Kiwi-Indians rejoiced as India’s flag was unfurled and flew high at several places in Aotearoa on Saturday, January 26, to mark the occasion of India’s 70th Republic Day.
India celebrates January 26 – the day when its constitution came into effect – to mark the occasion of becoming a republic, which signifies complete freedom from any form of foreign rule.
Kiwi-Indians across New Zealand celebrated the zeal of Republic Day- with four significant gatherings marking and celebrating the auspicious day.
Kiwi-Indians in Wellington gathered at the Wellington Indian Association Community Hall to celebrate Republic Day with High Commissioner of India, Sanjiv Kohli hoisting the tricolour at the event centre.
The morning event gathered around a hundred community members who after the flag hoisting attended the cultural event- performances by young Kiwi-Indians children dressed in ethnic Indian wear singing patriotic numbers in the festive mood.
Later in the evening, the High Commission hosted a reception for nearly 250 guests at the Wellington Indian Association Community Hall with a cultural programme.
The High Commissioner was joined by Deputy Secretary, Trade & Economic Group Vangelis Vitalis from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade. The other dignitaries invited were Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, Members of Parliament Paul Eagle and Greg O’Connor from the Labour Party, Nicola Willis and Brett Hudson from the National Party.
The audience also included several members from diplomatic missions, mayors, NZ Government officials and leaders from the Kiwi and Kiwi-Indian community.
Celebrations began with a welcome performance by the Maori group Whakarewarewa from Rotorua. The event also included awarding medals from the Govt. of India to the winners of the Bharat Ko Janiye Quiz and a Letter of Appreciation to the Whakarewarewa singer for her rendition of Vaishnav Jana To, as part of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations.
There was also an Indian dance performance by the students from a Wellington dance school.
New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA), the oldest community organization for the Kiwi-Indians organised a big celebratory event at Mahatma Gandhi Centre on this occasion following the footprints of the historic Indian Independence Day event at MG Centre last year that brought all the community organisations under one roof to celebrate a festival of significance.
The event was attended by over 1000 people from every Indian community organisation and performers of each organisations displaying their love for the country through songs, dances and skit performances. Young Kiwi-Indian dancers also performed a Bharatnatyam dance.
National List MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Labour MP for New Lynn Deborah Russel, attended.
Ms Russel, quoting fellow Labour List MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan mentioned about the knowledge and information she received about India’s republic history, the Constitution of India and the inaugural ‘Tryst with Destiny’ address made by the first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru on India’s freedom.
Image Courtesy: Naren Bedekar Photography
Ms Russel read the passage ‘At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom...’
The event included an array of cultural performances by both young and elder members of the community representing diverse Indian communities separated by language and united by the spirit of patriotism and the love for their motherland.
Earlier the celebratory event in NZ’s biggest city had started in the morning itself with a small group of selected representatives of the Kiwi-Indian diaspora, coming together in an invite-only event at the residence of Hon Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon.
The event commenced with the flag hoisting ceremony followed by a singing of the Indian National Anthem and loud chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Jai Hind’ by the community leaders gathered at the event.
“You have all come on a Saturday morning, the day despite being the start of a long four-day holiday, that echoes your love and commitment towards your motherland, India,” Mr Dhillon said.
“You are the pride of the country, and the country is your pride – your actions and contributions to the greater community and the multi-ethnic communities of New Zealand makes India proud of its citizens, and we proudly identify ourselves as Kiwi-Indians,” Mr Dhillon added.
The official address was followed by a light breakfast and entertainment programme of singing of patriotic songs by two singers.