ASHOKE ROY

The text below was retrieved from the British Archives. It is a letter Jaynarain Roy sent to James Griffiths, Secretary of State for the Colonies through the Governor Sir Hilary Blood. The Governor would delay forwarding the text for nearly six months. He would finally be forced to transmit it because of a fresh regulation in colonial administration requiring all official correspondence from the colonies to be submitted within six months. Kunwar Maharaj Singh had been sent in 1924 by the Government of India to report on Indian immigration. His report would cause Indian immigration to be stopped. Jaynarain Roy had officially met Kunwar Maharaj Singh in 1950 in Bombay (Mumbai).

Jaynarain Roy would correspond in Hindi from his teens with Pandit Banarasidas Chaturvedi (the father of Modern Hindi) and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. In a letter to the “Mauritius Mitra” in February 1926 in Hindi he would describe how he had managed to attend the annual conference of the Indian National Congress in Cawnpore (Kanpur) in December 1925 where he would meet Mahatma Gandhi for the first time. On his return to Mauritius in 1937 he would publish some defining poems in Hindi such as “Abhilasha”, “Ahimsa Path” and “Barah Varsh Baad” together with revolutionary short stories such as “Ab ek hi Asha”, “Anand Ki Or” and “Aashirvad”. In 1941 he would publish the first Hindi drama entitled “Jeevan Sangini” which was well received both in Mauritius and India. He would launch a literary conference in Hindi in December 1942; the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. Jaynarain Roy was the guiding spirit of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha and its President for twenty-five years. He would arrange for Hindi examinations to be organized in Mauritius through the Allahabad Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.

On his official visit to Mauritius the Indian Prime Minister Mr N. Modi would single him out for mention for his contribution to Hindi on the occasion of the inauguration of the World Hindi Secretariat in Mauritius.

Phoenix Mauritius 15.12.50

The Right Honourable James Griffi ths, P.C.M.P.

Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Through His Excellency the Governor of Mauritius

and its Dependencies.

Sir,

 

I have the honour to address you on the subject of the Indian language, culture and religion and of the appointments of Indians in the public services of the colony.

 

  1. I need not tell you that the Indians form about 70% of the population to whom must be added the increasing number of those Indian Christians who elect to cultivate the Indian language and culture.

 

  1. After India had sent, in 1924, Mr Maharaj Singh (now Raja Maharaj Singh, Governor of Bombay) to report on the conditions of Indians here, the Government of Mauritius was persuaded to arrange for the teaching of the three most important Indian languages in the Government Aided Schools. But this teaching has, since the last 25 years, remained little more than mere show. Part-time teachers were appointed at the ridiculous allowance of Rs 12.50cts per month, and one teacher had at times to teach up to a thousand children.

 

  1. Recently because we approached the Government about the matter, the pittance of these teachers was doubled, but the Government at once took the precaution to reduce this by the hour by which they lost privileges of leave and holidays, which they had enjoyed in the past.

 

  1. On the recommendation of Mr W.E.F. Ward, the then Director of Education, the Government proceeded with the appointment of a teacher of Indian culture from India. As a result, a highly qualified gentleman came to Mauritius and he was appointed as a teacher of the Training College. Since his arrival, Government has called for candidates for the teaching of the Indian languages and candidates have been examined, selected, and some have even undergone a period of training. Such teachers naturally spring from the labouring classes, and after they have sacrificed so much time to make themselves worthy for the test and training, they have been left in an uncertain position as nobody in the Government seems to know exactly what is to be done with them or with Indian culture.

 

  1. Until a few years ago, moral instruction was imparted to Indian students of the Royal College and the Royal College School of Port-Louis – the two boys secondary schools of government – but this too has mysteriously been discontinued. The same make-believe exists in the moral instruction given to Indian boys now serving in the Middle East, to prisoners and to orphans and the infirm in public aided institutions.

 

  1. The Government of Britain may not be aware of the gripping influence of the Christian clergy on the public institutions of this country. As soon as an Indian infirm or orphan goes to the Government subsidised Christian infirmaries or orphanages, he or she is at once compelled to take a Christian name; in Government Hospitals nun-nurses often squeeze a few coins from indigent patients for religious purposes, and Hindu and Muslim boys and girls are compelled to attend Christian catechism classes in the Christian aided primary schools of the colony which are often situated in places wholly inhabited by Indians. The same influence is felt in appointments to Government services where I reckon that while only about 10% of Indian applicants are absorbed, not less than 50% or 60% of Christian applicants are recruited often through reasons best known to Christian heads. When no qualification exists, the men and women are ushered in as experts. There is a clear discrimination against Indians and in recent appointments, the nefarious tendency is well rehearsed to play one section of Indians against another.

 

  1. The purpose of my approaching you, Sir, is that the time has come for her Majesty’s Government to let us know exactly how far the Government can help 70% of its loyal subjects from freely practising their religion, culture and languages and of being indiscriminately eligible for appointments to various posts of Government. I vehemently protest against a recent notice of Government – published only in English – asking Indian illiterate parents as to how many of them would like their children to learn their mother-tongue. While I consider such notice an affront to my community, the Government has perhaps sought to enunciate its policy on the result of this notice which very few Indian parents could read. This policy has up to this date shut out several departments to them and allowed only a small fraction of Indian applicants to be appointed in comparison with candidates of other sections. An inquiry will no doubt confirm this.

 

  1. What we beg to demand from His Majesty’s Government are:

 

  • that our languages should be regularly taught in the Government and aided educational institutions of the Government on the same footing as English and French. It largely means the teaching of Hindi, as a small minority would legitimately desire Urdu and not more than half a dozen schools might have a majority of South Indians to demand Tamil.

 

  • that the churches of the two principal Indian religions, Hinduism and Islam be subsidised like the Christian churches.

 

  • that forced conversion or religious pressure of any kind in the Government and aided public institutions be made an offence and that the religions, cultures and languages of all his Majesty’s subjects be placed on the same footing and the same opportunities be afforded by the authorities for practising

 

  • that Indians should, according to their proportion and suitability be recruited in the public services of the colony.

 

  1. We Indians on our side shall be prepared to take the responsibilities of organising our temples and mosques, of producing the required number of teachers, moral instructors and civil servants for the purpose.

 

  1. It may be argued from this end, and it has always been lamely argued on the question of colour bar that the Indians have no statutory disability. It is my firm conviction that well-intended English socialists would have little idea of how the colonies are governed, unless they were to visit them and introduce socialist blood into the higher structure. It will certainly be admitted that the religion, culture and language do not have the same statutory position as those of the minority and that the Indians are not recruited in various services according to their proportion and suitability in comparison with other sections of the population. The Indian community of Mauritius are among the most loyal and versatile subjects of His Majesty. They will gratefully await your decision in regard to these matters.

    I have the honour to be

    Sir,

    Your obedient servant

    (Sgnd.)

    Jay Narain Roy M.A.L.L.B.

    Member, Legislative Council & Editor “JANATA”