President joins PMs in journey of rediscovery to Bihar


"In our efforts to trace Ramgoolam's roots, we found twzo villages with the same name in two districts," a government official said. "But we had some family information and narrowed down our search to Harigaon in Bhojpur. The subdivision's revenue records also listed the name of Moheeth, an ancestor of Ramgoolam. Village elders, who usually have stories of the great escapes of people's ancestors, were a great help."

"The Mauritius prime minister was the first to express a desire to meet his people in Bihar," Nitish said at the function to mark the president's homecoming. "His welcome at his village was an emotional one. As a mark for respect to the prime minister's father, Sir Seewsagar Ramgoolam, also called the father of Mauritius, we have put up his statue near Gandhi Maidan and named the chowk after him." Ramgoolam's ancestors had gone to Mauritius in 1871. Harigaon today boasts a hospital, a school and new roads.

In the president's village, his nephews Ganesh and Mahesh are living in poverty and hold BPL cards. Between his tears during a speech in broken Hindi, the president described the hard work of his great-grandfather, who he said had been lured away to Mauritius 150 years ago with the promise of earning "gold for removing stones". He kept thanking Nitish for helping make it possible for him to finally trace his roots.

In Mauritius, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute keeps records of indentured workers who have travelled there. It has been working with the Bihar culture department to help people locate their ancestral villages. Indians were taken to Mauritius to work on the sugar plantations during the 1830s and the 1890s.

Bhawani Swaroop, great-grandfather of the Trinidad & Tobago prime minister, had sailed off there from Kolkata in 1889. When Prime Minister Bissessar arrived in Bhelupur village last January, she told villagers how her forefathers had left Bihar carrying the Ramayana and the Gita and how they have returned a PM to Bihar.

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