The Indian Diaspora Group, an informal grouping comprising leaders of more than 40 different Kiwi-Indian organisations representing communities from different Indian states, languages and other interest groups met for the first time after a two-year hiatus.

The meeting was held ahead of the felicitation and farewell event for outgoing High Commissioner Shri Muktesh Pardeshi on Sunday at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre under the aegis of the Auckland Indian Association.

New Zealand Indian Central Association President Narendra Bhana welcomed the leaders and said that the objective of meetings like these was to come together to share ideas and learn from each other’s experiences in their diverse diaspora groups.

Honorary Consul of India Bhav Dhillon, whose brainchild the group has been, gave a brief background of how the group was started in 2017. “It was started as a voluntary group with no chairman, president, secretary or any officials. There was no compulsion to join or not to join. Now I am very pleased to say that in five years we have some 40 organisations that have become part of this. And in this time, we have not come across any issues major or minor.”

The Honorary Consul said that having a grouping like this one did not go against the individual identities of each of the constituent groups. “India is made of 30 states, each with their individual identities, but when they come together, they form the identity of India.” This grouping of diaspora leaders presents that unified face of India, he said.

He thanked the leaders for working so seamlessly toward projecting this identity. Before this grouping was formed, several of the individual groups tended to celebrate common national days separately projecting a rather disjointed, fragmented image of the Kiwi-Indian diaspora. “Many Kiwi leaders were confused why so many different groups wanted to celebrate the same national day separately,” Dhillon said. “Now it is good to see that national days are now celebrated under one roof.”

Narendra Bhana reiterated that the community as a whole needed to come together to celebrate at least three national days – Independence Day, Republic Day and International Yoga Day.

“One of the objectives of this meeting is to encourage diaspora leaders and their communities to participate in each other’s events as well.” Individual groups tended to operate and celebrate events in silos. There needs to be more interaction between groups, the leaders said.

Over recent years, however, there were increased instances of groups participating in one another’s events and celebrations, some of the leaders who spoke after the main speeches said. Everyone agreed that this trend needs to be carried forward so that there is a conscious effort to forge a unified identity of India, which indeed is ‘Unity in Diversity’.

The Honorary Consul said that groups needed to come together and support one another not just culturally but also on other day-to-day issue that affect all Kiwi-Indians – be that law and order or immigration issues. It was imported to forge a united front on these matters and that is where a grouping like the Diaspora Leaders could play a pivotal role. It is important to project unity and a sense of purpose when it comes to how the mainstream political establishment views the Indian community.

He said that efforts to create splinter groups like regional groups or clusters of states works at cross-purposes and further causes needless confusion. As long as the individuality of each of the group is preserved and when all these groups unite to create a united identity of India, creating clusters was superfluous and counterproductive.