Indian immigrants in New Zealand are viewed very positively and they seldom face race-related issues, according to Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, the first Indian member of parliament (MP) in that South Pacific island nation.
Bakshi’s comments come after media in New Zealand reported the case of an Indian IT professional who alleged that he was a victim of racism.
Sandesh Gopal, 30, a software project manager from Bangalore, said a bouncer stopped him and his friend from entering a bar at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour on New Year’s Eve without giving a proper reason. Gopal alleged that he and his friend were singled out and asked to show identity proofs after which the bouncer told them that they could not enter the bar even as other white customers were allowed in.
According to Bakshi, who was here for the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual gathering of the Indian diaspora that concluded Thursday, Gopal’s case was a rarity and it would definitely be taken up by the authorities concerned.
“You must know that the human rights commission in New Zealand is very proactive. Even if you don’t take the case to them, they will take it up on their own if they come to know about it,” the Delhi-born MP from New Zealand’s ruling National Party told IANS in an interview here.
Asked if he has taken up the case, he said: “I couldn’t as I was leaving for India (to attend the PBD). I will definitely take it up once I reach New Zealand.”
A bachelor of commerce degree-holder from Delhi University, Bakshi had moved along with his family to New Zealand in 2001 in search of better business and educational prospects.
He soon became active among the business community as well as the Indian community, which is around 155,000 strong.
He was elected to parliament in New Zealand in 2008 form the National Party list, meaning he was elected according to a proportional system based on the number of seats a party wins through direct elections.
According to Bakshi, Indians in New Zealand are perceived as very hard working people who are dedicated to their work.
“Indians are seen as very dutiful who are dedicated to their work. If an employer in New Zealand hires an Indian worker, that employer will tend to keep hiring more Indians,” he said.
“Indians don’t call in sick.”
Pointing out that there are people from 80 ethnicities living in New Zealand, Bakshi said: “You might not know this but Hindi is the fourth most widely spoken language in New Zealand after English, Maori and Samoan.”
The Auckland-based MP also stated that the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA), an umbrella organisation of various Indian organisations in that country, is also active in looking after the interests of Indians.
Lingappa Kalburgi, chairman of the Auckland Indian Association and head of the business group of NZICA, who was also present, agreed with Bakshi.
Kalburgi said that the NZICA is active the promoting the interests of Indians, be it political, educational or cultural.
“We meet twice a month to discuss all such issues,” he said.
Formed in 1926, the NZICA is the oldest Indian organisation in New Zealand.
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)