Mauritius Tamil community stops banknote alteration, 1998

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Timing
Time Period:  
18 October
1998
to
18 November
1998
Location and Goals
Country: 
Mauritius
Goals: 
Reverse banknote alteration, restoring Tamil translation to it's original position above the Hindi translation
 

On the island nation of Mauritius, three languages appear on the banknotes. Traditionally, the languages are English, Tamil, and Hindi - in that order. On October 18, 1998, the Central Bank of Mauritius released a new series of banknotes upon which the order of the latter two languages were reversed, with Hindi appearing before Tamil.

Reportedly, the reason for the change in the order was because the Tamil text would have encroached on the portrait of Sir Moilin Jean Ah-Chuen on the 25-rupee note if it remained in its original position on the note; however, the Tamil community did not accept this explanation and within a few days of the new banknotes' release this community took up nonviolent actions in protest of the change. Although the Tamil community only represents about 10 percent of the Mauritius population (as opposed to the Hindu community, which makes up about 40 percent of the population), the Tamil community claimed precedence on the banknotes based on traditional practices and claims to having arrived on the island prior to the members of the Hindu community.

It is unclear who organized and led the campaign, and some sources called the events following the banknote release spontaneous; however, the likelihood of the campaign actually being spontaneous is slim. A number of protests took place at strategic locations, such as in front of the Central Bank of Mauritius. Thousands of members of the Mauritius Tamil community attended the gatherings, many carrying banners and signs with slogans on them. In addition to protests, the Mauritius Tamil community burned effigies of the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius and representations were made to the President of Mauritius. Tamil members of Parliament threatened to resign from their position if the new banknote design was not pulled out of circulation.

On November 18, one month after the initial release of the new banknotes, the government of Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam asked the central bank to withdraw the notes from circulation. The Bank of Mauritius complied, representing a victory for the Tamil. The reprinting of the banknotes cost more than 50 million rupees, or more than 2 billion USD.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"Mauritian Tamils Rise up to Protect Tamil." Tamil Tribune. Aug. 2000. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://www.tamiltribune.com/00/0801.html>.

Symes, Peter. "Banknote Oddities." PJ Symes. Dec. 2001. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://www.pjsymes.com.au/articles/oddities.htm>.

Vellien, Clifford. "Mauritius Withdraws Banknotes After Tamil Protests." Windman. 19 Nov. 1998. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://dypewlyplex.teleindia.com/list/1998-11/msg00362.html>.

Additional Notes: 
Photos:

Demonstrations in the Street (in front of the Bank of Mauritius) - http://www.tamiltribune.com/00/20000801a.jpg

Burning the Effigy of the Governor of Bank of Mauritius - http://www.tamiltribune.com/00/20000801b.jpg

Picture of Banknote with Hindi in Second Place and Tamil in Third Place (withdrawn after protest by Mauritian Tamils) - http://www.tamiltribune.com/00/20000801c.jpg

Picture of Banknote with Tamil in Second Place and Hindi in Third Place (issued after protest by Mauritian Tamils) - http://www.tamiltribune.com/00/20000801d.jpg

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ashley Banks 11/04/2011