Galleries more

Videos more

Dictionary more

Remembering Rajiati Chengebroyen – an Obituary

20.11.2021

A child of May ’75, Rajiati Chengebroyen was active in politics and peoples’ struggles from 1975 to 1983, that is during the height of the last upturn in the working class movement. Her contribution was remarkable. She was a tiny person, softly spoken, gentle, well-read. She went to Eden College, where she and one or two other girl students shone as political activists in the May ’75 movement. During an upturn like that, it didn’t mean everyone was committed to the struggle; she was amongst the small proportion of students who engaged and who, in turn, were respected by all the others, and could thus build the movement. Later she went on to become, by profession, a trained nurse. We lost close political contact with her from mid-1983.


Her contribution in those early years deserves to be remembered. As an early member of Lalit de Klas, she wrote articles in the Revi, distributed copies, and sat on the editorial board. She was always present in the big, lively gatherings to collate the pages of the monthly magazine that was the precursor of LALIT. She seldom missed a forum, public meeting or demonstration. She helped with the daily leaflet preparation in the August 1979 general strike movement and the September 1980 uprising. 


I remember, when Lalit de Klas was still a tendency in the MMM, and when the MMM was still a party with the working class an avan-gard as its strategy, she and I were the Bambous Branch’s representatives in the MMM “Rezyonal 14” and would go to meetings together each fortnight in La Gaulette, meetings chaired by fisherman Aimé Lamarque. One year, we got caught in floods at three rivers every time we went there and came back in a very old, low-slung mini-traveller that had once been Monper Filip Fanchette’s, and that would break down three times each way, and need to be pushed by Rajiati and other passengers. Later, when LALIT was a party, Rajiati was in the Bambous branch. She was also memorably the “campaign manager” (slightly tongue in cheek, this title is, in LALIT) for the historic team of “all women LALIT Municipal Candidates” – five of us, Mimose Therese, Agnes Hevia-Moovima (nee Talate, a Chagossian), the late Liliane Simonet (nee Tigresse), Anne-Marie Joly (nee Sophie) and me  – in one ward in Port Louis in 1983 Municipal Elections. And then people sometimes say “women are traditionally not active in politics!” Anyway, I still remember Rajiati’s laughter alongside the infectious, loud laughter of Agnes Hevia-Moovima, at a Cite Borstal man who, at a LALIT neighbourhood outdoor electoral meeting, said what we were proposing was “impossible”, that the bosses and owners were “too strong”. Rajiati just muttered “gran, gran zom pe koze”. 


She and I, together with my husband Ram Seegobin, would go, every Friday afternoon for a couple of years, to distribute Lagazet Lalit de Klas in the East to activists, who would in turn have their local distributions, all along the route. And then, we would, the three of us, sell newspapers, Rs1 each, in the buses and in the bus queues at the Flacq bus station. When all the newspapers were sold – they were literally gobbled up – we would then go to one of the very few pubs in Mauritius, just across from the Bus Station, and share stories about selling newspapers over a mug of beer. Selling newspapers in an upturn remains one of the most memorable, most fulfilling aspects of being in LALIT. I would go into buses as they were filling up, stand with my back to the bus driver’s cabin, and give a little speech about what was in the newspaper, what analyses there were, and how it was all in Kreol. In some buses, every single passenger would buy one.   


Rajiati was an active member of Bambous Health Project, an executive Committee Member for 6 years, 1976 – 82. She kept her “karne” meticulously, collecting members’ monthly dues in her area on the Royal Road for Bambous’ “mini-national-health-service”, and helped run the whole association. She and I would go collect dues together sometimes before I later became a dues collector myself. 


She was a founder-member of the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, and was in the Bambous MLF branch – yes MLF had a dozen or so neighbourhood branches in its heyday in the upturn – and was one of the orators at the first big public women’s meeting at Jardin de la Compagnie in Port Louis in 1978 for Solidarite Fam on International Women’s Day. Her theme was rape and sexual violence against women. She was President of the MLF, too, taking a leading role. 


When she left LALIT, she left quietly. Perhaps she was under pressure from the MMM, which people may not realize, was quite ruthless against LALIT members when it was first in Government with the PSM in 1982, but also for personal reasons. She never participated in any anti-LALIT campaigns or cabals. Her contribution over the years 1975 to 1983 remains as a testimony to her courage and quiet commitment at a key moment in Mauritian history. She will be remembered as a symbol of the indelible contribution each one person can make in history. She made a contribution over the span of eight years. 


I knew her from then, 1983 onwards, as someone living in the same village as us, Bambous, to share conversation with when our paths crossed buying a newspaper, going to Winners or standing in a queue at the Post Office – and we will all miss her. When Ram was in Jeetoo Hospital after a motorbike accident, she would manage to pop in to see him a couple of times a day when she was on duty. And in recent years she again subscribed to the Revi Lalit via her work colleagues. She will be remembered, too, by all her colleagues in the nursing staff at Jeetoo. She died on Friday last, suddenly, of a heart attack. Her family says collapsed on her way to the supermarket.  


We remember her days in and around LALIT with happiness. 


Our thoughts are with her family, her husband and son, and to her extended family, to all of whom we express our condolences.


Lindsey Collen


for LALIT 20 November 2021.