Thursday, October 16, 2014

Modi's Australia visit in Nov: Diplomatic mission chooses Hindu body for public reception, diaspora unhappy

Sanjay Sudhir
By Our Representative
In what may be interpreted as a clear indication that diplomatic missions in abroad are starting to bow to the saffron heat, the Australian high commission in Canberra is all set to allow the Hindu Council Australia to hold public receptions for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visiting the country for the two-day G-20 summit starting on November 15. Already, an Indian diaspora-run site has reported that unhappiness has gripped diaspora over the Indian high commission in Canberra and Sydney consul-general Sanjay Sudhir’s “decision” to get Hindu Council Australia to organize community reception for Modi.
The site reports, the Hindu Council and a section of the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) have been made the main organizers of the community reception for Modi in Sydney on November 17. It says, “Critics of Sudhir’s decision to back the Hindu Council say that a religious organization is not the best representative of the Indian community in Australia. The Hindu Council, Sudhir’s critics say, is a sectarian organization and should not be the prime organizer of the community reception for the visiting head of state.”
The OFBJP appears to be split on the issue, with its South Pacific convener Sanjay Patel “threatening” the high commission in Canberra with protests if “efforts are not made to involve a wider cross-section of Indian community associations in the planning of the reception for Modi. The site quotes Patel to say that “extremist elements within the Hindu Council have managed to persuade the consul general to make the community reception an event organized by a religious organization.”
Publishing Gujarat Times, Patel said in a Facebook post on October 13 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”.
The site also quotes Rajwant Singh, managing-editor of Punjab Express, to say that Modi’s “much-awaited visit is now being turned into a religious affair of the local Indian community.” In a social media comment, Singh wonders: “Are they trying to push the RSS Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan agenda here. They should involve non-religious organizations… The Hindu Council only represent one thought process. To make them responsible for the Indian PM’s tour doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Anagan Babu, president of Tamil Arts and Culture Association, has been quoted as saying that he is “disappointed” with the limited consultations held by the consul-general with just a handful of people. Babu said that there was “no attempt to have a broader process of meeting and engagement with community groups in Australia”, adding, the High Commission and the Consul General have “unnecessarily divided the Indian community over the reception.”
Another critic, Chidananda Puttarevanna, said in a Facebook comment: “Modi is the prime minister of India not for Hindus. He is representing all regions and sects. Indian HC has handpicked 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. I expect this event to be an Indian event rather than a religious or political event.”
Meanwhile, sources said, if divisions continue, Modi’s aide may decide to cancel public receptions. Instead, he would be meeting “very small groups” both in Sydney and Melbourne, where he proposes the visit after the G-20 summit comes to an end in Brisbane. There is also the "fear" that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has considerable following among Ausralian Indian youths – "more than the OFBJP", accoriding to some persons -- and it may try to “create trouble”.

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