With the implied and even active support of the Mauritian political class and through electors’ behaviour, communalism will enter the Mauritian political lexicon with official recognition of four distinct communities : Hindus, Muslims, Chinese, and anybody not fitting in those three to a group euphemistically called General Population. Not only communalism but also casteism and, to cap it all, a clear demarcation of Hindus into Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking Hindus (Tamils, Telegu and Marathis). And the consequential effect of these practices will give rise, on the periphery of our political spectrum, to marginalised groups unable to make demands through the political process and legitimately share the economic spoils. Let us delve in our history and see how we came to this position of almost no-return.
To the political class elected to the Legislative Council in 1948, legislative debate was an new and learning experience few could properly assimilate. « They got power divorced from responsibility » is how Colonial Office described them. Sookdeo Bissoondoyal will be suspended and jailed in November 1948, while Millien would be sued. Guy Rozemont will be jailed three times : in 1950 for illegal picketing, in 1951 for contempt, and in 1953 for breach of law. But the mass of the electorate will admire their defiance of the Colonial authorities. Colonial Office responded by creating in April 1951 the post of Liaison Officers to initiate senior politicians in the art of political responsibilities. The appointment of Donald Mackenzie-Kennedy’s successor, Sir Hilary Blood (September 1949 – January 1954) would make matters worse. Blood, by his appointment of nominees soon after the August 1953 General Elections, was seen as openly siding with the Franco-Mauritian conservatives and nullifying the result of the elections. This drove the MLP to ask for Constitutional changes. Communalism was becoming rampant an no community trusted another. The Ralliement Mauricien was formed in December 1952 and, three years later, it became the Parti Mauricien and was increasingly attracting creoles disenchanted by the MLP seen as an « Indian » party.
Governor Hilary Blood’s successor, Sir Robert Scott (March 1954 – July 1959), assisted by his extremely capable Colonial Secretary, Robert Newton, met community and political leaders to solve the main political problem then facing Mauritius, « that of balancing or rectifying ethnic/communal representation ». Scott advocated for a « Boundaries Commission proposal » to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lennox-Boyd. In July 1955, in what was known as the First London Conference, Lennox-Boyd met eight Mauritian politicians and suggested Proportional Representation (PR). The Mauritius Labour Party flatly rejected it, the Parti Mauricien agreed. But politics in Mauritius was getting deeply communalised and polarised. The Muslim Committee of Action (CAM) was launched in 1957 and the year after, in April, Sookdeo Bissoondoyal formed his Independent Forward Bloc (IFB). Robert Scott was in London from November 1956 to April 1957 when, under local pressure – mainly by Renganaden’s campaign against PR – the Colonial Office convoked the Second London Conference (February 1957). There were two main outcomes. On July 5, a ministerial system was introduced in Mauritius and an Electoral Boundary Commission was appointed. The Trustam-Eve Commission reported in January 1958, and we got the 40 single-member constituencies and Mauritians went to the General Elections twice on that system (9 March 1959 and 21 October 1963). But communalism got further entrenched and politics bi-polarised.