The untold political story: The Muslim contribution from 1976 onward
Mauritius Muslims have a great political history.
However, it is one filled with elements fit for a ‘serie noire’.
Muslims are now saying the political class used them for their own gains.
The Muslim political history is rigged with betrayals, leadership trivia and a lost political identity.
The most famous case of betrayal came after the wondrous 1982 60-0 MMM-PSM victory.
Just like the aftermath of the 1968 vote for independence, the Muslims felt abandoned.
In 1968, they voted largely for the PMSD, a party opposed to the independence of Mauritius.
In this series we will revive some of these dramatic moments that have shaped the country’s history.
To begin with, there is no other moment than the glorious 1976 MMM victory at the heart of Plaine Verte.
The victory celebration at the famous Khadafi Square is immemorial.
This is where the MMM held massive rallies ahead of the polls, but it is also a revolutionary square.
True to the identity of the square’s patron, the country was deemed sick if Plaine Verte sneezed!
The Muslim vote, along with the Christian vote, was central to political pressure against the government.
It was a must for the MMM and other parties to win their support.
In 1971 the police used tear gas to dissipate massive crowds at the Plaine Verte round-about.
The people revolted against the Labour government and that was the turning point for the Muslims.
They shifted support from the PMSD to the MMM of Paul Berenger.
There was police brutality against the protestors who responded with equal force.
Burnt police cars, a station razed to the ground and policemen running for their lives.
That is the result of the popular uprising of the early 70’s.
Over the years Berenger became the ‘Moise’ or ‘Moses’ of the country.
By all means, Berenger was the liberator against a tragically impotent Labour Party.
But this connotation played against Berenger in the most crucial moment of the MMM.
The MMM came to power in 1982.
It was thanks to the massive Muslim support that contributed to the historic 60-0.
Meanwhile, the Muslims had high hopes and expectations despite the failed promises.
The MMM said it would eradicate the drug abuses at Plaine Verte within 24 hours of winning in 1982.
It also wooed the Muslims to believe the community will benefit from an MMM government.
The party failed on both calls.
Instead, the Muslims became ostracised for years after the fatal MMM split in 1983.
it was the result of a leadership clash between the Berenger and Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ).
In the meantime, Jugnauth won the fight with the support of a third of the MMM MP’s.
But he also had the support from Harish Boodhoo’s PSM and the Labour-PMSD remnants in Parliament.
They were given seats based on the much-maligned ‘Best Loser’ system.
The betrayal of the Muslim and Christian votes for that matter was obvious.
The remnants of the MMM in power gave in to India’s influence on our country’s politics.
The Muslim said a heavy price, as said above, despite Kader Bhayat.
Bhayat was a top Muslim leader within the MMM and he chose to stay with SAJ against Berenger.
The latter had clashed with Bhayat on several issues – including rice subsidies.
The country was in a terrible economic state after the defeat of the Labour Party in 1982,
The Labour Party would later throw the phrase “Mange Batate, Manioc” on Berenger.
However, it was Jugnauth who said that phrase in the run-up to the October 1982 MMM-PSM crisis.
Berenger, Jugnauth, Bhayat and other did not weigh in what the Muslim and Christian voters wished.
They fought like children over a piece of rotten meat.
Nevertheless the Muslims became immediate victims.
No one was there at the top of the political ladder to support them.
At least, this is what the Muslims would say when questioned on the post-1982 crisis.
And who can blame them?
There were the nasty custom officers attack against Muslim women returning from the Haj pilgrimage.
The sending off of the Libyan Ambassador to Port Louis.
The breaking of Mauritius-Libya relationship added fuel to the tragedy.
But the Muslims continued their support for the MMM after 1983.
They voted three MMM candidates one election after another.
Plaine Verte was the ‘Fixed Deposit’ for the MMM.
This made it the target of various government’s that came after 1983.
And things did not change even after the MMM entered into a coalition with the MSM in 1991.