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Notes on the Geography of Mauritius: Mauritius 1: Port Louis: Photo 16

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Which brings us to Basdeo Bissoondoyal and the 68 percent of the island's population whose ancestors came from India. It's the usual story: somebody had to work the sugarcane fields, and after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 the plantation owners of Mauritius turned to indentured laborers from India. Between 1834 and 1920 about a half-million arrived. When their five years of servitude were completed, half chose to stay. Bissoondoyal (1906-1991) was born in a southern village surrounded by cane fields worked by a community which lived a lot like slaves. He was a brilliant student, however, and went to India, studied there, saw Gandhi in Lahore, and returned in 1939. The next year he wrote to the British authorities: "...I am a Hindu missionary. I have been delivering lectures on Hindu Religion for the last six months or so. I made it a point to seek the permission of the police even when it was not necessary because I wanted to make it clear that I am a man of religion and as such would be last to disturb public peace and tranquility..." It didn't work. As he later explained, "I did not know that I was asking for trouble. I soon got into scrapes." He was arrested in 1944, shortly after leading a satyagraha. Fast forward to this statue, which reminds passersby of Bissoondoyal's importance in the push for independence. Since 1968, every prime minister but one has been of Indian descent.

See Jimmy Harmon writing in the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund Newsletter, 12 (2015).

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