1. Please share a story that you feel best illustrates how levels of peace are sustained in your community.
D.V. I grew up in 2 villages. In my mother’s village most neighbours were Muslims. My best friend was a Muslim boy. We went to school together and played football in the same team. In my father’s village, I had neighbours from different ethnic backgrounds including Creoles (African-Mauritians). My football hero was Creole. My mother, a Telugu lady, sang Creole songs to me. All these have helped me to develop a cross-ethnic outlook and culture.
2. Given your experience in politics in the region, what do you think it is important for the world to know about why and how Mauritius sustains peace between groups?
D.V. Although there are different sets of tension and conflicts (class, religion, language, skin colour etc.) most people tacitly recognise that we are condemned to live together and so must learn tolerance which is vital for coexistence. We must have learnt from past mistakes which led to loss of lives.
3. We are interested in the work you have done to promote Mauritian (Creole) as the language of the region. Can you discuss the politics of language in Mauritius and how the current use of language promotes or detracts from peace in the area?
D.V. A language can be a wall between people or a bridge, if properly used. In Mauritius, English, the official language is nobody’s L1; French, the semi-official language, is the L1 of 3.8% of the population; there are several identity languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil etc, which are not L1’s. Then there is Mauritian Creole (MC) which I call Mauritian, which is the L1 of 90% of the population and the L2 of the remaining 10%. Because of ignorance and prejudices MC is despised and ignored.
I believe MC can become a powerful instrument for global development in terms of nation building and universal functional literacy.
4. How do you think the ways history is remembered in Mauritius contributes or detracts from current levels of peace?
D.V. Mauritius has known all evil practices humanity has known: colonisation, slavery, exploitation of indentured labour from India, racism, communalism, sexism, casteism, class domination etc. But at the same time, we have seen great moments of solidarity and sharing which remain rare and short-lived. There are still more walls than bridges.
5. When thinking about the future, how do you think people envision future relationships between groups?
D.V. In Mauritius, we cannot see the wood for the trees. Take religion as an example. When we study the Bhagavad-Gita, the Old and New Testaments and the Holy Koran we can have a glimpse of the nature of faith but in practice, over-emphasis on rituals leads people to see other people as aliens. Consequently, the liberating power of faith is destroyed by what William Blake called “the mind-forged manacles”.
5. What do you see as the main challenges to peace in Mauritius today? When you think about challenges Mauritius faces now, what is the response, and do/how might these responses contribute to resilience and sustained peace?
D.V. In the years to come, Mauritius will face great difficulties as a result of global warming/burning and climate change/crisis. I am sure that the hard times to come will force us to think anew and realise how important national solidarity and sharing are.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
D.V. The Mauritian archipelago is made up of several creole islands on which two beautiful creole languages, Mauritian and English, are used. They will both help us to consolidate our national identity and our bilingual literacy will help us become good citizens of Planet Earth.
21 November 2019