The newly appointed High Commissioner of India Muktesh Pardeshi has put forward a public request to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff for granting a place in the city of sails for a statue of Mahatma Gandhi – India’s greatest global icon - to cement the already growing relationship between the two countries.
Mr Pardeshi was speaking at the official opening ceremony of Auckland Diwali Festival on Saturday, October 12 at Aotea Square.
“The Indian community will be eternally grateful, Madam Prime Minister and Mr Mayor, if a suitable place is allocated for setting up a statue or busk of Mahatma Gandhi in Auckland,” Mr Pardeshi said, eliciting thumping applause from those present in the audience.
Mr Pardeshi also emphasised how an undiluted love and appreciation by New Zealanders of the Indian festival of Diwali, and Mahatma Gandhi was bringing two nations closer.
“Diwali is bringing all Indians in New Zealand together. It is bringing Indians and all Kiwis together, and if I may say so, it is bringing our two countries together,” Mr Pardeshi said.
Rt Honourable Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with Hon Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in New York during the celebration of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr Pardeshi said.
Mahatma Gandhi statue in Wellington
Earlier, Mayor Phil Goff also remembered Mahatma Gandhi and offered tributes to the apostle of peace and non-violence on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary.
“On this occasion, we also celebrate Diwali occurring at the same time as the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr Goff said.
“We remember the teachings of one of the most inspirational leaders of the twentieth century.
The man who taught us that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow there should not be any conflict between the religions as they all are different paths to the same god,” Mr Goff said.
Notably, there has been an underlying expectation for quite some time within a section of the Kiwi-Indian community and beyond, for installing a Gandhi statue in New Zealand’s largest city.
Recently, Kiwi-Indian MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar had launched a petition, calling for a statue to honour Mahatma Gandhi in one of Auckland’s prominent public spaces.
The Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon has been spearheading some behind the scene deliberations with local Auckland community boards about exploring possibilities of installing a Gandhi statue, preferably with a sizeable population of Kiwi-Indian residents.
However, Mr Pardeshi has elevated the humble request – a symbol of growing bonhomie between two countries – to an altogether different level by requesting the PM and Auckland Mayor at a public function.