The 187th arrival of indentured labourers was commemorated at the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site, in Trou Fanfaron, Port Louis, this morning, with a wreath-laying by the acting Prime Minister, Mr Louis Steven Obeegadoo, and various cultural and artistic items providing immersing experiences in the lives of the Indian ancestors.
Among the wreath-layers were the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun; the Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Mr Avinash Teeluck; the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Xavier-Luc Duval; the High Commissioner of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ms Rezina Ahmed; the High Commissioner of the Republic of India, Mrs K. Nandini Singla; and other personalities.
The Vacoas Rang Bhoomi Kala Mandir presented live enactments of the arrival of immigrants, of recruitment at Aapravasi Ghat, and of the departure of indentured labourers to their respective sugar estates. A living picture of life at the Immigration Depot was shown together with live art painting demonstration of the buffer zone of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site, prior to the proposed development of the area.
The commemoration activities also included an exhibition of existing artworks on Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site and indenture sites by Mauritian artists; basketry demonstration showcasing traditional craftsmanship by Lois Lagesse Trust Fund; and performances of traditional music and dances.
The Acting Prime Minister, in his address for the occasion, highlighted the importance of remembering history and of the sacred duty for the population to express admiration for, and appreciation to, the forebears. He recalled the landing of the forefathers on the historic site of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site 187 years ago, after their journey from Calcutta, India, on board the M.V. Atlas, with the objective of creating a future for themselves and their children.
The resistance and resilience of the indentured labourers, who toiled the land and earned a meagre living, while in the process built the infrastructure and pave the way for the economic transformation of the country after independence, was stressed by Mr Obeegadoo. He stated that they deserved to be remembered since they opened a new chapter in the history of the country and contributed to shape the destiny of the nation.
The Acting Prime Minister spoke, moreover, of Government efforts towards the duty of remembrance and of preserving memory. He cited, among others, decreeing 2nd November a national holiday in 2001, and working for the inscription of the Aapravasi Ghat, on 16 July 2006, on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO) World Heritage List. Mr Obeegadoo also paid homage to the late Sir Anerood Jugnauth, former President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, who, he emphasised, was instrumental in the preservation and promotion of the historical legacy and site.
As for the Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, he talked of the resilience, efforts, hard work, sacrifice and contribution of the indentured labourers who laid the stone for the building of modern and prosperous Mauritius. He urged the population to take inspiration from the forefathers' determination, values, courage and perseverance, so as to face the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to pursue economic recovery in unity and harmony.
Underlining the imperative to increase awareness on the indentured experience across the world, Mr Teeluck evoked the Indentured Labour Route Project, aiming at bringing together those countries that have experienced the migration of indenture labour in the nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. He dwelt on the first Inter-Ministerial Meeting of the Indentured Labour Route Project, held online in July 2021, and put forward the financial input of Mauritius, that is some Rs 10 million, in scientific research to preserve knowledge and memory.
The Minister further recalled the part played by late Sir Anerood Jugnauth in honouring the indentured labourers and their participation in the socioeconomic development of Mauritius.
For her part, the High Commissioner of the Republic of India affirmed that India joined Mauritius in paying homage to the country's Indian roots and ancestry. She spoke of the necessity of marking the solemn occasion that kicked off the foundation of the unique relationship and umbilical connection between Mauritius and India. Mrs Singla evoked the arrival of the more than 460,000 Indians who, like so many of their fellowmen, went on to create a whole community overseas and develop their own special identity. She, as well, paid tribute to late Sir Anerood Jugnauth.