ANZAC day, celebrated on April 25 every year is the day our nation remembers her forefathers (many of who never returned home), who fought in the two World Wars, far away from home.
Not many Kiwi-Indians in New Zealand, especially those of the younger generation are aware of any Indian connection with the ANZAC spirit – a spirit which defines New Zealand’s national identity.
As a relatively recent and a fast-growing migrant group of this beautiful country, it is a matter of some disquiet to be seen disconnected with the most important national identity narrative of this country.
Although not entirely unusual, as many new migrant groups all over the world initially struggle to develop a ‘connect’ with national identity narratives, of their respective chosen countries of residence.
Commonly, immigrant groups everywhere around the world have to find innovative ways to connect with symbols, traditions, culture, language, politics and all other cultural artefacts that define a nation in their chosen new home
However, rarely do any immigrant groups anywhere in the world get a chance to find a ‘connect’ with the main spirit of national identity narrative that defines their respective country.
The Indian community in New Zealand is a remarkable exception from this general thumb rule as they are blessed with a glorious connection with the ANZAC spirit – a tradition that forms the very basis of Kiwi identity.
The spirit of ANZAC represents New Zealand’s national identity, and any opportunity to connect with this eternal spirit would make a community or social group feel an integral part of the New Zealand nation.
The Sikh Foundation New Zealand has been in the thick of affairs, along with many others including individuals, academics and organisations, involved in restoring and establishing a traceable emotional chord with the national identity narrative that constitutes the very essence of New Zealand nation.
In that regard, last year an exhibition was held in the Wellington Public Library, titled ‘Honour and Duty: A Tribute to Sikh Valour’ organised by the Sikh Foundation NZ which remembered the contribution of 100 Indians out of 150 odd Indians living in New Zealand in the early 1900s.
The exhibition informed that over 100 Kiwi-Indian men (it would not be inappropriate to describe those Indian-descent men as Kiwi-Indians) had enlisted themselves for the war and four of them actually ended up fighting with 32 more in the reserves list.
This is not insignificant information, currently forgotten or not celebrated enough either within Kiwi-Indian community itself or beyond the community within broad contours that define New Zealand nation.
This piece seeks to raise a voice that probably time has come for the Kiwi-Indian community to celebrate the Indian connection entrenched deep within the spirit of ANZAC.
As the Kiwi-Indian community becomes increasingly aware of this glorious past then it would be more conceivable for them to feel connected with the spirit of ANZAC.
It is important to note that the narratives of national identity are customarily built upon seemingly small events or episodes in history which are often forgotten or deemed inconsequential in the absence of a concerted effort from the future generations of those who were part of those events in history.
The current generation of the Kiwi-Indian community in New Zealand owes it to those earliest members of our community whose spirits and actions not only contributed to New Zealand’s national identity narrative but also played an important role in giving us a distinct ‘Kiwi-Indian’ identity in New Zealand.
Probably, the current generation of community leaders needs to pick up from this call and take the lead in celebrating and highlighting the Indian connection with the ANZAC spirit.
Arguably any aloofness and diffidence on such an important issue that can provide our Kiwi-Indian community with an important 'emotional handle' to connect with New Zealand nation should not be given a pass.
Let’s celebrate and revere the Indian connection in the spirit of ANZAC on this coming ANZAC Day.