Pahlad Ramsurrun


The Portuguese sailors visited Mauritius, the uninhabited island situated in the South-West of Indian Ocean in the early years of the 16th century. By the end of the same century, the Dutch Colonizers took possession and stayed until 1710. In 1715, the French Colonizers came and occupied it. They brought African and Malagasy slaves in great numbers and populated the island. The British subjugated the island in 1810. They liberated the slaves in 1833, but to save the sugar industry, they introduced indentured workers from India in great numbers, and the surface of the country was changed. But by 1900, the situation of the Indian inhabitants in the island was still in a deplorable state.

In 1901, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, while returning to India from South Africa with his whole family spent 18 days in Mauritius, when his ship was on anchor over here. Gandhi saw the deplorable state of his compatriots and thought to do something for them. Six years later, he sent the Baroda’s Barrister, Manilal Doctor to serve the Indian inhabitants. From 1907 to 1911, Manilal Doctor struggled for the rights of the Indians and brought a popular awakening through his concerted efforts. It is through his striving that he started the publication of a paper, the ‘Hindusthani’. At first it was published in English and Gujrati and later it was switched to English and Hindi.

As such, through the publication of the ‘Hindusthani’ newspaper, Manilal Doctor had initiated the Hindi movement in Mauritius. Besides, he had brought a consciousness in the mind of the Indians in regard to their ancestral culture and a natural love for the Hindi Language.

Hence, the four-year long struggle of Manilal Doctor that brought a renaissance among the Indian community was a natural phenomenon. It is also through the initiatives of Manilal Doctor that the lingering local Arya Samaj got its boosting and it was consolidated and set on a solid footing. Born in 1900, Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was greatly influenced by Manilal Doctor’s socio-political activities and that of the socio-religious works of the Arya Samaj. Born to be a leader, he led the Indo-Mauritians as from 1935 onwards, and after an intense and long struggle liberated Mauritius in 1968, and served as Prime Minister until 1982, and Governor General until 1985. Sir Anerood Jugnauth, mentor in the present Government, then, in turn converted the country into a Republic in 1992.

      To preserve and consolidate the Hindi Language and Indian culture in Mauritius, the “Second World Hindi Conference” was held in 1976, and the “Fourth …” in 1991. And this year for the third time, Mauritius is hosting the “11th World Hindi Conference” scheduled from August 18 to 20, 2018.

Peculiarity of
“The Hindusthani’

Manilal Doctor M.A., LLB, came to Mauritius on October 11, 1907.  From the outset he started practising as a lawyer and defended the Indians in the law courts of the Island. Being an envoy of Mahatma Gandhi, he always thought and fought for the rights of the Indian people living in Mauritius. As such, to safeguard the interest and give justice to his compatriots, he started the publication of a newspaper, THE HINDUSTHANI as from 1909. From its motto published on the front page: Liberty of Individuals! Fraternity of Men!! Equality of Races!!!, it seems that Manilal Doctor was impressed and came under the influence of the French Revolution and he had tried to build (construct) a fair social order based on “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” among the Indian Community living in this country.

Besides, by publishing “The Hindusthani” daily, Manilal doctor had in a way challenged the then Francophone press represented by “Annonces, Affiches et Avis Divers pour les Isles de France et de Bourbon” of 1773 and “Le Cernéen”, the daily in French language published as from 1832. Both papers were published and both belonged to the French planters and French Colonizers, according to the historian, Auguste Toussaint’s “Bibliography of Mauritius”. Accordingly, the papers published in French and English on Mauritian soil between 1773 and 1954 totalled to 606. In the same list the number of Indian papers published during the same period were 23, in which 17 is the number of Hindi papers, Tamil 3, Gujarati 2 and Urdu 2.

According to the earliest Indian historian in Mauritius, Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath (1923), “In a short while, ‘The Hindusthani’ created a stir among the (French) land owners. Manilal Doctor’s articles were brilliant and effective. He was not partial towards anybody. His whip lashed against all, whether it was religion or politics, Europeans or Indians. He was a very good commentator and an analyst also. Those who were hit hard by his comment were the most avid readers of his articles.”

In the beginning, “The Hindusthani’ was published in English and Gujrati, but as from 1910, it switched to English and Hindi. However, it is impossible to state as from what date it was published in English and Hindi, as no files of the Hindi-English edition of 1910 onwards are available in our National Archives or elsewhere. But, maybe by chance, our National Archives have preserved only two copies of ‘The Hindusthani’. The first issue, which appeared on March 15, 1909, is in English and Gujrati and the second available copy is dated 2nd March, 1913, and it is in English and Hindi. Another queerness, both copies are weeklies and both are published in the month of March in respective years. It is also lamentable that not a single copy of the daily ‘The Hindusthani’ has been traced so far, but yet, its existence cannot be questioned or doubted because several references are found in the contemporary newspapers and in the government official document, namely “The Blue Book of the Colony of Mauritius”.

M. K. Gandhi, who was struggling in South Africa for the rights of the Indians had the knowledge of ‘The Hindusthani’ daily and here it is worth to give the quote from “The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’- “He (Manilal Doctor) has made a great mistake
in converting his paper (The Hindusthani) into a daily. As it is, there is no worth in it. The types are bad, the paper is bad, and so is the substance. He doesn’t have capable helpers in Mauritius. How, then, can a proper newspaper be brought? Besides, where are the readers?”

Departure of Manilal Doctor from our shores 

In the issue of ‘The Hindusthani’ of March 2, 1913, there are two articles in Hindi. A long article in prose on the festival of “Divali” and the other one is a short poem on the same topic. Hence, in the absence of any earliest document published in Mauritius, in which there has been an imprint of Hindi script, (although it is believed that ‘The Hindusthani’ – in English and Hindi – was published from 1910 to 1913) it is an undeniable and unjustifiable fact, that the above issue is the only earliest available document on which the Hindi Movement of Mauritius reposes itself.

Huge Tinker has said that Manilal Doctor had come under the influence of the Arya Samaj. In fact, the Arya Samaj in Mauritius was initiated by Khemlall Lallah of Curepipe Road, and this fact is supported by an entry in the ‘The Planters and Commercial Gazette’ of 1906, a year before the arrival of Manilal Doctor on our shores. But according to Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath, the historian, Manilal Doctor had assisted the foundation of the Port Louis Arya Samaj in 1911, and he had given his press and his newspaper ‘The Hindusthani’ to that wing of the Arya Samaj, while leaving Mauritius in September 1911.   

Birth of ‘Mauritius
Arya Patrika’

According to Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath, on 8th April 1911, the Port Louis Arya Samaj was founded in the presence of Manilal Doctor, together with the help of a few enlightened members like Messrs. Gayasingh, Ramjilal, Madholal, Chuttur, Lekhram, Khersingh among others. The office bearers were Khemlall Lallah, President, Guruparsad Duljeetlall, Secretary, and Khersingh, treasurer. Pt. Jagannath was appointed as a preacher. Whereas Pt. Ramawadh Sharma was also a preacher and he was given the responsibility of editing the ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’.

Thus, the ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’ became the first organ of the local Arya Samaj in this country. It was published on 1st June 1911. According to A. Toussaint and H. Adolphe, it was a fortnightly paper, printed in English and Hindi. The first editor was Khemlall Lallah, the father of the local Arya Samaj. After his illness and later his demise, it was edited by Swami Swatantranand for a short period. It ceased appearing in 1914.

The Oriental Gazette

The Arya Samaj movement that had brought a renaissance among the Indian section of the population in the first decade of the twentieth century was in fact responsible for the birth and development of Hindi journalism and periodicals in this country. It is interesting to note that the orthodox section of the Indian community had also reacted to the onslaught of the Arya Samaj movement, on the one hand, and on the other, it brought unity among them and caused them to counteract against the progressive philosophy of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and the Arya Samaj.

Hence, Ramloll Tiwari, the leader of the orthodox section founded ‘The Oriental Gazette’. It was published in English and Hindi. Although its name is not cited in the “Blue Book “ nor in the “Bibliography of Mauritius”, yet its existence cannot be doubted, because the presence of two issues of the ‘Oriental Gazette’ are mentioned in the ‘Planters and Commercial Gazette’ in 1912.

Before leaving Mauritius, Manilal Doctor had called Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath from Poona, India, to edit ‘The Hindusthani’. The Pandit came here in 1912. In the same way, influenced by the herculean struggle of Manilal Doctor, the young Cashinath Kistoe had gone to India for higher studies. Although, Pt. Atmaram Vishwanath was a Maharastrian and Pt. Cashinath Kistoe a Bengali, yet both were Hindi enthusiast par excellence and both had journalistic skills in their veins.