In Mauritius also, Indians from different parts of India, professing different faiths, speaking different languages, with different skills arrived during different phases over the last 300 years or so.

The diversity of India is largely reflected in its Diaspora here in terms of linguistic groups – Bhojpuri, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and so on. They represented varying religious faiths and customs including Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. They worked as traders, artisans, technicians. There are, of course, a large number of people with mixed ancestry also.

Their wonderful diverse heritage is visible in the rituals and colourful festivals that are celebrated today in Mauritius - in languages that are spoken; in cuisines; in music and dance, in arts and architecture styles, and so many other pursuits.

While many may have never traveled to India, they are always keen to know more about the land of their forefathers. The Government of India welcomes and facilitates such efforts to trace their roots. We also organize regular visits for both young and old such as the Bharat Ko Janiye or Know India programme. A special arrangement for Mauritius facilitates the status of Overseas Citizens of India or the OCI.

Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is a major annual event that brings together Indian Diaspora from across the world. Eminent global personalities are honoured on the occasion. We were privileged to receive Hon. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth as the Chief Guest at the last year’s special event hosted in Varanasi. Earlier this year, Sir Anerood Jugnauth was conferred with Padma Vibhushan award by Government of India.

In recent decades, a very large number of Mauritians have studied in India and a large number of Indian professionals, students, interns and workers reside in Mauritius.


Our nations stand transformed today through the hard work and enterprise of their citizens. Mauritius, a pragmatic rainbow nation, has become a role model as it strives to build an inclusive society based on justice and equality and continues to make rapid strides in social and economic spheres.

From a colony facing bleak prospects at the time of independence, Mauritius has transformed into a welfare state and an Upper Income economy in five decades.

Despite our unique experiences of development and nation building, our peoples have retained close familial, cultural and spiritual linkages, and these bonds of kinship and civilizational heritage form the bedrock of the very special relationship between Mauritius and India.

हमारे लोगों के साझे इतिहास और संस्कृति की वजह से भारत और मॉरिशस मैत्री इतनी अनोखी और स्पेशल है कि इसे शब्दों में बयां कर पाना बहुत मुश्किल है I

This is a relationship that is so unique that it is difficult to imagine any other comparable relationship between two nations.

These ties are reflected in the very close longstanding special engagement at the level of leadership. These ties are also translated in the strong partnership between our nations. We are proud to work closely with Mauritius in their remarkable development journey.


Both Mauritius and India draw their strength from their immense diversity that brings vitality and vibrancy.

This diversity and underlying unity is present all around us on this island nation.

This wonderful unity in diversity was on special display last year during the outstanding performance of Mauritius athletes at the hugely successful 10th edition of the Indian Ocean Island Games hosted by Mauritius last year.

It is remarkable to see how the people of Mauritius, tracing their origins to distant lands and geographies, have sustained their cultural roots, languages, faiths, customs and cuisines. They have assimilated these different threads to weave a beautiful new fabric that is truly unique to Mauritius.

We also watched this unique and magical blend last week during the exciting celebration of the 75 years of the establishment of the United Nations.

The diversity begets strength from the inclusiveness, which is an integral part of our vibrant democratic traditions. While India is described as the world’s largest democracy with nearly 900 million eligible voters, Mauritius is also a shining example of democracy since its independence, not only in Africa but in the whole world.


Today’s commemoration is essential for our collective memory at various levels - not only at the level of individuals and families but also at the level of the society and the nation. The memory of the lands of their forefathers; their trials and tribulations, and contribution to society and economy. This helps us situate ourselves in the long arc of history and to try to see what may lie ahead.

It is, therefore, important to make this history of mass migration into Mauritius widely accessible to the younger generations, the wider society and indeed the world.

There are new initiatives involving some excellent short innovative and creative video clips now being produced by young Mauritian students exploring their past. More such initiatives can be considered bringing together both scholars and younger generation, especially through audiovisual clips, oral histories and these can then be disseminated across social media platforms for global networking and outreach.

May I compliment the Government of Mauritius and especially the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage for their continuing support to efforts to sustain the collective heritage of the peoples of this wonderful diverse rainbow nation.

Around 10 days back we also saw the launch of the Intercontinental Slavery Museum project, together with the exhibition ‘Breaking the Silence’ here in Mauritius.

This will contribute to the UNESCO’s Slave Route project towards a better understanding of the process of enslavement, trading of the enslaved and uprooting of millions for economic exploitation. This is necessary because our present is the product of our past.

I would also like to compliment the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund and all the historians, experts and other specialists and leaders who have worked on preserving that historic site and creating a wonderful and informative museum.

We also look forward to further progress on Indentured Labour Route project, where Mauritius can be a hub. This would build further understanding not only of that phase of mass migration that led to disparate indentured communities across the world, but also of how people survived those hardships with the help of their faiths, food and music and songs and built new societies and cultures. Such efforts would enrich lives of younger generation by telling them of the influences and the forces that shaped their present.

It is fitting that both Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape have been designated as World Heritage sites. It is also heartening to see that Bhojpuri folk song tradition of Geet Gawai and various Sega music and dance traditions, all nurtured here in Mauritius, have been recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world.

This morning I had the privilege to pay tributes at the Aapravasi Ghat, a series of steps cut from basalt rocks on this volcanic island on the shores of the Indian Ocean. This site is truly a tribute to the strength of indomitable human spirit and the miracles it can perform through hard work, faith and determination. It is also a memorial to the unbreakable bonds of sweat and blood between our peoples.

Today as visitors retread those 16 iconic steps, it touches their hearts as they try and imagine the myriad emotions of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who reached these shores on sailing ships braving the rough seas, and climbed these steps to commence a completely new life on a distant unfamiliar land.

All of these simple folk women and men and their successive generations have played a stellar role in creating this paradise island.

अंत में मैं व्यक्तिगत रूप से कुछ कहना चाहूँगा I मुझे पिछले तीस सालों में अनेक देशों में बड़े छोटे कई म्यूजियम और स्मारक देखने का अवसर प्राप्त हुआ है I

मगर जो अनुभूति और भावनाएं आप्रवासी घाट पहुँच कर सामने आती हैं वे बिलकुल ही अलग हैं I वह स्थान हमारे लोगों के बीच खून और पसीने के एक अटूट रिश्ते का स्मारक रहेगा I इस जगह का मेरे लिए हमेशा एक बहुत ही विशेष स्थान रहेगा I

At a personal level, may I say that among the large number of museums, both large and small, that I have had the opportunity to visit across a number of countries, Aapravasi Ghat holds a very special and emotional place.

आप सबको एक बार फिर मॉरिशस के सुनहरे भविष्य के लिए बहुत शुभकामनाएं I भारत हमेशा आप के साथ रहेगा I

Best wishes for the continued progress and prosperity of people of Mauritius.


Thank you




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