The resurgence of Hindi newspapers and periodicals in the 1920’s was significant for various reasons. But what have been the causes for not having any Hindi newspaper during the First World War? Was it the absence of a capable Indian leader or an editor, or the very exigencies of the First World War? Whatever may be the cause, two events that took place in the meantime had a direct impact on the evolution of Hindi Journalism in Mauritius.
First, the arrival of Pandit Cashinath Kistoe, the firebrand Indo-Mauritian Vedic missionary from Lahore, India, in 1915. On his arrival, he immediately joined the Arya Paropkarini Sabha as a preacher. At the outset, he assisted Swami Swatantranand in propagating vedic religion throughout the Island. In 1916, when the Swami left for India because of his illness, Pt. Cashinath Kistoe went on doing the yeomen service single-handed until 1926. In his missionary zeal, he founded the Aryan Vedic School of Vacoas on August 1, 1918 with ten pupils on roll. He also opened dozens of Arya Samaj branches throughout the island. It is he who was to start the re-editing of the ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ in the 1920’s.
The second event was the arrival of Ramkhelawon Boodhun, the First Indo-Mauritian Barrister in 1915. R.K. Boodhun was a member of the Curepipe branch of Arya Samaj before going to England to qualify as a lawyer. In 1915, he had seen Mahatma Gandhi while attending his lecture in the White Hall in London. He was influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy; later he was to write a biography of that saintly man in 1943.
(a) Birth of ‘Mauritius Indian Times’
Being a foresighted leader within the Indian community, R.K. Boodhun thought to tread on the path of Manilal Doctor and indulged in active politics. Therefore, in collaboration with Kawlessursingh of Rose Hill, he felt the need of a newspaper for the Indian community, and they started a bilingual daily ‘The Mauritius Indian Times’ as from December 6, 1920. It was the second daily after the demise of ‘The Hindusthani’. And when a few issues were sent to Manilal Doctor in Fiji, the latter was elated realizing the progress made by the Indian community in Mauritius, and he sent his blessings from there.
This was a political newspaper published in English, French and Hindi. Its editors were H. Dwarka for the English-French section, and Pandit Ramawadh Sharma for the Hindi section. Its motto was: “Union is strength”. Besides, R. K. Boodhun had decided to contest the coming general elections in January 1921. It seems that this paper was to campaign in his favour. When the results came, R.K. Boodhun was defeated, yet the governor nominated him to sit in the Council of Government. ‘Mauritius Indian Times’ ceased to appear as from August 1, 1924.
(b) Mauritius Mitra
By the mid 1920’s another leader among the Indo-Mauritians had emerged. He was no other than Rajcoomar Gujadhur. Hence, impressed by the adventurous spirit of Manilal Doctor and R.K. Boodhun, he in turn started another daily ‘Mauritius Mitra’ (Friends of Mauritius) as from August 25, 1924. It was also a political newspaper, published in English, French and Hindi. The editors were Pt. Ramawadh Sharma, for the Hindi section, and Pt.Mooktaram for the English and French section. It lasted until 1932.
(C) Mauritius Arya Patrika
The Arya Samaj movement resurged in the 1920’s, because, in that decade the Birth centenary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati was to be commemorated. Besides, the arrival of another Vedic missionary from India, Pandit Benimadho Suteeram, and Dr. Jugroo Seegobin, the first mauritian Hindi Speaking medical doctor having studied in France, was to consolidate the movement. Hence, under the supervision of Pt. Cashinath Kistoe, the Arya Paropkarini Sabha refounded the ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ (Mauritius Aryan Journal) as from October 12, 1924. Mehta Jaimini, an Indian Vedic scholar, came from India in connection with Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s birth centenary commemoration. On that historic occasion, a special issue of ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ was published under the supervision of Mehta Jaimini. This was a pioneering work in the field of Hindi Journalism in Mauritius. As no copy of that “Shatabdi Ank” published in Mauritius was traceable in our country, the author of this article had got and brought a copy from the library of Swami Bhawanee Dayal Sanyassy from Ajmer in India, while on his research journey in 1983. Swami Dayanand Saraswati Death centenary commemoration was held at the Dayanand Dharamshala, now Arya Sabha Mauritius, Champ de Mars, on February 21 and 22, 1925, under the chairmanship of Rajcoomar Gujadhur and Jugutrai Trivedi.
The Impact of Swami Dayanand
Following Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s death commemoration, Fakeerasing Gujadhur founded the ‘Hindu Maha Sabha’ in Port Louis on February 27. The Indo Mauritians had their first laureate in the person of Rampersad Neerunjun in 1925. Mehta Jaimini toured the Island delivering 284 religious sermons in nine months in English and Hindi, and thus, impressing a group of the young generation. He also founded a young wing within the ‘Arya Paropkarini Sabha’ and enlisted the three Bissoondoyal brothers as members in it. The Geeta Mandal was founded in August, while Sir Kunwar Maharajsingh’s Report on the stoppage of Indian Immigration was published in ‘Mauritius Mitra’ in September 1925. Not only this, Lala Lajpat Rai, the fire brand leader and the President of Hindu Maha Sabha of India, and at the same time, a prominent member of the Indian National Congress of India, had sent ‘The historic message’, requesting the Indo-Mauritian voters to vote only for the Indo-Mauritian candidates in the coming general elections to be held in January 1926. That message was published in the headline of ‘Mauritius Mitra’, everyday in November-December 1925.
As a consequence of all these happenings within the Indian community, two Indian candidates contesting the January 1926 general elections, namely Dunputh Lallah from Grand Port District and Rajcoomar Gujadhur from Flacq District were elected to sit in the Council of Government. This was an unprecedented feat and unthinkable achievement for the Indo-Mauritians in the history of this country. If the ‘Mauritius Mitra’ had campaigned for Rajcoomar Gujadhur in Flacq, Dunputh Lallah had received the same support from ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ in Grand Port.
(d) The Birth of Arya Vir
After the Death commemoration of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the newly young enlisted members in the ‘Arya Kumar Sabha’, a subsidiary of the Arya Paropkarini Sabha, took the apparatus of the latter in their hands and expelled all the founding members from the Arya Paropkarini Sabha, including Pandit Cashinath Kisteo, Guruparsad Duljeetlal, Pandit Gayasingh, Chuttur Master among others. Such a « cassure » in the Arya Paropkarini Sabha resulted in the creation of the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha in 1927. Pandit Cashinath Kistoe was allotted the task for starting another organ (newspaper). Thus, the ‘Arya Vir’ (Aryan Hero) saw the light of day on May 3, 1929. Its editor was Pandit Cashinath Kistoe, the indefatigable Arya Samajist missionary. He went on editing the ‘Arya Vir’ weekly until his death in 1947.
In the 1920’s a few newspapers appeared for a short time and disappeared. According to Somduth Bhuckory in 1926, the ‘Alankareeka’ (Adornment) appeared for a short time. A year later, the ‘Sanatan Dharma Patrika’ was published and its reference appeared in ‘Mauritius Mitra’ on 12.3.1925. Similarly, Pandit Greejanan edited a few copies of ‘Vasant’ in Hindi language in 1930. But no copies of these short published periodicals have been traced so far.
The Sanatan Dharmark
The orthodox followers of Hinduism started the publication of ‘Sanatan Dharmark’ (‘the sun of eternal duty’). It was a weekly paper that appeared as from December 15, 1933. Its editor was the Narsingh Dass. That weekly publication appeared in English, French and Hindi. Narsingh Dass was a great exponent of the orthodox school of Hinduism and he was always in polemical contest with the religious doctrines of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and that of the Arya Samaj. Hence, severe criticisms appeared in the columns of ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ and ‘Arya Vir’, on the one hand, and on the other hand, in the columns of ‘Sanatan Dharmark’, only to rebut the arguments of each other. Such polemics in the long run created awareness towards the weaknesses and a spirit of self-improvement was to kindle the mind of Indo-Mauritians in this country. The ill effect of this contest was that the ‘Sanatan Dharmark’ ceased as from 1942 while the ‘Arya Vir ‘and ‘Jagriti’ went on appearing until the 1950’s.
Besides, from the beginning, the Arya Samajist papers had been more effective than the orthodox Sanatanist papers. Pandit Luxminarain Chaturvedi has said in a sub-titled article: “At this moment, among the newspapers that are being published, the earliest is the ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’, the second is ‘Arya Vir’ and the third, ‘Sanatan Dharmark. The three are shedding tears in the name of their religion. If ‘Arya Patrika’ and ‘Arya Vir’ did not receive grants from the mother society, these papers could not save their face from their readers”.
TO BE CONTINUED