In the run-up to the 2022 federal election, Australian politicians have spared no gesture, promise, gimmick or appeal to woo Indo-Australian voters who now constitute the second largest migrant community in the country. But the fissures and factions within the Australian-Indian community lay bare the pitfalls of a campaign that has yet to note the diverse nature of India’s population.
A video is making the rounds on social media where Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen answering questions about Turban for Australia founder Amar Singh. Parramatta’s Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic can also be seen seated on the stage behind the Prime Minister. Someone in the audience suddenly jokes that Khalistan Group and Mr. Amar Singh have been associated with Maria Kovacic, and “we can’t support that.”
This is one of many instances where Indians have commented on candidates about their associations with specific individuals or organizations of Indian descent. The Indian diaspora has never been so important in an Australian federal election. Not only the Liberal and Labor parties, but candidates from the Greens, One Nation and other smaller parties and independent candidates have also tried to appeal to the vast Indian and South Asian diaspora to sway their opinions and gain votes.
The Labor and Liberal parties have made announcements specifically targeting Indian migrants. Take for example the Labor candidate for Parramatta who has pledged $3.5 million to transform the cultural district around Wigram and Marion streets in Harris Park in New South Wales “into a dazzling tourist hub celebrating South Asian communities in ‘Australia”.
Candidate Andrew Charlton says if elected he will work with the community, the town of Parramatta and local businesses to develop the neighborhood and build a better future for all. “This commitment is a great result of Harris Park – and it’s all part of my solid plan for our future. We will work with the community, the town of Parramatta and local businesses to develop the neighborhood and build a better future for all,” he said.
On the other hand, the Liberal Party has promised the Hindu Council of Australia $250,000 to upgrade its “Karma Kitchen” program.
Parramatta Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic said: “I know the past few years have been particularly difficult for all Australians, and the wonderful work the Council is doing here in Western Sydney is a real support to our community. I hope the funding from the Morrison government will go a long way to supporting more Australians in times of need.
Sydney’s famous Indian-born business owner, Sanjay Deshwal, says politicians from both parties have visited the Indian community here more times in the past two weeks than any MP in recent years. last 18 years.
This significant increase in interest from the Indian and South Asian diaspora is not accidental. According to Honorary Professor of the School of Communications at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney Devleena Ghosh, the main reason is the increase in immigration from India and the number resulting growth of communities, which caused politicians to take community seriously.
“Also, knowing that the Indian diaspora is mostly educated and wealthy. Moreover, it is considered conservative, which is not necessarily true. Second generation Indians (born in Australia) can be quite progressive. However, politicians who have a genuine rather than an instrumental interest in the Indian community would be aware that Indians cannot be confused with Hindus. India is very diverse in terms of religion, ethnicity and language. Australian politicians have treated the community as if it were a homogenous whole, meeting mostly with Hindu groups and ignoring people of other faiths who are also of Indian descent,” Prof Ghosh said.
Along with this unprecedented attention, the flaws of the Indian community have also been laid bare like never before. Infighting, bashing and complaints against other groups and organizations were also frequently noticed. After Harris Park’s Little India Australia trade body endorsed Parramatta Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic last week, many of its members made it clear they did not support the Liberal candidate.
At the Harris Park event, Little India Australia Chairman Gurmeet Tuli said Harris Park business owners would support Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic in the upcoming federal election.
However, Parag Shah, a member of the Little India Harris Park Business Association, said that in comparing the two leading contenders he found Andrew Charlton’s plans more appealing. Shah, however, made it clear that he would not endorse any candidate as a member of the association’s board of directors. “Andrew Charlton personally sat down with all of the business owners, took their feedback, and then came up with a plan. He promised five things, and I personally like his idea of putting Indian structures in the area. Whereas when we asked Maria Kovacic she honestly said she has no plans so far. In any case, being a member of the board of directors of the association, I cannot sponsor any candidate. I would like people to decide independently,” Shah told NRI Affairs.
Parag Shah also said that visible division among community members is not good because we are all interested in the welfare of the community and the country.
Business owner Sanjay Deshwal, meanwhile, finds liberal policies better. “I think all business owners love Liberal policies. The way they supported us during the last and most difficult years of our lives was unparalleled. Australia was an example for the whole world. We never feared for our lives, for our resources,” he told NRI Affairs.
He feels that infighting over who to support in an election is childish. “We sitting here in Australia fighting for our differences because of Modi and Congress is childish. That is entirely our opinion,” he said. Deshwal is of the opinion that the visible division in the Australian-Indian community is largely based on the political division between the supporters of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the rest. For example, Amar Singh, one of Australia’s most famous people of Indian descent and an award-winning social worker, has been targeted by Hindu groups since he supported India’s farmers’ movement in 2021. Many organizations say Hindus in Australia support India’s ruling party, the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi. The BJP advocates Hindutva (“Hindu-ness”), an ideology that strives to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values.
“Shameful and Not Good”
An “active and concerned member” of the Indo-Australian community, Dr Yadu Singh says there is a growing and undesirable division in our community based on many factors.
“These factors include political affiliations (Australian and Indian politics) and religions. We are becoming bitterly divided on the basis of India’s political issues. This division extends even to community media platforms. The division between the LW (left wing) and RW (right wing) beliefs of people in our community is now personal, bitter and destructive It has become so intense that some people ignore the common Indian heritage of their opponents and actually hate them because of these factors. They approach their adversaries’ employers or target their adversaries’ businesses to harm their jobs and livelihoods,” Dr. Singh told NRI Affairs.
“We have already seen many such examples and many more are likely to occur, affecting people on both sides. The victims of this repugnant activity will not come from one side. Where discussions within the community, either directly or with the help of the right people, could have resolved the issues, we see legal opinions floating around the community for minor reasons and often at the behest of their political masters. While we should unite to raise funds to help the poor and disadvantaged in Australia and India, we raise funds to fight legal issues and opinions. It shows our stupidity. It is shameful and certainly not good for the social health, cohesion and progress of our community in Australia.
“In my opinion, this unwanted trend in the community is a manifestation of supremacy and the attempt to control opinions in the community. Both LW agents (left) and RW agents (right) want to control views on the different social dimensions and political life of the community. Unfortunately, many of these agents are guided and perhaps controlled by their political masters in India and Australia,” Dr Singh added.
“In my opinion, people need to recognize that everyone has the right to hold and express an opinion. Diversity of views and opinions is better than uniformity on these issues. We don’t live in a dictatorial society like North Korea. It is despicable and totally undesirable that people now attack their adversaries in their jobs and businesses. It is equally despicable to troll people on social media out of a dislike for a person as it affects the reputation and mental health of the victim of such trolling. If left unchecked, it can become a basis for action by the police, including AVO, against such harassment,” he noted.