Several hundreds of Kiwi-Indians came together in Auckland on Saturday evening to participate in a candle vigil organised to honour martyred Indian troopers at Pulwama, Kashmir.
The Candle vigil brought together hundreds of people of Indian origin, community leaders and several local political leaders and Members of Parliament to express the pain and condemn the terror attack on Indian troopers.
Ever since the attack on Thursday, February 14, there was a lot of distress and pain within the Kiwi-Indian community, with many wishing for a public gathering for paying tributes to the martyred Indian troopers.
Responding to the outpouring sentiments, The Indian Weekender had organised an impromptu candle vigil at the iconic Aotea Square, situated right at the heart of Auckland city, whereby calling upon everyone to come together and express their solidarity with the victims of Pulwama attack.
An event was created on social media and the message was spread amongst all significant Indian Associations and community organisations all around with a message of encouraging everyone to relay the message to others with similar sentiments and giving them the option of joining the public event.
Hon. Consul of India Bhav Dhillon speaking at the Candle Vigil in Auckland
Such was the level of mutually shared anguish and pain within Kiwi-Indian community that within a short notice of a few hours hundreds of people came together to participate in the Candle Vigil. The numbers continued to swell with reaching to around thousand as the evening progressed.
Leading from the front, the Hon Consul of India in Auckland, Bhav Dhillon was among the first few people to arrive at the venue.
Welcoming everyone for turning up in huge numbers in such short notice, Sandeep Singh, the editor of the Indian Weekender said, “Can I begin with acknowledging the sense of tremendous pain and grief in each one of you today.”
Editor of the Indian Weekender speaking at the event
“We have assembled here today to acknowledge the pain going inside each one of you, and give you a chance to share the grief with others and also to honour our martyred soldiers and send back condolences to their families.”
Hon Consul of India, Mr Dhillon said, “I am confident that the government of India will do the needful to tackle the situation back home, but we have come together here today to express our condolences and condemn terrorism in all forms.”
Mr Dhillon also called out to local mainstream media in New Zealand which had till the time of the event reported selectively on the horror attack creating confusion in the general public and the government of New Zealand.
“The terrorist group JeM had duly taken responsibility of the attack, and the entire world knows about it. So there is no confusion as some mainstream media reporting here in NZ suggests,” Mr Dhillon asserted.
Subsequently, several community leaders and the members of the public addressed the gathering sharing their sense of frustration and pain with the tragic attack.
Notable among them were Kiwi-Indian MPs Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Parmjit Parmar and local MP from the National Party Mark Mitchell. Labour MP Michael Wood, who could not personally attend the event, had sent his condolence message that was read through at the event.
Kiwi-Indian MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan was unable to attend this impromptu gathering as she was bereaving her mother's untimely demise and expressed her solidarity message with the Pulwama victims through her twitter account.
After public speeches, several patriotic songs were sung, followed by India’s national anthem and loud cheers of Bharat Mata ki Jai.
Towards the end, Hon Consul of India Mr Dhillon led everyone for a two-minute silence, followed by a Candle Vigil, right at the heart of Auckland City.