The diversity of opinion among the Indian diaspora in Australia will be on display during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit next week to Sydney where a mega community event on Tuesday will be followed by a screening of the BBC documentary India: The Modi Question in Canberra the next evening.
The screening will be held by a group of diaspora organisations — which have been trying to draw attention to India’s turning away from the founding principles of the Constitution under the Modi government — in Australia's Parliament House in Canberra. Australia's Parliament offers several of its spaces for hire, and the screening is a wholly private enterprise organised by diaspora groups along with the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.
Besides Amnesty, the organisations involved in the screening include Hindus for Human Rights Australia & New Zealand and Muslim Collective.
The Periyar-Ambedkar Thought Circle-Australia, The Humanism Project and the Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation are also involved.
Modi will only visit Sydney during his three-day trip to Australia, beginning on Monday. Besides a bilateral engagement with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and meetings with the business community, he will attend a mega community event along with Albanese the following day.
Modi will in all likelihood have flown out of the country by the time the documentary is screened in Canberra the following evening.
The two-part BBC documentary examines Modi’s actions as the Gujarat chief minister during the carnage of 2002 in his state. The screening will be followed by a discussion that will focus on the Gujarat riots as well as India under his watch since 2014. The speakers include Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of jailed Gujarat police officer Sanjiv Bhatt who had spoken out against Modi, and Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty International in India.
Australian senators David Shoebridge and Jordon Steele-John — both members of the Australian Greens — will also speak at the screening-cum-discussion. The two senators, along with their deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi, have written to Albanese urging him to “raise concerns with Prime Minister Modi about ongoing human rights abuses which are contributing to the persecution of several minority groups”.
Like many western politicians in different countries with a sizeable Indian diaspora, the signatories to the letter have cited the apprehensions within the community as the reason for weighing in on this issue.
“We have heard from many in the broader Indian diaspora, including Punjabis, Kashmiris, human rights campaigners as well as Muslim and Sikh communities, who are deeply concerned about their relatives in India and the future of their freedom of religion, expression, protest and movement within a so-called democratic India,” the letter says.