HC, CG’s moves on Modi reception faces community backlash


A Hindu Council supporter or a CG?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia may be a turning point in more ways than one. While bilateral relations between the two countries may be entering a new phase, the local Indian diaspora seems far from happy with the Indian high commission in Canberra, as well as the Sydney Consul General Sanjay Sudhir.
The organisation of a local community reception for PM Modi in Sydney is stirring heated controversy, and dissatisfaction against the consul general. CG Sudhir’s decision to get Hindu Council Australia to organise the community reception for the PM has come under fire. The Hindu Council and some members of the OFBP are the main organisers of the community reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sydney. The event is being organised through a recently formed association Indian-Australian Community Foundation.
Critics of Mr Sudhir’s decision to back the Hindu Council say that a religious organisation is not the best representative of the Indian community in Australia. The Hindu Council, Mr Sudhir’s critics say, is a sectarian organisation and should not be the prime organiser of the community reception for the visiting head of state.
OFBJP south pacific convenor Sanjay Patel has also threatened the High Commission in Canberra with a massive protest if efforts are not made to involve a wider cross-section of Indian community associations in the planning of the community reception for Prime Minister Modi. According to Mr Patel, “extremist elements” within the Hindu Council have managed to persuade the CG to make the community reception an event organised by a religious organisation.
Arunesh Seth of Merrylands says that the high commission and the consulate general have exposed their inablitity to work with the local Indian community and carry along all sections of the diaspora. Mr Seth thinks that this is a rare opportunity for the Indian diaspora to organise an event that complements efforts to grow the relationship between India and Australia and showcases the ability of the local diaspora to further this cause. He argues that the HC and CG of Sydney are being shortsighted with their decision to back Hindu Council Australia on this event.
Rajwant Singh, managing editor of Punjab Express, says that the prime minister’s much-awaited visit is now being turned into a religious affair of the local Indian community. In a comment on social media Mr Singh says: “are they trying to push the RSS Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan agenda here. They should involve non-religious organisations. With all due respect to the Hindu Council they still only represent one thought process. To make them responsible for the Indian PM’s tour doesn’t make any sense to me. Since it is the first visit by a PM to Australia in a long long time this should be made as secular as possible. India belongs to us all…hope they let that feeling stay the same”.
The Gujarat Times, published by Sanjay Patel, said in a Facebook post on 13 October that “many Indian [community] associations in Australia are upset with Indian High Commissioner and Consul General Sydney for giving out Narendra Modi’s community reception in Sydney to be organised by Hindu Council and not by a joint group of Indian Australian Associations”.
Anagan Babu, president of Tamil Arts and Culture Association, says that he is disappointed with the limited consultations held by CG Sanjay Sudhir with just a handful of people. Mr Babu feels that there was no attempt to have a broader process of meeting and engagement with community groups in Australia. He thinks that the HC and CG have unnecessarily divided the Indian community over the reception. He also questions the credibility of the Indian Australian Community Foundation.
Another critic, Chidananda Puttarevanna, says in a facebook comment: “We welcome the news of prime minister Mr Modi visiting Sydney on 17 November 2014. Mr Modi is the prime minister of India… not for Hindus. He is representing all regions and sects. Indian HC has hand picked only a few and has neglected the whole Indian community. I oppose the stand of the Indian high commission playing dirty politics, playing with emotions of Indian origin. Being a proud Hindu, I expect this event to be an Indian event rather than a religious or political event. To make this event a grand success guys take the lead example from the New York event, which was organised under umbrella of Indian community and Indian associations”.
Another Facebook comment says that the High Commission has a database of all Indian associations in Australia and so can easily have a wider consultation process.
However, some others feel that it doesn’t matter who organises the reception for the visiting prime minister. Hornsby deputy mayor Gurdeep Singh says, “It’s really not my station to comment on who the organiser is. Doesn’t matter who actually does the ground work for the reception. Personally, I’ll be very happy to be invited to such a reception”.
The prime minister’s imminent visit has once again brought to the fore the different interest groups and associations in the community and the need for better consultations between the high commission and the local Indian diaspora.
Published in The Indian Sun, Sydney

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