14th May 2023, Taj Bengal, Kolkata
A Civic Reception was hosted in honour of the President of Mauritius, His Excellency
Prithvirajsing Roopun, jointly by India Foundation, New Delhi and Khola Hawa on 14th May 2023 at Taj Bengal, Kolkata. Other dignitaries who graced the event were Dr CV Ananda Bose, Hon Governor of West Bengal, Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh, Member of Parliament and Dy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Shri Sushil Modi, Member of Parliament and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Dr Swapan Dasgupta, former Member of Rajya Sabha and Member, Governing Council, India Foundation, New Delhi.
The event started with the felicitation of guests on stage by Smt. Mallika Banerjee, Joint Secretary of Khola Hawa was followed by Mr N.G. Khaitan, President of Bharat Chamber of Commerce reaching out to felicitate guest of honour His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun.
Dr. Swapan Dasgupta in his welcome note expressed profound gratitude to His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun ji for coming to Kolkata and gracing the event. He enlightened the audience over an obvious curiosity of why he chose Kolkata for his visit; quoting an observation of a historian from Mauritius that Kolkata was the last sight for the labourers of their motherland who went to countries like Fiji, Mauritius etc. He highlighted the emotional significance that Kolkata held for people of Indian origin in places like Mauritius. Dr Dasgupta expressed his hope that a plaque commemorating the travel of labourers to Mauritius and other countries will be installed in Kolkata. This would help raise knowledge about the importance of linkages and our historical connections through our very successful diaspora in these countries.
Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh recalled his trip to Mauritius in 2011 where he had the
opportunity to visit Apravasi Ghat dedicated to Indian labourers whose 1st lot reached there by ship in 1834 which is why Mauritius celebrates 2nd November as Apravasi Bharatiya Diwas. He also talked about the significance of Baithakasstarted by migrants in Mauritius. He highlighted the significance of these Baithakas in community building as marriages happened there and several women’s groups were organised through it. He mentioned that the number of Baithakas rose to 400 in the year 1950 itself. He concluded by expressing the importance of the India-Mauritius relationship on the note that 68% population of Mauritius can trace their origin back to India.
Dr CV Ananda Bose conferred salutations on behalf of 10 crore Bengalis to people of
Mauritius. Quoting Mark Twain he said Mauritius was made first, then heaven and heaven was copied after Mauritius. He also talked about various projects that India is doing in Mauritius like the metro express project, and social housing project amongst many others. He noted a similarity that both His Excellency Mr Roopun and Mahatma Gandhi studied law in the UK. He applauded the fact that Mauritius celebrates their national day to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Dandi march. On behalf of Bengalis, he expressed how proud they feel to know that there are Tagore Museum and Tagore Institute in Mauritius honouring one of the greatest Bengali philosophers and poet Shri Rabindranath Tagore.
His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun thanked India Foundation, New Delhi and Indian authorities for their hospitality. He opened up on his visit to Kolkata which he said was like a pilgrimage. He shared the history of how labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were convinced by the British on the false premises of finding gold and were brought to Mauritius to work in sugar plantation fields from 1850 onwards. Talking about the cultural similarity between India and Mauritius, H.E Mr Roopun shared how Ganesh Chaturthi, Mahashivratri and Durga puja is celebrated in Mauritius and the existence of Hindi, Tamil, Bhojpuri and Sanskrit-speaking unions in Mauritius. He sang two lines of a Bhojpuri song to let people know that it is common in Mauritius to sing Bhojpuri songs. He made an interesting observation that along with India celebrating its 75 years of independence, it is also the celebration of 75 years of bilateral relations between India and Mauritius. H. E Mr Roopun asserted the importance of working together with India in various fields as a win-win situation amidst the rapidly changing world order. Members from the Bengal Business Council which consisted of Bengali businessmen felicitated all the dignitaries on stage.
Shri Sushil Modi thanked and welcomed H. E Mr Roopun, his wife and his delegation on behalf of India Foundation. He pointed out how labourers of Indian origin there underwent the plight of the British and yet kept their faith alive by chanting Hanuman Chalisa and reading Ramayana. Shri Sushil Modi appealed to people to visit Mauritius to realise the Indian culture which exists there. He pointed out a pleasant sight one could witness by roaming around in the localities of Mauritius many Hindus have Hanuman idols and Mahaveer flags displayed outside their houses. He shared with joy that Mahashivratri in Mauritius is celebrated for 10 days including the Kanwar yatra as it happens in India. He expressed pride in having leaders like Kamala Harris, Rishi Sunak, President of Suriname and Seychelles among many other leaders of Indian origin in different countries. He also thanked all guests for gracing the event with their presence.
The civic reception in honour of His Excellency Prithvirajsing Roopun gave the opportunity to strengthen the relationship between India and Mauritius. Mauritius holds a unique position for India as no other country possesses such a high percentage of population of Indian origin. Additionally, the robust practice and preservation of Hindu traditions prevalent in Mauritius also bring the two countries closer to each other. Sharing anecdotes by the esteemed dignitaries made the event very interesting. The speeches were followed by dinner. In attendance at this event were industrialists, media personalities and other important people from the civil society.