On 23 May, the United Nations General Assembly voted 116 to 6 for the UK to end its occupation of the Chagos Islands.
Three years before ceding independence to Mauritius in 1968, the UK separated off the islands from the rest of Mauritius to keep control of them, deported the entire population, and leased the largest island, Diego Garcia, to the USA for a huge military base. The Chagossians have been fighting ever since then for the right to go back.
A major force in that fight has been the Mauritius socialist group Lalit. Lalit comments: “So, the struggle that Lalit has been spearheading for some 40 years is moving ahead now, with a new balance of forces – internationally, in Britain and in Mauritius.
“We, in Lalit, have had demonstrations, arrests of members and trials for illegal demonstrations, long and fruitful alliances with Chagossian groups, international and national petitions and common declarations, international open letters, national poster campaigns, two international conferences, talks by members in conferences on all continents, and constant leafletting over the years, as well as forums, articles and a whole 200-page book – all to maintain the pressure.
“The struggle has three constant intertwined aims: de-colonisation, de-militarisation, and the rights of Chagossians. “The anti-colonial part of the struggle is at the forefront right now, having been silenced for nearly 50 years”.