The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Politics of Fiji amnesia

New Delhi, Jan. 12: Till two years ago, he was hailed as a “son of the soil” who has done India proud. Now the government feels embarrassed at including his name among the awardees for “Pravasi Bharatiyas”. Mahendra Chaudhry, former Prime Minister of Fiji, is a disappointed man.

“There is a feeling of disappointment that India has not done enough,” Chaudhry said, referring to the military coup that deposed him from power two years ago and the plight of people of Indian origin residing in Fiji.

“The Prime Minister’s speech should have made a mention of the plight of Indians in different parts of the world and assured them that India is always behind them and will lend its full support to their just struggle,” he added.

Chaudhry, here to attend the first-ever meeting of the Indian diaspora, was kept out of the list of 10 eminent Indians awarded by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday for achievements in their respective fields in the countries of their residence. An influential section with business interests in Fiji is reported to have a hand in ensuring he was not included in the list.

The former Fijian Prime Minister had earlier commented: “It is unfortunate that some Indians have put their commercial interests before the interest of their community.” Yesterday, he refused to be drawn into the controversy.

“I am not looking for any awards. The way the people of Fiji voted for me in the last two elections show the support and love I enjoy,” Chaudhry said.

But his disappointment with the government remains. He had met the Indian leadership several times during the Fijian crises and was assured of Delhi’s help. In the end, nothing much happened. He remained out of power.

“India is an important player in the international field. It should have created enough diplomatic pressure to change things in Fiji. But unfortunately that never happened,” Chaudhry said.

He maintained that his remarks should not be seen as a criticism of the Indian government, but said its failure “to walk that extra mile” has disappointed people in Fiji.

Emphasising that he was not seeking military intervention by Delhi, Chaudhry said he wanted it to be “more assertive and not its modest self” while improving the plight of Indians in different parts of the world.

“India is our ancestral land. It is like a mother to us. It is natural that when the child is in trouble it will turn to the mother. There is a feeling of disappointment among the people of Indian origin in Fiji that the mother has not done enough,” he said.

Referring to the plight of Indians in his country, Chaudhry pointed out that nearly 90 per cent of the land is in the hands of indigenous people. Though earlier it was also being leased out to Indians, over the past few years the period of lease has started becoming shorter.

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