2016 has been quite an eventful year for the Kiwi-Indian community. We started the year with the first ever Baisakhi celebrations in the parliament, first ever Holi celebrations in Queenstown, the first visit by an Indian President, a stamp released to commemorate the 125 years of Sikh community in New Zealand. Concurrently we had some news which brought distress to the community such as child care death, fatal road accidents of few students, rise in burglary and assaults. In this piece, we bring you some snippets of how 2016 took the Kiwi-Indian community onto a roller coaster ride.
Indian festivals celebrated in NZ:
Under the leadership of first Sikh Kiwi-Indian MP Kanwaljit Bakshi, the Beehive celebrated the harvest festival, Baisakhi, which is also the founding day of Khalsa Panth, on April 12. Then Prime Minister John Key was the chief guest for the occasion.
Queenstown celebrated its first Holi in April this year at the city’s Events Centre attended by more than 1,000 participants. Every participant was also given a white ‘Colour Burst’ t-shirt.
Auckland also saw many community organisations hosting the festivity such as Waitakere Indian Association Holi, Colours in the Park by Humm 106.2 FM, and Hindu Council of New Zealand in Wellington.
Auckland Turban Day saw approximately 500 people come forward to tie the Sikh turban on their head. Men, women and children from different ethnic backgrounds sported a turban at Aotea Square on Sunday, May 28.
Shri Ram Mandir Henderson and Community Waitakere collaborated to celebrate Matariki on Wednesday, June 9. The celebration at the temple brought together members of the Hindu and West Auckland Maori communities, including residents to celebrate the Maori New Year.
Eid-ul-Fitr was observed on Wednesday, July 6, when Muslims celebrated the essence of the festival. Auckland Eid Day organised a family day at ASB Showgrounds to celebrate the joyous spirit of Eid. Rugby star Sonny Bill Williams brightened the celebrations at Eden Park in Mt Eden on Wednesday, September 21, when he showed up unannounced with his family at the venue.
Islam Open Day, the annual exhibition of saw a footfall of more than 1,500 visitors during each of the two days. Sporting a blue t-shirt that read, “Ask me! I am Muslim’’, the volunteers interacted with visitors from different ethnicities and walks of life. The event was held on Saturday 27 and Sunday, August 28.
For the 10th year in a row, the biggest Indian festival in the South Island, Christchurch Diwali, showcased the rich culture, history, and traditions of the Indian subcontinent to the wider community. The highlight of the event for many was the rocking performance of Canterbury Police on a mix of Bollywood songs led by Inspector Hirone Waretini, who is in-charge of Canterbury Police, Maori Pacific, and Ethnic Services Group.
Hakka and bhangra shared the stage at Auckland Tamil Diwali, and Ramlila enthralled the audience at Sri Ram Mandir and Waitakere Diwali celebrations.
This year, Indian Weekender marked its presence on the main stage of ATEED Diwali held at Aotea Centre on October 15 and 16. We were one of the media sponsors for the event and also hosted Ms and Mr Diwali over the two days. Devika Mhetar was crowned Indian Weekender Ms Diwali and Likith Povanna was awarded Indian Weekender Mr Diwali for 2016.
The festive season also witnessed Durgotsav celebrations by Probasee Bengali Association in Henderson.
The first-ever Muslim fashion show was hosted by South Auckland Muslim Association (SAMA) on Saturday, October 8. The women-only event witnessed young girls wearing hijabs, scarves, and different attires popular in the community.
As many as 5,000 Sikhs from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Waihi, and Te Puke participated in the nagar kirtan (street parade) held on January 9 in Tauranga to mark the birth ceremony of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of Sikh.
Around 1,000 people turned up for the seventh annual Sikh Children Day on October 1 and 2 at Gurudwara Sri Kalgidhar Sahib in Takanini.
The City of Sails celebrated its 176th anniversary on Monday, January 29, at Queens Wharf, Princess Wharf, and Captain Cook Wharf. The celebration saw thousands turning up with their families and friends, reminiscing the history of the city and participating in the street festival.
Affectionately known as the Maharani of Patiala, the sophisticated, soft-spoken Ms Praneet Kaur visited New Zealand from March 26 to April 1. She visited the Papatoetoe and Takanini Gurudwara in Auckland made a short trip to Hamilton, and also inaugurated India New Zealand Business Council Speaker Series ‘India Unplugged’.
Marking the seven-year anniversary of the newspaper, Indian Weekender hosted its fourth instalment of the Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame, honouring Dr C S Benjamin with the title for his service to the community. Dr Benjamin is a consultant oncologist at Auckland Hospital and the director of Universal Medical and Surgical care. Ramesh Patel, a veteran hockey player for New Zealand, was honoured with the Kiwi Indian Unsung Hero Award, and neuroscientist Dr Malvinder Singh Bains received the Kiwi Indian Young Achiever Award. The who’s who of the Kiwi-Indian community, businessmen, along with parliamentarians, and the then Prime Minister John Key graced the event.
Mr Key visited Indian Weekender’s office on Friday, October 7 as he discussed the plans for his second visit to India. IWK took a light-hearted interview with Mr Key where he shared which Indian dress he likes to wear, his favourite actor, and Indian cuisine. He also shared Diwali wishes in Hindi with the Kiwi-Indian community.
Indian Naval ship INS Sumitra along with other foreign navy ships berthed at Auckland Harbour to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Royal New Zealand Navy on Sunday, November 20. The ship’s crewmembers hosted a cultural programme attended by High Commissioner of India to NZ Sanjiv Kohli, senior officers of Royal New Zealand Navy, and leaders of the Indian community.
Celebrities visit Auckland:
Iconic Indian singer Asha Bhosle performed at the World of Music, Arts, and Dance (WOMAD) festival in New Plymouth in March.
Sufi maestro Kanwar Grewal gave a mesmerising three-hour-long live performance at a packed Logan Campbell Centre on Saturday, July 2.
Bollywood singer Shreya Ghoshal performed at Trust Arena in Henderson on Saturday, August 20. More than 3,000 fans attended the three-hour show where she sang the best of her Bollywood numbers.
Indian singing sensation Mika Singh gave an unforgettable performance in Auckland at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau on Friday, October 21.
Bollywood heartthrob and Tourism New Zealand brand ambassador Sidharth Malhotra toured the country in the first week of November. His itinerary included scuba diving in Canterbury, TranzAlpine KiwiRail scenic tour, a road trip to Coromandel, a chopper ride with rugby legend Richie McCaw, and adventures with Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum in Taupo and Rotorua.
The BAFTA award-winning actress Rohini Hattangad gave a scintillating performance in the Gujarati play Baa Tane Hu Kya Rakhu? at Dorothy Winston Centre on November 20.
Jyoti and Sultana Nooran, popularly known as Nooran Sisters, sang their most popular numbers such as Allah Hoo, Patakha Guddi, and Tung Tung at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau on Saturday, December 3.
Kiwi-Indians in focus:
Auckland Police started a new project called ‘Cop Chat’ in partnership with the Auckland Central City Library in April 2016. The programme is designed to encourage people, especially international students and new migrants to talk to the police at the Auckland Library premises if they are hesitant to go to the police station. This initiative was started to make new migrants feel more welcome and accustomed to the police in the city.
On May 17, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson QC announced the appointment of Auckland barrister Sanjay Patel as one of the two Acting District Court Judges. Judge Patel began his career in general practice in 1992. He was sworn-in on June 22 in Manukau District Court.
A postage stamp was released by the New Zealand Punjabi Foundation to mark 125 years of Sikh migration in the country. The stamp was released by National List MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi on June 5 in Papatoetoe.
Four members of the Kiwi-Indian community were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list announced on June 6. Dr Pushpa Wood received the New Zealand Order of Merit officer for services to financial literacy and interfaith relations.
Dr Nadarajah Manoharan received the New Zealand Order of Merit member for services to health. Karnail Singh Badhan, a JP, received the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the Indian community. He is the National Coordinator for Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) New Zealand and a member of GOPIO International.
Nanette Nathoo received the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the Indian community. Mrs Nathoo has been the Chairperson of the Law and Order Crime Prevention Committee of the Auckland.
The then Minister of Police, Judith Collins declared burglary to be regarded as priority offence effective August 29. The burglary cases spiked 11.9% compared to previous year, and the police were directed to attend all the complaints lodged.
Moments of distress in the community
Seven Indians died in five different accidents in 2016.
Jaspreet Singh, 21, succumbed to severe head injuries en route Wellington with friends on September 25. Twenty-five-year-old Pavin Pramoth’s car crashed into a pole near New Plymouth. He passed away on the spot. Mandeep Singh, 23, hit the road divider in Te Awamutu while returning home from work at night on October 8. Tourists Arshpreet Sidhu, 23, and Twinkle Ansal, 21, were two of the three who lost their lives in Desert Road accident in the early hours of July 18 in the north island. Dilpreet Singh, 32, and Pulkit Malhotra, 27, were two of the four who died in a tragic accident at Muriwai Beach on September 11.
Community leader Sardar Ganges Singh passed away on August 21. He was a life member of New Zealand Multicultural Council, Justice of Peace, and also a recipient of Queen Service Medal.
Unknown miscreants spray painted ‘ISIS’ on Sikh community leader Yugraj Mahil’s council campaign poster in Hamilton in late August. Mr Mahil was contesting for the councillor’s position from Hamilton East where the incident happened.
Childcare centre accident: The death of a four-year-old at the playground of the childcare centre in Takapuna shocked the country. Aldrich Viju met with an accident on the playground ground at Angels Childcare Centre on November 18. NZ Police handed over the case to WorkSafe New Zealand, who are still investigating the cause of the death. Indian High Commission and Auckland Malayali Samajam Incorporated made the travelling arrangements for the ‘little angel’ and his family to Kerala, India, where the last rites were performed.
Aggravated robbery and assault on the rise: More than 10 aggravated robberies and assaults were reported in Auckland alone in 2016. The victims varied from owners of dairy shops, liquor stores, and petrol pumps to convenient stores, dollar stores, and local mobile stores. The motive for most of the armed robberies was petty cash, cigarettes, expensive mobile phones, and liquor.
In April, four Asian students were mercilessly beaten in broad daylight in Albert Park in Auckland city. A liquor store in Mt Eden was hit twice in August by the same offenders. In one instance, the offender stole the liquor bottles while store attendant bled from the head at the counter. A dairy owner was stabbed, a pizza delivery boy was beaten in South Auckland, an elderly robbed at gunpoint in Henderson, and four armed men storm petrol pump earlier in December.