FIJI SENIORS TAKE A LEAD IN UNITING FIJI INDIANS IN NZ
FIJI PUNDIT - Thakur
Indians in general and Fiji Indian Seniors in particular in Auckland feel they
miss out on most resources available and recognition as Fiji Indians because
they appear to be a fragmented community. This weakness leads to them being
discriminated against when funding resources are allocated, as they lack a
Fiji Indian organisations have complained of being denied funding when compared to
sister Indian organisations, where funding appears to be handled by vested
interests. To improve this poor state of treatment and image, Fiji Indian
Seniors are organising the first ever event where its Seniors scattered around
Auckland will come together to celebrate themselves in collaboration and
cooperation to mark INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR ELDER PEOPLE, and seek their identity.
Indians have been coming to New Zealand from early 1960 when they came here to
cut gorse (scrub) to clear the land for farming. Some stayed back, others came
in larger numbers since 1987 coup when David Lange allowed free entry and
others through skills category like this author.
there have been no separate record keeping of Fiji Indians, it is estimated
that of the 300,000 Indians claimed to be in New Zealand, at least 40% are
Pacifica Indians from Fiji, hence they number at least 100,000 if not more, and
are not Indians in the real sense of the word. Many Fiji Indians feel that when
it comes to statistics, Indians count them in, but when it comes to their
recognition in other areas, including funding, they are ignored as aliens. They
hope to unite to stop this anomaly.
problem of getting correct numbers is because of conflicting, confusing and their
muddled-up identity, where Fiji Indians are either classed as Indians, Asians,
South Asians or others. They claim they are none of these but a distinct
ancestry of Fiji Indians who rose from cane farms of Fiji over fourteen decades
ago with a distinct culture, religious practices, language and as Pacifica
address this identity confusion the community is having talks with New Zealand
government in general, and its Census team in particular to ensure they are
properly recorded in the next census as FIJI INDIANS, a distinct Pacifica
people. They make second largest Pacifica people in Aotearoa after Samoans, but
have no separate category as Fiji Indians to identify their ancestry or
ethnicity as a category in any official documents despite their large numbers. Even
some students are denied scholarships reserved for Pacifica people, as they are
wrongly classed as “Indians”
individually Fiji Indians in Aotearoa have done well, they have failed to unite
under one banner. There are multitudes of Mandirs, (temples) Mandalis, (religious
groups), pocket Senior and other groups, but they rarely showed unity among
themselves. Many are celebrated academics, lawyers, doctors, professionals in
high positions, one has been a former Governor General, another is a High Court
judge, one had been former MP, many successful businesses, there are many
millionaires with huge property portfolio, doing very well. Yes, the community
did and performed very well individually, but collectively, they have never
been united as one people or never had any leadership or organisation which
could unite them under one banner.
was until 2012, when some six visionary Fiji Indian leaders got together and initiated
FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, which after ten years of its existence, has made its
presence felt, and is taking the argument of their identity forward and their recognition
as Pacifica people. The term Girmit itself denotes them as Fiji Indians without
mentioning any race, as their forebears came as Indentured Indian labourers
over 143 years ago.
Foundation had already taken leadership position to unite Fiji Indians in NZ.
Once again it showed leadership by initiating unity among separate Fiji Indian
Seniors in collecting them together to mark International Day of Elder persons.
Senior Citizens Day falls in August each year, and last August Fiji Indians
Seniors had planned to come together at Shri Ram Mandir. However, they were
halted by the lockdown a week before the event after everything had been
planned and finalised. Since then and even after clearance from Covid, this
initiative was placed on the backburner and was forgotten.
|The recipients of Fiji Girmit Recognition Award for elders with Life Members of FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, Harnam Singh Golian and Shiu Charan during 140 th Anniversary in May 2019.
would have remained so, however, Fiji Girmit Foundation NZ, together with Waitakere
Seniors Association, and three other Fiji Indian Seniors came together to complete
the unfinished business and mark International Day of Elders, and work
collectively and collaboratively.
International Day for Older Persons, with emphasis
on elder abuse awareness falls in October every
year with the underlying theme of Building Strong
Support for Elders.
Fiji Indian Seniors have organised this jointly with the intention of
three-pronged (trishul/trident) approach, (1) with a view to celebrating
International Day for Seniors, (2) marking Fiji Day and (3) holding discussion
on a possible future formation of an umbrella body, uniting as one group of Fiji
Seniors, to get noticed and recognised.
|A group of Fiji Indian Seniors in Fiji Girmit anniversary function in May, 2022 in Auckland
Hence, FIJI GIRMIT FOUNDATION NZ, together with Auckland Fiji Indian
Senior Citizens Association, South Auckland Senior Citizens Association and
Waitakere Senior Association, has taken the ball up to unite Fiji Indians in
Auckland. Some other Seniors from West and South Auckland were invited but they
opted out and it is hoped they will join later. However, their members
individually are attending and other Fiji Indian seniors are attending as well.
The International Day for Elders on Sunday 16th October, 2022
at A1 Event Centre in Papatoetoe is meant as a day for the Elders, by the elder
and of the elders where they will mix and mingle, have information sharing,
sharing refreshment and lunch, sharing talks on health, mental, Seniors
Wellbeing, and most important, singing, dancing and entertainment. Even Thakur
and Thakuraain are performing a dance item, with other Waitakere Seniors on the
1959 Dalip Kumar/Vaijantimala song, “ure jab jab julfein teri.” Another Senior
group is reported to be preparing a Fijian (Itaukei) song, the famous ..”Chulu
lulu..” to mark Fiji Day.
Indeed, it is meant as a historical day where Fiji Indians in general
and their Elders in particular, will put a stamp on their unity and identity,
and seek resources and recognition that they have been missing on by pledging
to work in cooperation and collaboration.
Happy International Day for Elder Persons in general, and Fiji Indian
Seniors in particular.
the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist and media commentator who
operates his blog FIJI PUNDIT. He is a community worker within Fiji Indian Community
in New Zealand and passionate about improving the wellbeing of his people who
are fighting for their true identity and resources they deserve with their