August 15, 2001
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Australasian Indians first to celebrate I-Day

Paritosh Parasher in Sydney

Indian expatriates living in different parts of Australasia were the first to hoist the Tricolour to mark the 54th anniversary of Indian Independence.

The day saw community members in the region preparing for the celebration with vigour. Besides the usual flag hoisting by Indian diplomatic missions, Australasian Indians -- people of Indian origin from primarily Australia and New Zealand among other South Pacific nations -- organised community functions to mark the day.

The first function was held on August 11 and the last will be held in Melbourne on August 25.

On Wednesday morning, India's Consul General in Sydney Madhusudan Ganapathy hoisted the national flag at a simple public function at his residence, 'India House', to start the celebrations.

About 200 members of the Indian community attended the function in north Sydney, where the flag hoisting was followed by Ganapathy reading President K R Narayanan's message to the Indian nation.

Ganapathy told the Indo-Asian News Service: "It is my first Indian Independence Day in Australia and I am really impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the Indian community for our national day."

In spite of it being a working day, a number of Indo-Australians joined consulate officials in celebrating the function.

Sydney information technology professional Sanjay Dulloo said: "It's a day which helps us in renewing our bonds and our commitment to our mother country once again. For this reason, I make it a point to attend this function with my family every year."

In Australia's capital Canberra, India's High Commissioner R S Rathore unfurled the Tricolour. He later hosted an impressive reception attended by Indian expatriates, Australian officials and diplomats from other foreign missions.

Reports of the Tricolour being hoisted and Independence Day celebrations by the Indian High Commission in New Zealand's capital Wellington and its largest city Auckland also came in.

The biggest function in Australasia, however, will be held in Sydney. An umbrella body of expatriate community organisations, United Indian Associations, has organised an India Fair at the show grounds in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield on August 19.

While a grand function is also scheduled to be held for the first time in the Victorian city of Melbourne on August 19, community members in Hamilton, a small New Zealand city, have also taken an initiative in this direction.

The Indian Cultural Society of Hamilton organised a cultural evening to mark the day last Saturday. New Zealand's Federal Ethnic Affairs Minister George Hawkins was the chief guest.

"Voluntary organisations such as the Indian Cultural Society, the Waikato Ethnic Council, the Sikh Society and other Indian organisations play a significant role in long-term cultural maintenance, keeping Indian cultures and identity alive," Hawkins said on the occasion.

He mentioned that it was not only Indians who were making a positive contribution in New Zealand's economy and society, but increased interaction between the two countries had also seen New Zealanders doing their bit in India.

Hawkins named former New Zealand Test player and current cricket coach of the Indian national team John Wright as a classical example of such "reverse migration."

Indo-Asian News Service

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