Standing tall at around 200,000, the Indian diaspora is one of the major ethnic groups in New Zealand. With mainly the labour class coming in as ‘early settlers’, the modern day Kiwi-Indians are making their presence felt in almost every field and even dominating some of the sectors. Law abiding, hardworking, living simple, focused on their children and proud of their heritage – are some of the distinct characteristics of these people.
There are other identifiers which do not hold them in high esteem, though, and these include a lack of self-respect, docile nature, prone to exploitation, living cheap, stagnated in history and even discriminating among their own. The following write up is intended to shake this inertial stance and generate a debate to bring about the much needed change.
Issue1: Kiwi Indians are without any representation in the NZ Parliament. We must clearly understand that the MPs of Indian origin are the list candidates of respective political parties and not as representatives of the Indian community. Hence we have no basis of asking for their accountability or even pushing our agenda through them. In China the communist party decides representation for the community and we do not see it much different when National or Labour or others decide representation of ethnic groups. Outcome: The diaspora is devoid of democracy.
- Way forward could be to seek membership of any of the ‘Indian Associations’ and engage to bring in modern day democratic practices. Strong community associations can then make provisions to usher in representation. The List MP System does not substitute representative governance – particularly for major players like Kiwi-Indians.
Issue2: When we enter most of the dairies run by Kiwi-Indians, the environment is gloomy and ready to surrender to the first pocket knife-bearing adventurer. Being on the receiving end perpetually denotes a docile and weak character.
- From the current practice of playing ‘exploited’ all the time, it is high time that we take appropriate measures with regard to operation hours, self defence mechanisms, charge safety royalty to companies that want dairies to sell the products that invite ‘addicts’ and change the whole outlook of the business. Owner’s exploitation of the Operator may also need to be brought to forth. Dairy can’t act as the flagship of Kiwi-Indians any more.
Issue3: Most of our religious places are run as private enterprises with practices like male- female segregation’ and many other practices that we find difficult to digest in the 21st century.
- To ensure our next generation continues to value spiritual wellness and adheres to some basic disciplines, any such practice needs an abrupt end or we may even have to boycott any such institution. We may have to advise the Prime Minister and other leadership of the country that their visit to such places only strengthens these obsolete, superstitious practices.
Issue4: Immigration rules that prevent parents coming to live with children or the rules that delay after marriage union (as one of the partners is coming from India) are mainly affecting Kiwi-Indians
- As a community we love to take care of our parents and we still try to look for an ‘Indian partner’ but because we lack a coherent voice, we allow such rules that are anti basic human rights. The community needs to put in a joint front to get it changed. Again this needs individuals to join and make associations’ representative and then the same need to work together to be a force to reckon with.
And the list of Issues goes on…Elections provide an opportunity to take stock of such things and we Kiwi Indians should avail the opportunity. A debate is being organised on Saturday, September 2, 2017, at Vodafone Centre by Indian Association of New Zealand and all are welcome to join. Details will follow soon.
Veer Khar is a community leader and the former president of the India Association of New Zealand (IANZ). The views expressed here are those of author's alone and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Indian Weekender