A Brief History of Oppression in Mauritius

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The cat is out of the bag and another provisional charge is being deconstructed. Yatemani Gujadhur, former member of the Credit Committee at the Bramer Bank, is seeking damages from the State for wrongful arrest, back in 2015. I have lived with the man for long enough to know that he is the epitome of openness and morality. This is a reflection on oppression and what I can do for people who have nothing to blame themselves for.

It is only when hot blistering lava lands in one’s backyard that one realizes that the screaming noises and wails are not from one’s neighbour’s house, or in one’s “quartier”, but from deep within one’s own heart. It is then that you know disaster has finally struck! No, this is not a quote from Facebook, nor is it a particularly good one, but it is one that came to my mind over the last few months again and again like a rolling mantra.

Why was this mantra constantly ringing? For a man, that I have always held in the highest possible esteem, was arrested and provisionally charged by the police apparently for “conspiracy to defraud”. But, first, before I continue, let me tell you why this event initiated a deep reflection in me on the actual roots of oppression on our island. This person, whom I have personally known, has been, for me, the true representative of what is known in the Hindu and Buddhist canons as “Dharma”. A Dharmic person is a man who follows, to the letter, the dictates of “Dharma”.

The concept of “Dharma” is the essence of Vedantic and Buddhist literature. Its definition can be summarized from Britannica as such: “In Hinduism, Dharma is the religious and moral law governing individual conduct and is one of the four ends of life. In addition to the Dharma that applies to everyone (Sadharana Dharma) – consisting of truthfulness, non-injury, and generosity, among other virtues –, there is also a specific Dharma (Svadharma) to be followed according to one’s class, status, and station in life.”

«Take not what is not yours»

In brief, for simplistic purposes, let’s say Dharma is the law of nature. It is eternal, cannot be modified, and permeates this world, the next worlds, and even so, other worlds. He (the person in question) has been secretly admired by me for his insistence in following Dharma, choosing to live according to rules of justice and abiding by the rule “Take not what is not yours”. He had started his career as a teller clerk in the bank. It was a time (almost 40 years ago) when his family fortune suddenly looked like it had been completely dissipated. It had been split overnight because of the death of the family patriarch. “Séparation des biens”, as well as other Mahabharata- like family squabbles occured, which will take many family history books to write about.

The point here is: A man born with a golden spoon, but who lost everything, had to re-start from the very bottom to rebuild his personal life and career. Similar to his, is the story of his brothers and sisters who re-invented their lives bit by bit, strength to strength, meeting adversities with courage, never giving up. Strange how Destiny often times forces a man to put aside family name, and restart from the very bottom. He has to recreate himself and but, most importantly, follow his “Dharma” according to the situation he has found himself into because of his/ her karmic journey.

He worked his way up from the bottom of the ladder in a foreign bank, at a time when colonialism was slowly fading away. He pulled his sleeves up and, with grit and sheer hard work, impressed his British employers.So much so, that in time, he climbed the ladder not in a Sisyphus-like way, but in a way that led him to do good for others and his family. At the dawn of his career and with sheer hard work, he retired as second in command at the Bank. A blistering career success.

Well, you may ask why, now, arrest and charge a man like this? Not difficult to understand. But, for this, let’s take a dive into the roots of oppression. Everyone knows that, as a regime changes (and this is a national sport in Mauritius), a climate of revengeful wrath emerges in the country. Time has come, one would say, for the new leaders to rout the old, to replace them with fresh blood. But the truth is: this is an eyewash, and, in the rush and precipitation to draw blood, innocents are trampled.

There are famous cases in the history of world oppression that even books get arrested. Yes, books got arrested! In the Stalin era, Vasily Grossman, the great writer, died broken-hearted when Stalin’s regime decided to arrest his life-work for so called “dissension” as well as projecting the regime, through Art, in an unsatisfactory light. (As if no one knew what Stalin was doing in Siberia.) The book, Life and death would be eventually copied and preserved by well-wishers for many years before being published later to international acclaim in France.

The book detailed the enslavement of the mass by the disease of personality cult worship of Stalin by his cronies. This is not uncommon in Mauritius, in order to please the leader du jour. Cronies would do anything, go to any length. Even arrest the moon if necessary. A world where innocents get “broyés” by the apparatchik of a regime bent on its own egoistic sense of grandeur and self-preservation. In the strong egoistic will to self-preserve itself, the regime causes irreparable damage to lives, and like an elephant in a glass house, is incapable of mature and well poised reflection and “self-awareness”.

“Find the actual issue”

An angry, revengeful, regime is not unlike a spoilt brat who wants instant gratification without rationale and without reason. Let’s also not be naïve because there will always be backlashing in politics (that’s how the great human mind works apparently), but the will to keep a cool head and extricate “real” corruption also remains marred by political revengeful shark frenzies. The public demands that real corruption is routed but this rarely happens in a structured, scientific, and committed way.

Like the Buddha would say in old Pali, “yatha buta”, ‘i.e “find the actual issue”. So the regime should remove the actual cancer. And not, by the accidental incompetency of some, remove the liver, heart and eyes, of the hard working honest elements of its society. This takes maturity, leadership and supreme intelligence to engineer.

In the words of the Gita,“Driven by insatiable lusts drunk on the arrogance of power, hypocritical, deluded, their actions foul with self-seeking, tormented by a vast anxiety that continues until their death, convinced that the gratification of desire is life’s sole aim…”

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