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Batiara: Our politicians’ favourite

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Batiara: Our politicians’ favourite

During a brawl erupted in the lunchroom of Mauritius Parliament on Thursday evening, between some members of the Opposition belonging to the Labour party and some members of government, the creole word ‘Batiara’ was widely used by both sides to insult the other side.

‘Batiara’ or ‘Bachara’ is a word that is frequently used by Mauritian politicians both inside and outside Parliament. A Parliamentary debate, a political meeting or a clash between opposing parties would be incomplete without the mention of this word. So what does ‘Batiara’ mean?

Batiara is a creole slang word probably derived from Hindi/Bhojpuri and means ‘vulgar’, or ‘idiot’ in the local context. It is usually used to insult someone. It seems that politicians love this word.

The Speaker of the Mauritius National Assembly often has a hard time dealing with complaints from MP when this word is used. A former MP told Ki News sarcastically that the Speaker should once for all include this word in Parliamentary vocabulary so that no more complaints on the use of it waste the Assembly’s precious time.

Former Prime Minister and President of the Republic Sir Anerood Jugnauth has also extensively used this word whenever he used to criticize his opponents. In 2018, he even faced a lawsuit and a legal claim for damages to the tune of Rs 417 million when he publicly called a barrister ‘Batiara’. Former Prime Minister Dr Navin Ramgoolam also likes to use this word. The last time was at a Labour rallye in St Pierre in November 2020 when he said “Eta Al mars Marse do Batiara” while talking about the current Prime Minister.

The parliamentary brawl occurred after Labour MP Shakeel Mohamed tendered a basket to Public Infrastructure Minister Bobby Hurreeram and joked about asking for a donation to pay damages to Betamax Ltd (Betamax last week won a court case where it is claiming damages of nearly Rs 4.7 billion from the government for breach of contract). The minister was not happy about this and arguments followed. At a press conference, the minister argued he was busy discussing with his colleague the reopening of schools and the facilities to be provided to his constituents when he was suddenly disturbed by MP Shakeel Mohamed who was in an aggressive mood. Shakeel Mohamed on his side claimed he was simply joking but the other side reacted violently. As a precautionary measure, he reported the incident to the police. Bobby Hurreeram states that his colleagues and him were being provoked and intimidated and it is not possible that MPs do not feel safe even in Parliament.

In an audio recorded at the incident and widely circulated on social networks, the word ‘Batiara’ dominates the scene. The Director of Public prosecutions has been asked to enquire into the incident.

And what do members of the public think of this incident? Social activist Darmen Appadoo asks whether we still have gentlemen in Parliament. “They could have responded to the joke in an equally sarcastic way. Where was the need for verbal violence?” But was it OK to make such a joke in Parliament? Darmen is of the view that the joke was being made during meal time and not in Parliament.

Economist Arvind Nilmadhub finds it regrettable that an MP chose to joke on such an important issue. “MPs can joke in their lunch time but I would term it irresponsible on the part of an MP to joke on a case where the government will have to fork out Rs 4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to settle a claim. The MP could instead have used his idle time more fruitfully by offering to assist in finding a solution. On a second thought, I see that our MPs have the time to joke in Parliament when all other Mauritians are stressed. While the rest of us are in fear of losing our jobs or businesses due to Covid uncertainty and looming economic crisis, MPs have guaranteed salaries and perks and privileges, and even a free lunch, so they have time to joke.”

A joke that have triggered so many controversies… If SAJ were here, he would probably have advised: “Li ti pu l’or si li ti gard so la*** fermer…’

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Batiara in Burkina Faso and India

Batiara is also the name of a locality in the province of Ioba in Burkina Faso in Africa. In Central India, there is a tribe in the state of Madhya Pradesh known as the ‘Bachara’.

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