Bihar to help Indo-Mauritians trace ancestral roots

By Imran Khan, IANS

Patna : Mauritians of Indian origin, most of them from Bihar, will no longer find it difficult to trace their roots with the state government setting up a special cell to aid them.

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State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is visiting Mauritius later this month, said he understood the pain of Mauritians of Bihar origin who are desperate to discover their ancestral lineage.

His government would collaborate with Mauritius to prepare a comprehensive database of all Biharis who had migrated to the Indian Ocean country in an effort to help them track their roots.

A large number of Biharis, known as Girmitiya labourers, had travelled to various parts of the world, including Mauritius, in the 19th century to work in sugarcane and rubber plantations.

The Bihar chief minister will visit Mauritius July 27-31 on a special invitation of the Mauritian government. He will attend the Bihar Week there and address the National Assembly of Mauritius.

Mauritius University will confer a doctorate degree on him.

Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam invited Kumar to inaugurate the Bihar Week celebrations being organised by the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) in collaboration with the Mauritius government.

The week will mark the contribution of the people from Bihar to the island nation. It will also showcase the cultural bond between the two places, Mauritius High Commissioner to India Mukteshwar Chuni said.

The Bihar Week celebrations in Mauritius will be the first of its kind outside India. It will help attract investments to the state and establish people-to-people contact on a bigger scale, officials said.

"Our great grandfathers had sailed from India to Mauritius and had made important contributions to the socio-economic development of the country," Chuni said.

"The people of Mauritius have an emotional bond with Bihar as nearly 70 percent people there are of Bihari origin," he said.

The Bihar government had announced early this year that it would install a lifesize statue of former Mauritius Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who originally hailed from Bihar.

Ramgoolam, who belonged to a village in Bihar's Saran district, was the first prime minister of Mauritius from 1961 to 1982. He is considered to be the father of the nation as he led his country to independence from Britain.

Chuni said Mauritius would help develop Ramgoolam's native village in Bihar as a historical and tourist destination.

About 70 percent of the 1.2 million population of Mauritius is of Indian extraction, a large number of them from Bihar with Bhojpuri as their native language.