By Ram Khatry, Sydney
Proponents of republicanism in Australia are now reaching out to Indian diaspora and on their part, prominent leaders of the community are saying they will do everything they can to see Australia have an Australian as the head of state.
Chair of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) Peter FitzSimons recently wrote on the blog of Dr Yadu Singh who himself is a die-hard republican, “Anecdotally, we know that the Indian community is one of the most, if not the most, proudly republican communities in the country. And why wouldn’t you be? With a thriving democratic tradition, borne of one of the world’s most famous and successful independence movements, India has become the kind of mature and free-standing republic that we can all be rightly proud of.”
Mr FitzSimons said it was that glorious chapter of Indian history that he would like to draw upon, “It is exactly this kind of success story that we are trying to emulate now”.
Talking to southasia.com.au, Dr. Singh said his community would come up with programmes to lend a hand to the republican cause in Australia. “I don’t want to tell you now until things are formal but there will be things happening in the community to promote republicanism,” said the president of the Federation of Indian Associations of NSW. His strong views about the cause appears to be in line with Mr FitzSimons’ passionate call on change.org, that ‘in the 21st Century Oz deserves a Head of State who hurts when we hurt, cheers when we win and always puts Australia first’.
“Remember that India opted for one of its own to become the President of India, instead of having the British Monarch as the Head of the nation at the time of its independence on 15th August, 1947,” the renown cardiologist wrote on his blog post this week.
Similar is the voice from members of the Indian community in other states.
Jasvinder Sidhu from Melbourne, an elected member of the Victorian State Council of ARM, says it is his passion to see ‘Australia become a republic moving away from outdated practice which most counties in the world don’t have anymore’. He firmly believes that having a system wherein no one else but the member of one particular family only can become the head of state ‘reinforces inequality on society’. The time of kings and queens are long gone, he added in his conversation with southasia.com.au.
“Having King or Queen as the Head demonstrates inequality. If democracy is for fairness and equal opportunity then why not an Australian be it of any race, religion or colour become the head of state? Why not an Aboriginal man or woman lead this nation?,” questioned the young Australian Indian who mostly busies himself in social work projects caring for the homeless people of Melbourne City.
Like Dr Singh, he believes that Australian Indians have no reason not to support the republican movement in Australia. Just as the Sydney-based doctor, he is urging his community members to remember their country of origin’s freedom movement when Indians broke free from the shackles of autocratic British imperialism as well as getting rid of their very own 565 princely states. He further noted that the newly-independent India rejected British proposal to appoint their monarch as the head of state (a la present day Australia) and instead appointed one of its own, Dr. Rajinder Prasad. “This is a nation where sitting PM Indira Gandhi lost her own election due to the power of democracy,” he added to highlight the independent-mindedness of Indians, by extension of Indian Australians.
Amar Singh, a noted member of Sydney’s Sikh community whose recent video against stereotyping Indians (Sikhs in particular) as ‘bad drivers’ went viral, on the other hand, does not only support the republican cause but in fact voted for it in 1999.
He argues that Australia as a nation has gone above and beyond the expectations of world superpowers and now stands amongst them as a developed nation with inputs into major wars, disaster management and providing ‘one of the most generous’ aid programmes to countries that stand in need. Therefore, he reasons, “I think it’s the way forward to stand on our own two feet and be a republic.”
With a staunch believer in the cause like Mr Singh, the republican movement is expected to find a mention amongst members of Sydney’s vibrant Sikh community when opposition leader Bill Shorten visits the Revesby Gurudwara on March 13.