Emotional Ramgoolam visits the land of his ancestors

February 18th, 2008 - 8:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Navinchandra Ramgoolam
(Lead)

Patna, Feb 18 (IANS) Overcome by emotion as he flew into the land of his ancestors for the first time, Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam Monday touched the ground after alighting from the aircraft here and quickly smeared some mud on his forehead. As his wife Veena, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others watched, Ramgoolam did not even first accept the bouquet that Bihar officials wanted to present him.

“I was surprised when Ramgoolamji touched the soil and applied it on his forehead,” Kumar later told reporters. “It was a rare gesture. He showed respect to the land of his ancestors.”

Ramgoolam then shook hands with Nitish Kumar and his cabinet ministers, knowing well that he was meeting leaders of the state from which his ancestors left more than 100 years ago to work in the sugar plantations in Mauritius.

After attending several official functions in Patna, he would visit Bhojpur, Siwan, Gaya and Nalanda districts during his three-day visit.

Later Monday, Ramgoolan unveiled a bronze statue of his father, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who led the country to independence from Britain and was the first prime minister of the island nation.

The 600 kg statue has been installed at a junction near the Gandhi Maidan here. Noida-based sculptor Anil Kumar Suthar created the nine-foot statue at a cost of Rs.1.4 million.

On Tuesday, Ramgoolan would visit his ancestral village Harigaon in Bhojpur district, where he would spend about three hours with villagers. He would also take part in a public reception organised in his honour in the village.

“He will lay the foundation stones of various development projects there,” an official said.

Harigaon has been given a facelift. The chief minister and officials went to the village last month and hurriedly ordered construction of roads, a hospital, a school and other basic facilities.

Ramgloolan will be flown in Indian Air Force helicopters to Siwan and Harigaon.

Kumar is to throw a dinner on a cruise on the Ganges Tuesday night. On the last day of his visit, Ramgoolam will visit the Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Nalanda and Bodh Gaya before returning to Mauritius.

A large number of people from Bihar travelled to various parts of the world, including Mauritius, in the 19th century to serve as indentured labourers in sugarcane and rubber plantations.

Ramgoolam’s grandfather Mohit was among those forcibly taken by the British in 1871.

Most of the workers then were from Bhojpur, Chapra, Gopalganj and East and West Champaran. About 60 percent of the 1.2 million population of Mauritius is of Indian origin.

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