PAHLAD RAMSURRUN 

Now it is feasible to give the version of SSR on such an important topic up till now unrevealed by any author. Ranjeet Panchalay of Bareilly, U.P., India, while on a visit to Mauritius to participate in the 11th World Hindi Conference evoked the matter for the first time. He is a research scholar and a specialist on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose literature. He has produced a book “Underground Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” in Hindi. His assertion is- “A letter of Subhas Chandra Bose dated 14. 5.1935 is in circulation on the net these days. Although it is directly not addressed to Ramgoolam, yet its elements very much refer to because in some ways it coincided with the departure date of Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s from London to Mauritius.

As such, in regard to the arrival of Dr. Ramgoolam, there have been several entries in the Arya Vir of Pandit Cashinath Kistoe, the Mauritius Arya Patrika and Le Radical, dated 5.7.1935, stating that

Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who has completed his medical studies in England is returning on Sunday 7th July 1935. On his arrival both factions of the Arya Samaj, (Pratinidhi and Paropkarini) had given separate receptions to the new doctor.

Another important element in this context is the hand-written letter of Subhas Chandra Bose from Rudolhnerstans, Vienna dated 14. 5.1935, in which he states: “Through life and death, let us carry in our hearts the following motto which fell from the lips of one of the greatest souls of India, Sri Aurobindo Ghose: I should like to see some of you becoming great – great not in your own sake, but to make India great – so that she may stand up with head erect among the free nations of the world. Those of you who are poor and obscure – I should like to see their poverty and obscurity devoted to the service of their motherland. Work that she might prosper – suffer that she might rejoice”.

Now it is good to give an extensive extract from Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s autobiography to illustrate fully his close association with Hinduism, the Indian leaders and especially with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who had known him personally and had allotted the task of proofreading his book entitled The Indian Struggle as far back as in 1934- 35: “ Ancient India reveals a high watermark in the history of human civilization. I studied the great works of Indian Literature. I was enthralled by Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, and enlightened by the life and message of Lord Buddha. I delved deep into the profound waters of The Bhagvadgita. I also came to understand the causes, which brought about the decline of such a glorious civilization and how a great people had allowed their political kingdom to fall into the hands of Moghul invaders. Then there followed the British colonization of India, which further drained the country’s wealth and stifled its economic and industrial growth. The contact with Europe, however, brought along with it new currents of thought which began to take root, grow and bear fruit thanks to such gardeners as the renaissance scholar Raja Ram Mohan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj, Swami Dayanand and his reform Movement- the Arya Samaj, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Swami Vivekananda. Rationalism penetrated India through schools and universities and there was an upsurge of Indian nationalism around Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghose, and later under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. There was also the flowering of Indian literature with Rabindranath Tagore leading the way.  And so, rays of hope began to pierce the gloom and a fresh breeze stirred new life into the valley of despair.

“I found myself getting involved in the most glorious part of India’s freedom movement as a keen observer of the Gandhi-Nehru-Bose liberation Struggle. My hero was Lala Lajpat Rai, lion of Punjab. We students had long sessions arguing, organising, petitioning, writing and agitating in a spirit of solidarity, dedicated to the cause of a great nation’s liberation.

“My stay among the Indian students thus provided me with a unique political apprenticeship especially as I developed close friendship with patriotic students like Sidhanand Sinha who was an able student leader and organizer. But it was Vithalbhai Patel, the elder brother of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel the future Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India, who came to be my personal political guru. Vithalbhbhai Patel was later to become Speaker of the Indian Parliament. He initiated me into the art and science of politics. Serving as his secretary I became intimately involved in the Indian Struggle. Through him I came in direct contact with great Indian political personalities of the day- Srinivasa Shastri, Gandhi, Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and Subhas Chandra Bose. At first I was more attracted to the revolutionary methods of Subhas Chandra Bose and did not quite believe in the efficacy of non-violent Gandhian civil disobedience methods. And when Bose was in trouble and had escaped to Geneve he sent me his manuscript, The Great Indian Struggle, which I proofread during its publication”.

The long stay of Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in London due to the interruption of his medical studies was in a way beneficial for he had turned the negative tide and made it positive by associating himself with the Indian students’ associations and thus gained the required experience in the art of politics. But, how did he complete his medical studies? Let us turn to his autobiography – “In 1932, I met G.M.D. Atchia who had accompanied the Mauritian delegation to London and he took pity upon me and raised a subscription at home to allow me to complete my studies. That’s how I managed to pass my exams and return to Mauritius in 1935”.

On reaching home Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam found himself in an extremely difficult situation for it was not easy for an Indo-Mauritian doctor to earn his living in the villages; “I did the best I could, often dodging the barriers placed upon my freedom to visit patients who needed medical aid. I was not authorized to visit workers at the estate camps, which were often more like prison camps. The estate owners had their informers and spies who reported the coming and going of doctors like me. I set up consultation rooms at a few places like Long Mountain, and St. Pierre and my clientele gradually grew. Later I moved to Port Louis and set up practice as 87, Desforges Street.

“Apart from my base at Port Louis, I moved around the Island a great deal in my small Austin car. I made it a point to keep in personal contact with people, not only as a doctor but also as a social worker and a well-wisher, sharing in their joys and sorrows. Meeting them on all sorts of social occasions, weddings, ceremonies, funerals, anniversaries of baitkas and Hindi schools—I encouraged them to preserve the cultural and spiritual values enshrined in the Hindu dharma, thus reinforcing the good work being done by the dynamic Arya Samaj movement I would tell them the importance of education, democracy, freedom and socialism”.  

In December 1935, the Indian Centenary celebrations took place to mark a hundred years of Indians’ Immigration to Mauritius. Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam contributed an article in the Indian Centenary book, entitled- ‘Sons of Immigrants’, which became his political manifesto. It reflects Ramgoolam’s maturity of grasping the socio-politico-cultural problems of his community and he advocates what measures should be taken to remedy the situation. He exhorted: “It is the crying need of the times that the two great bodies that compose the Indo-Mauritian community should walk hand in hand for the advancement of the people. For that, however, we must organize ourselves to the pitch of our ability. There must be a great mass movement, but in that mass movement we must not be cheated into giving fictitious importance to what is false, dead and well-buried”.

With such a strong determination Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam threw himself into the arena of public life and led an uncompromising battle to    free the country from colonial rule. After a long struggle he liberated the country on March 12, 1968, became the first Prime Minister and the father of the nation.

The end.