Dilip Chopra moved not just across the seas but the 4Cs as well to enter a life in politics. He talks to Shveata Chandel Singh about why he is called the crusader of multiculturalism.
In 1988, Dilip Chopra, originally a gemmologist, migrated to Australia. In 2001, he joined the Liberal Party, swiftly and smoothly changing tracks from the diamond business to politics.
While in Allahabad, India, Dilip Chopra was actively involved in politics, so it isn’t surprising that he was drawn to the same world in his second home too.
Over his years in politics in Australia, the 71-year-old ex-councillor of Hornsby Shire Council has come to be known as a crusader for multiculturalism.
“A councillor’s role is not an easy one. So when I was elected it was different ballgame altogether. I tried my best to bridge the gaps between the South Asian Communities and the council to which our culture is new,” says Dilip.
Dilip says he is not directly involved in his business anymore, and has passed the baton over to his son. Dilip, who prefers to work with community organisations, besides being an ex-Councillor, is also an ex-member of the Hornsby Shire Seniors Advisory committee, and ex-vice-president and ex-treasurer of the United Indian Association (UIA).
“I am happy that many new organisations are coming up and the existing ones are also doing good work. I have always spoken up for my community in our Shire meetings. In the UIA I have strived to promote the importance of Indian Australians and their contribution to the area,” says Dilip, whose contributions, incidentally, to the Liberal Party during the election campaign was appreciated by all his party members.
Dilip’s involvement with the seniors around Hornsby Shire has been noteworthy. “On the medical side we try and provide them help from individuals in the related fields. On the transport side we try and get them concessions and subsidised buses from the Council. Seniors are often neglected at homes as their children remain busy in work, so a body like Hornsby Seniors invites them over recreational manner, he says.
Dilip believes that since Indians “come from a closed society”, they still limit their elders’ movements. “Problems are not only limited to paper work but at times extend to domestic issues as well,” he says.
“The seniors should be given freedom and their children should not interfere in what they are doing. Rather they should be provided with full financial support. Don’t bind the seniors, let them feel free. Their ability and experience can be of much use for the society, so use their experience,” says Dilip, who believes that more opportunities should be created wherein senior citizens can meet, greet, sing, and dance.
One of the toughest phases for Dilip was in the latter part of the last decade when the attacks on Indian students were on the rise and Indo- Australian ties were strained.
“UIA has always been looked upon as an umbrella association, and has often acted as liaison between these cultural bodies, but during the great anxiety phase of 2009 and early 2010 there was a marked disappointment in controlling the fear within the Australian Indian community, which was looking for a centralised leadership. During those circumstances, we did have a bit of problem, but the problem was of confused leadership. Once the problem was recognised, we churned the pot and tried to assimilate it,” says Dilip.
Sharing his life’s experiences in Australia, Dilip says, “Migrants are here because of a choice they made. There should be more participation in local activities,” he says.
He attributes a major part of his success to his wife Asha Chopra, who he says has moulded him.
“I just want to consolidate the Indian community into a strong productive community and to bring Indians to the fore in the political arena. I want an Indian representative in every council, state and federal parliament,” he says.