Yesterday marked a change in the leadership of the Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation, a religious organization devoted to the handling of Hindu festivities and religious assemblies. Somduth Dulthumun was overthrown after 15 years at the helm of this organization which is now being led by Rajenrah Ramdhean’s ”Diya” faction. People within the Hindu community applauded this major upset as the previous camp was often accused of pandering to politicians. But it is the existence of the federation itself that is worrying, because it defies our secular values at the core, because it is excruciatingly identity-based and therefore, discriminatory.
People who identify as Hindus are the largest religious group on the island, on top of being the majority in a ‘multicultural’ society. But the term ‘multicultural’ itself is a misnomer because the island actually hosts a myriad of ‘mono-cultures’ who historically have clashed with one another in a bid to protect their own privileges and limiting the aspirations of other groups. Sectarian violence isn’t unheard of and there are plenty of instances in our own history when the whole country was aggrieved by the petty communal skirmishes that resulted in bloodshed. The death of the popular Seggae icon, Kaya, is one of the painful reminders of a society that can never put aside its imagined differences.
The persistence of religious entities that seek to maintain their independence and authority goes to show just how sectarian a vast majority of our people are. It’s not a stretch to opine that their willful designation and distance from the Mauritian cause indicates a movement redolent in its own superiority and homogeneity . Communalism stems from these dark alleyways of our culture, where politics is attuned to our religious biases, which might explain why a non-Hindu would never gain the support of the Hindu majority. This might be the kernel of truth in our political system that’s awash with sectarian divide, longstanding prejudices, tribal shibboleths among other things.
It is quite remarkable that a group that glorifies Hinduism has shoehorned it into petty politics. The spiritual aspect of religion has been overridden and it has been reduced to a movement so emphatically politicized that it points to a willingness to separate from the Mauritian identity. Instead of reveling in our shared history, we cling to the detritus of the traditions our ancestors had left us, who themselves had fled a country that bastardized religion and created barriers among its own people. We will never transcend beyond our current social and political tardiness if we don’t jettison the religious and dogmatic ethnocentrism we’ve infused in our culture.
The Mauritian Identity should be an inborn trait in every individual who breathes the air of this magnificent country. We cannot hide behind our religious and tribal moats and expect that individuals won’t borrow from this narrative for political expediency. Mauricianisme should be etherealized and engraved in our core values, for it is the culmination of centuries of reciprocity in our struggles and strife, despite the ethnic differences of our ancestors.