A Chacha Named SSR

What is the meaning of Chacha and why is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) called Chacha? The English equivalent of Chacha, a Hindi word, is a brother of one’s father. While attending a public meeting of the coalition led by the Labour Party at Highlands during the campaign for the 1967 general elections, I learned from the speakers that SSR must be called Chacha because he is a spiritual brother of Mahatma Gandhi who is revered as a father (Bapu) by Indians and people of Indian descent in former colonies. The Labour Party propaganda associating SSR with Mahatma Gandhi especially on the issue of independence and the emergence of a Gandhi dynastic rule in India contributed to the designation of Dr Navin Ramgoolam as leader of the Labour Party in 1991 even though he was still a novice in politics at that time. Given their impact on Mauritian politics, we shall analyse the interrelated issues of independence, Gandhi dynastic rule, and Mahatma Gandhi’s “spiritual brother”.

Unlike India, there was no Struggle for Independence in Mauritius

There is no parallel between the Indian and the Mauritian transition from British colonial rule to independence. According to British policy in the first half of the twentieth century; as concisely expressed by Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain from 1939 to 1945; keeping India as a colony was a necessity because Indian independence would have stripped Britain of her moral authority to govern other colonies. To overcome the stiff resistance of the British, Mahatma Gandhi had to resort to strikes, marches, and civil disobedience. He was arrested several times and spent a total of over six years of his life in jail. All these hardships took a heavy toll on his family life with the most painful one being the gradual demise of his eldest son, Harilal, into a homeless drunkard. This lifelong tragedy that the Mahatma had to endure has been encapsulated in a movie entitled “Gandhi, My Father”.
Britain changed its policy on colonial rule in 1957 when it decided to willingly grant independence to almost all its dependencies. The reason behind this change was an analysis which demonstrated that colonies had become a drain on the British treasury, costs incurred were more than revenues earned. As a result, Britain started grooming political leaders in its dependencies to enable them to smoothly take over power at independence. In Mauritius, the British Authorities appointed SSR Minister in 1957 and promoted him to the position of Chief Minister in 1961. In 1964, the British gave SSR a further promotion to the position of Premier. As such, SSR headed a newly created Council of Ministers to which the British handed over some of its powers. SSR became Prime Minister when Mauritius became independent in 1968.

Mahatma Gandhi is not Related to the Gandhi Dynasty that Ruled India
Contrary to what many believe, Mahatma Gandhi is not related to the Gandhi dynasty that has been ruling India on and off since 1947. Moreover, of late, Indians have started rejecting dynastic rule. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984, is the daughter of Jawaharlall Nehru who was the Indian Prime Minister from the independence of the country in 1947 to 1964 and the wife of Feroz Gandhi, a person with no family links to the Mahatma. The son of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, was Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989. According to Dr A. Surya Prakash, an author and Columnist and a leading commentator on Indian constitutional and parliamentary issues and governance, “when the power is dynastic in nature, sycophancy is raised to the level of worship. We in India have been under dynastic rule for most of our free lives. It has done nothing but hurt us.” It is therefore not surprising that India elected Narendra Modi, the son of a humble tea seller, as Prime Minister earlier this year when his main opponent was Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi.

The Real Chacha is the Reverend Charlie Andrews, an English Priest

Only a person who must have actively served Mahatma Gandhi against all odds deserves to be called his spiritual brother, a profile that does not fit SSR. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi bestowed that honour on the Reverend Charlie Andrews, an English priest who was in his early career the Vice-Principal of Westcott College in Cambridge, UK. In 1913, he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against injustice in South Africa. He accompanied the Mahatma back to India in 1915, and, until his death in 1940, was at the forefront of the battle for Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi told Louis Fischer, his biographer, that Charlie Andrews “is more than a blood brother to me. I do not think that I can claim a deeper attachment to anyone than to Mr Andrews.” If ever there was evidence on a similar relationship between SSR and the Mahatma, Dr Navin Ramgoolam would have repeatedly talked about it to strengthen his hold over the Labour electorate.
In summary, India had to struggle for its independence whereas the British willingly handed over independence to Mauritius. Mahatma Gandhi did not use his position in the independence movement to assemble a family dynasty that would rule India. In the struggle for Indian independence, he was supported by the Reverend Charlie Andrews, the only person who deserves the title of Chacha.


SSR and co. were the bad guys and the British the good ones? Like one General Dyer?

Very Well said / Explained.

These kind of 'true' fact need to be taught in school at early age so not to twist the history of Mauritius.

You are absolutely riiight!!!

seriously? we are fighting over the use of 'Chacha'???
If i may, the author is totally spot on when he says that we did not have to fight to win our independence.
But the British rulers could care less about the 'half naked fakir'. He was more often the subject of their ridicule.
Bhagat Singh is what could really be termed as a freedom fighter.

Re: Section 2 above.

That is one point of view.

But it must not be forgotten that the anti-colonialist movement became in time so inexorable that it was only political expediency (as against any kindness of heart) not to let it reach even further into the smaller territories. Certain agitation could already be seen there.

In that sense, countries like India, were already doing battle, vicariously, for the weaker ones in that same kind of situation. The support that the Indo-Mauritian community gave India in return, for example, seemed to the authorities an extension of the struggle already.

As for the colonies becoming more of a liability than an asset, that was because it couldn't be offset by further exploitation. That could only have exacerbated the struggle more.

In the case of Mauritius, the British, in the true spirit of imperialism, got themselves a bargain, as it were. Had there been resistance to negotiating away Diego Garcia, as though its own people were themselves nothing more than incidental objects, the story would be vastly different today. It wouldn't be surprising if the dogs were treated better.