The link between Indian events and the snake removal service


Wyndham City Council ends free snake removal service after 25 years. In response to the decision, ‘civic crusader’ Alan Brown says: “The council would like to save money…and maybe send Cr Intaj Khan and Cr Gautam Gupta to be Wyndham snake charmers”

A free snake removal service, which has been provided for 25 years in Wyndham, is being stopped despite councillors raising concerns about community safety.

The move to can the service has some residents spitting venom as they feel it is the result of increased council funding for Indian-themed events in the area.

Rants against Cr Gautam Gupta and Cr Intaaj Khan have seen a sharp increase on social media since Wyndham City witnessed two Indian festivals this August.

On 15 August, Wyndham witnessed the first India Day celebrations to mark Indian Independence Day at the Werribee Race Course as well as the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

Following a news story in The Herald Sun on Wyndham City Council dumping free snake removal service in the council area, some residents took their rage to social media.

“It’s going to cause people to start killing snakes instead of calling for assistance in removal,” posted Fawn Dell Maibaiz.

“I’ve come across three last summer in my own backyard. I guess killing them is a better alternative than to call the council for their humane removal. I have three children who enjoy their backyard and I pay a hell lot for them to do so,” commented another enraged resident Minney Mingon.

Some comments in the debate have racially vilified Cr Gupta and Cr Intaaj with photos of snake charmers being posted. The councillors have both voted in favour of maintaining the services but have been at the receiving end for the council’s decision.

‘Civic crusader’ Alan Brown commented: “The council would like to save money…and maybe send Cr Intaj Khan and Cr Gautam Gupta to be Wyndham snake charmers…just saying.”

Cr Khan has previously been racially taunted with photos being circulated of him on social media. Bro Sheffield-Brotherton commented: “The attacks on the Indian community in this post remind me of the attacks on Irish Catholics to which some of my forebears were subjected – and some others here may have at least heard about. If it’s about snake protection services I hope people will stick to the issue. Racial stereotyping is not about the Australian values I cherish.”

Reacting to the tirade on social media by some angry residents, Hari Yellina, secretary of the Festivals of South Asia (FOSAI) said India Day, Diwali, Holi Fest and IFFM will add to the flavour and diversity of the city, which is well-known for events like Legends on the Park and So Frenchy. “This creates opportunities for the residents of the council. It creates employment. We pay rates too, don’t we?” he said.

Most residents are disgruntled that the funding for the multi-cultural festival Weeraama has been cut back at the cost of events like India Day and IFFM. There is a campaign to bring back Weerama to the city again.

“We realise residents are passionate about Weerama. But India Day or Holi Fest, two large festivals in the area, received no funding from the council. Being a local organisation, we would like to run Weerama with the council support. We can get the right support to make Weerama festival viable,” said Yellina.

The two-day festival organised by FOSAI to mark Indian Independence Day witnessed 232 artists performing at the Werribee Race Course and all communities took part in the festivities. Although Wyndham City councillors participated in the event to hoist the Australian flag, the aboriginal flag and the Indian flag, there was no financial support given to the organisers. Even for the Film Festival, there’s nothing to suggest the Council has diverted rates to organise the festival.

However, Allan Brown thinks otherwise. He commented: “Weerama Festival got the chop to make room for India Day mate…if they can pay for the Indian Film Festival …they should pay for the snake catching …as the money for the IFF is our rates money.”

FOSAI president Sarika Prakash said the issue was about “cultural understanding”. “Australia and India are uniquely positioned to benefit from each other. We had rock bands playing at India Day. It was not an all-Indian affair. We also had a multicultural food fair. There will be a time when Australian music, TV and Film content will be popular in India. We need to break the ice. It’s a two-way process. We want Australians to tap into the Indian market for opportunities too,” said Sarita.

Yellina said he felt that by attacking these festivals, people were undermining opportunities being made for residents. “This is clearly an attack on Wyndham residents. This is not about race, but people are playing politics and pitting one against the other. Art, music, festivals should thwart such negative sentiments,” he said.

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