Since March 2009, the Consulate has been organizing an interactive session with the Indian Associations, at least once a month, at the Consulate. In May 2009, apart from a meeting with Indian Associations, a briefing session with the ethnic media had also been organized.
These interactive sessions have been found to be useful, in that they have helped identify issues of concern to the resident Indian community and persons of Indian origin. At the meeting in April 2009, the Consulate raised the issue related to problems faced by the Indian students and the need to list the concerns and thereafter, to identify how these might be addressed; it may be recalled that, at that time, the spate of attacks against Indian students had not commenced. Constitution of the Committee was voluntary if the Indian Associations and members of the community felt that such a Committee would serve a useful purpose. Since the constitution of the Committee was felt necessary by those present, five persons volunteered to be members of the Committee (Harmohan Walia, (Mrs) Shubha Kumar, Stanley D’Cruz, Vish Vishwanathan and Dr Yadu Singh); the Committee members identified Dr Yadu Singh as their Coordinator.
This Committee did excellent work in collating and identifying the problems and issues that were of concern to the students. Following the spate of attacks on Indian students/community, this identification of problems and thus, of possible solutions constituted the basis for presentations to various official bodies in NSW.
Following two nights of demonstrations in Harris Park, the Consulate held intensive discussions with all concerned. At a meeting chaired by the Lord Mayor of Parramatta, authorities suggested the constitution of a representative committee from Harris Park so that grievances of the Indian students/community in the area could be urgently addressed through dialogue and interface with appropriate authorities. The assistance and good offices of the Consulate were sought in this regard and the Consulate agreed to participate in such a Committee. A Committee was, thereafter, constituted with membership drawn from the resident student community in Harris Park, as also residents and those who have business interests in Harris Park/Paramatta; the identification of the members of the Committee was left entirely to the students and residents. As may be seen from the membership of the Committee, since several students had complained of a feeling of insecurity, the number of student members in the Committee is more than the other representations. All members have been identified by the community. The Committee comprises Prabir Maitra (Councillor), Mark Lack (Councillor), Shubham Malik (Student), Kartik Uppadhyay (Student), Akshit Kumar (Student), Pushneet Singh (Student), Immanuel Selvaraj (former President of International Students Union), J S Virk (businessman), Avtar Singh (businessman) and the Consulate (CG or his representative).
The mandate of this Committee is restricted to Harris Park related issues and its constitution, as suggested by concerned authorities in the area, would be to liaise with different departments so that issues and concerns that led to the demonstrations could be addressed in a timely manner.
There is no disjuncture between the two Committees that exist. Members of the Students Committee that was initially constituted in April 2009 are not members of the Harris Park Committee as the mandate of the two Committees is entirely different.
The Consulate is committed to finding solutions to the grievances of the Indian students/community and to that extent will liaise with everyone concerned. It is also clarified that no Committee is expected to continue in perpetuity; Committees have mandates and goals to achieve; once achieved, Committees get dissolved and a fresh mandate with a fresh set of goals need to be identified so that all issues related to concerns of the Indian students/community can be addressed in a pro-active manner.
The role of the Consulate is to facilitate redressal of grievances of the Indian students/community, which it is committed to doing, with or without a Committee.
Consulate General of India
23rd June, 2009