NRI Affairs celebrated its first anniversary in Parramatta in the company of many of its friends and partners. Here is the speech of our editor.
‘I begin today by acknowledging the Gadigal people Eora people, Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather today, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today.
I also pay respect to the Muslims, Dalits, women and all other minorities of India and support them in their struggle for equality.
Today is a good day to talk a bit about our early days. We were a couple of months into starting NRI Affairs. Pageviews on our website were low. Visitors were like toilet papers during the pre-covid lockdown days. Hard to find. So our morale was not very high. And then, one fine day, I received a call from the president of an association of Indians here in Sydney. He said, don’t share your news in our groups. We don’t want them. I was surprised, to say the least. I asked, why?
He said we don’t like them…. Don’t think we don’t know and see what NRI Affairs is doing; we keep an eye on everything, he went on saying.
That was the first time I realised NRI Affairs was on the right track. That one phone call reassured me that we were doing the right thing. Because we did not start NRI Affairs to please anyone. We were there to do trustworthy journalism.
Let me remind you that we come from India, a country that has been ranked 150th on the Freedom of Press index. And we are working in Australia, which slid from 25 to 39 out of 180 countries this year.
Therefore I had no doubt that it would be a difficult journey. It was a leap of faith, not just for me personally, but for Deepak Joshi, Gargee Chakravarty and Gaurav Vaishnava, who believed in me and joined hands. It was a leap of faith for Natasha, Gurnam and Abbas Sahab, and Haroon bhai, who told me not to worry.
And, it was a leap of faith for my wife Anita, who had to pay the bills too.
NRI Affairs was started by some lunatics who believed in truth even in the post-truth world.
We started NRI Affairs because we realised that migrants need a voice that so-called mainstream Australia have not given them so far. Diaspora media is the community’s media, for the community and by the community. We wanted to add another dimension to it. So NRI Affairs is a media organisation of the migrants, by the migrants but for the people. And when you are for the people, you are above your biases. Therefore, if something is not good inside the migrant community, we will not shy away from talking about it. Because when we are intensely talking for the community, we will not hesitate to speak powerfully of the community.
The question is, why?
The answer is simple. We don’t believe in mainstream and side-stream. The number of people doesn’t define their rights. It is unfair to say that migrants’ media is not mainstream media, for they are less in numbers. Every single person matters. Every individual is in the mainstream. Every story is a mainstream story.
When I tell this to my friends, they say it’s unrealistic. A story of 700,000 people cannot be the story for the whole of Australia. They say it’s unreasonable and impossible because what matters to more matters to all. We are here to change that perception. NRI Affairs is trying to erase that distinction.
When a migrant fails to travel to his native country because the government has put restrictions on travel, it is a mainstream story. Similarly, when an organisation of migrants supports the atrocities of their native country’s government, it is a mainstream story.
Therefore, we will not shy away from reporting facts as they are. But then facts can also be construed differently. For example, a person says it’s raining outside. Another person says it is sunny outside. NRI Affairs will not simply report what these two people are saying. We shall go out, verify for ourselves and then tell the world which one of them is lying and why.
Even if it takes us to unrealistic limits, we will follow the truth. Borrowing the words of historian Rutger Burgman, if we want to change the world, we need to be unrealistic, unreasonable and impossible. Remember, those who called for the abolition of slavery, suffrage for women, and same-sex marriage were also once branded as lunatics until history proved them right.
NRI affairs, and for that matter, any media organisation by migrants will be a mainstream organisation in this country. And I appeal to you to believe in this dream. I implore you to help us achieve this dream. So that an Australian means an Australian and not migrant or white or Indian. We have to erase these lines. NRI Affairs is that eraser.
Thank you all for taking the first step today and accepting our invitation. I thank every one of you for being here.
Vivek Asri, Editor, NRI Affairs