A recent spate of violence in the country, with gangs and rivals taking revenge for attacks on religious sites, is upsetting the country where all religions live together peacefully, side-by-side.
The sporadic violence could be the beginning of the end of an era in Mauritius. A sudden population shift could be the reason for this surge in intolerance as it could have changed the political game.
Today, the minorities together are only a divided majority, but the easy target is the Muslims minority which represents 17.5% of the population of more than 1.3 million.
The Muslims have their own black sheep, who either participated in the Jihad in Syria or are attracted to the idea propagated by the so-called Islamic State (IS). But they form an infamous minority.
A recent census – dated 2011 – indicates a depleting Hindu population index.
The Hindus now stands at 48.5% of the population down from the 52% registered at the time of Independence in 1968.
Could this be the cause of the sporadic religious flare-ups in the country?
In Mauritius, a major decider in local politics has always been electing a Hindu as the Prime Minister – except for the blip in the nation history when a member of the General Population (mostly of Christian faith) became the Prime Minister ( 2003-2005).
This is a well-established principle and it still makes much sense since the Hindus are the largest religious faith in the country, with Christianity coming second with 32% and Muslims 17.3%.
Both Islam and Christianity has risen in numbers, and this is being felt by the once majority Hindu ethnic group.
The fear of losing the grip on political power, a tool that guarantees control over the nation’s establishment and dominance in the affairs of the state, is real, resulting in increases rifts.
The rifts and the attack on the French Embassy were preceded by accusations of racial attacks on Muslims and Christians by a group of Hindu activists – known as the Kranti group with links to India where they may have been trained into some form of guerrilla warfare.
The police were accused of inaction, and fingers were pointed at the government for the apparent protection given to the group.
These rifts have resulted in massive unease across Mauritius, but the government and the police lack of action are raising, even more, concerns in the tiny island republic.
The police are even perceived of carrying out a form of racial profiling against Muslims, taking into measure the case of the gun shooting incident at the French Embassy in Port Louis.
The incident was preceded by pro-Islamic State, or IS sprayed slogans, on the Embassy walls of the former colonial masters.
This led the police to haul a handful of suspects in what critics say is an anti-Muslim drive, targeting those in Port Louis and other Muslim dominated areas who has a gun license or are the owners of a 4×4 vehicle. Many were hauled to the police HQ, or Casernes Central, but were released along with their weapons, except for one who’s gun was seized.
Questions do abound on whether only Muslims drives 4×4’s, or are they the only ones having gun permits? Many in Mauritius believe the police is using racial profiling in this case.
Two men, covered in hoods, are said to have sprayed the IS slogans on the French Embassy wall, and they are seen together with a third individual carrying a hunting rifle, on the French Embassy’s black and white CCTV video.
They wrote ‘Ýou are not safe anymore here’ and ‘This is for insulting our Prophet’ and the name “Abu Bakr al-Baghdaadi”, took off on foot into the numerous alleys in the area.
One of them took shots at the Embassy, and at a hotel frequented largely by foreign tourists.
The members of the Kranti – or the gang of death as they are called by the local media – were arrested after the French Embassy incident in an apparent move to calm the spirits and prove the local police were not biased.
But this did little to appease the anger of the Muslims and others, who said the attack must have been carried out by the group of Hindus in a bid to let it fall on the back of the Muslims.
They point out to significant and erroneous mistakes in the graffiti on the walls of the French Embassy, since the Prophet of Islam is not Abu Bakr al-Baghdaadi, but is the leader of the IS, and the word Allah Akbar was written, which they say must have been ‘Állah hu Akbar’ instead.
An acronym used after the word Prophet, PSL is also said to be wrong, since the Muslims in Mauritius tend to use PBUH or peace be upon him for the Prophet, possibly indicating it was written in a hurry or by an amateur who is not really aware of the Islamic tenants.
Nevertheless, the shooting incident is a culmination of events that shook the country since the new regime of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) took power in December 2014.
Jugnauth is under pressure to put the country in order, and to set the economy sailing again after a hiatus that has reduced the country’s growth prospects.
The other question asked by many is the ease of obtaining illegal weapons (guns) in Mauritius, weapons used by the perpetrators of various attacks.
In April, this year, at St-Pierre, illegally obtained weapons were used in a shooting incident involving drug peddlers.
A cyber-crime unit cleared the owner of a cyber cafe in Curepipe, but this too has been the center of a storm of criticism against the police.
Journalists and activists said they were not pleased with the lack of action of the police in the case of a young Hindu male, camouflaging as a Muslims using the name Ismail, to threaten the government of terror – IS – related attacks in the country.
All these has to do with Arab money, said a source.
The Mauritian government has not ruled out deals, with Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, deals that could – in the eyes of some – give preferential treatment to Muslims.
Arab money has, in fact, started to show its colors in the Indian Ocean island, and this is coming amid a severe curb against the once prominent India-Mauritius double taxation deal.
The taxation policy, favorable to Indian businesses, according to some, has gone through an unprecedented revision which will mean the full tax impact of the protocol will fall on investments beginning April 1, 2019, when capital gains will attract tax at the full domestic rates of 15% and 40%.
This will hurt the once flourishing business and investment from India to Mauritius, and the repatriation of the funds from Mauritius to India in the form of foreign direct investments (FDI).
In May, India signed the protocol amending the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Mauritius.
Between April 2000 and December 2015, Mauritius accounted for $93.66 billion — or 33.7% — of the total foreign direct investment of the FDI in $278 billion.
In the wake of this development, a local newspaper L’Express reported that DP World was keen to take a stake in Port Louis operator CHCL and also to take over a stalled Chinese-backed development zone near the port, Jin Fei.
The mention of Dubai Port World almost sparked a riot among unions and anti-Arab non-governmental organisations who were quick to highlight perceived human rights abuses in Dubai for a refusal of this accommodation.
While the DP World’s deal has not given the expected results, possibly due to pressure from several religious groups, Saudi Arabia was lucky with the historic opening of its Embassy on the Island.
The event was feted by Muslim NGO’s with the participation of Sir Aneerood.
The attack against the French Embassy took place two weeks after the Saudi Arabian Embassy opening.
However, to a large majority of Mauritian citizens, the new Indian-Mauritius deal like the old one, are not religiously tainted as they are purely business oriented.
Yet, some of the extremists in country mistook the economic and business deals as communal ones, that is to say Mauritius having dealt with India was for the good of the Hindu community, while dealing with France or the UK would be good for the Christians and ultimately, dealing with Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is good for Muslims.
In the meantime, India Today revealed it managed to track down a mystery man from Mauritius named Shakil Fakeermahamood, who funnelled Agusta kickbacks into India on a Gautam Khaitan’s instructions. This debunks the view that India’s deals with Mauritius are a Hindu affair.
The AgustaWestland is currently in the middle of an anti-corruption drive that has implicated top political figures in India.
Several Indian politicians and military officials have been accused of accepting bribes from AgustaWestland in order to win the US$530 million Indian contract for the supply of 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters.
Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi is alleged by Italian prosecutors to have received kickbacks from the deal.
The investigation is still ongoing, but the Mauritian citizen is said to have played a major role in security the repatriation of funds from the Agusta deal from Mauritius, to India.
Bidding for renewed confidence in his leadership after a massive defeat in the last General Elections, former PM Navin Ramgoolam hinted the Mauritius alignment with Saudi Arabia as part of its new Middle-East policy, could have been the reason for the French Embassy attack.
Based on his theory, the attack could be in retaliation to the country’s ‘mistake’ in taking sides in the Middle East conflict.
Some Mauritians, commenting to the writer on the attacks at the St Georges street, asked whether this had anything to do with the Panama papers?
They also indicated the global financial scandal took a different angle after France removed Panama from its list of fiscal paradise.
There are 1200 Mauritian companies and individuals who are registered with Panama banks according to the Panama Papers.
Among them, are suspicious drug dealers, who are going to face the gallows once international investigations are conclusive about their role in money laundering.
Could they be the ones who took a shot at the French Embassy?