Old Diaspora were deeply involved in Indian Nationalism, says historian Ajay Mahurkar

Published Date:   Saturday, Apr 27, 2013

While Brindavan’s campaign found an echo in the religiously oriented nationalism of the first decade of the twentieth century and perhaps provided the symbolic impetus for abolition of indentured labour system, Manilall Doctor’s campaign perhaps helped to broadbase the mass economic nationalism of the subsequent decades of the twentieth century, says historian Ajay Mahurkar

Historian Ajay Mahurkar, while delivering a talk on “Lala Brindavan: A Returnee Emigrant” at GRFDT Seminar titled "Indian Diaspora: Historical and Contemporary Issues” on 27 April 2013 at Jawaharlal Nehru University spoke on many unexplored issues related to the Indian diaspora's involvement in the national movement in India. Based on his work on the archival records in Mauritius and in India, Mahurkar highlighted the journey of Lala Brindavan, a returnee emigrant in the Indian national movement around 1908-1909. Lala Brindavan originally hailed from Punjab and went to Mauritius as an indentured labour.  The central issues raised by him in the national movement were related to the issue of religious defilement and physical ill-treatment (whipping by lash) to  which the Indian labour was subjected to, in Mauritius plantations. He alleged that beef was used in the production of Mauritian sugar.  He opposed the use of beef  in the production of sugar in the sugar factories of Mauritius. He also opposed the task of carrying night soil to which the Indian labour was regularly assigned on the grounds of religious defilement. In contrast the paper highlighted the role of Mr. Manilall Doctor, an associate of Gandhi, who had been tasked to look in to Brindavan’s complaints by the British  government in Mauritius. He also highlighted how Manilall Doctor was able to take a broader view of the question by also taking into account the conditions of hundreds of small planters of Indian origin who had been supplying sugarcane to the factories in Mauritius.The stopping of export of Mauritian sugar to India, as Brindavan was demanding, would have affected the very large number of Indians themselves in Mauritius. Instead from a perspective of economic nationalism Manilall Doctor suggested an integration of Mauritian and Indian sugar interests. While Brindavan’s campaign found an echo in the religiously oriented nationalism of the first decade of the twentieth century and perhaps provided the symbolic impetus for abolition of indentured labour system, Manilall Doctor’s campaign perhaps helped to broadbase the mass economic nationalism of the subsequent decades of the twentieth century. 

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