Community groups, political leaders, social justice organisations and faith representatives come together in a ‘Solidarity with India Vigil’ on Thursday at Sydney’s Town Hall.
“My brother is one of those 9000 Australians right now held up in an apartment in the North of Delhi. I have four of my family members with COVID-19 themselves. Two of them are in the hospital right now,” NSW shadow Labour minister for finance Daniel Mookhey told the people gathered at Sydney Town Hall to express their solidarity with India.
He said, “It is trying time, and it’s a time of massive distress for all of us, but we should take comfort as well in the solidarity that we have been showing each other, and the rest of Australia is showing to us, especially those here tonight, it means a lot to know that especially at a time when our government seems to be making decisions tinged by race that fellow Australians are coming and standing with us to reject that type of politics.”
Solemnity marked a ‘Solidarity with India Vigil’ held on Thursday night in Sydney to support the people of India ravaged by a deadly second wave of COVID-19.
More than one hundred people gathered outside Sydney’s Town Hall to express solidarity with millions of people in India affected by COVID; to commemorate those who have succumbed to the pandemic – more than 250,000 according to official figures; and to call on the Australian government to do everything it can to support Australia’s neighbour and ally.
People lit up the space carrying candles and listening to songs of solidarity, multi-faith prayers and speeches by political leaders and organisers.
Greens Member of the New South Wales parliament David Shoebridge said that he was there on behalf of all those who engage in politics to show solidarity to the people of India and to all Indian diaspora.
“I was just speaking with people just two nights ago. They talked about their timeline on their Facebook, filled with notifications of deaths of family and close friends. The pain that’s going through the diaspora here, the pain for your families and connections in India, how could a government do anything but act with generosity in a moment like this?” questioned Mr Shoebridge.
“The ban should immediately be removed with a promise that never it will be instigated again. Australians have a right to come home. Australian permanent residents and their partners have the right to come home. More repatriation flights should be made available.”
Statements from Alex Hawke MP, Federal Minister for Multiculturalism, Senator Janet Rice, Greens spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Andrew Giles MP, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, were read out.
Former deputy mayor of Hornsby Gurdeep Singh said that he was angry and confused that “an unprecedented ban has been put on returning Australians.”
“I call the government to not only send more help but try to get everyone back home as swiftly as possible,” said Mr Singh.
Dr Haroon Kasim from the Humanism Project expressed the hope that the Australian Government “will help get resources directly in the hands of people that need it the most. Women, children, the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the society.”
“Now, this is a time when we should work as a united world family. Global support and solidarity are more urgent than ever.”, said Abbas Raza Alvi, President – Indian Crescent Society of Australia.
Amar Singh of ‘Turbans 4 Australia’ said, “What do we expect as a society? Where do we stand? I mean, tomorrow, when these people do come back, are we going to be able to look them in the eye? I will ask everyone here today to keep supporting this cause till every Australian is back.”
Joel Mackay from Amnesty International called Australia’s decision to criminalise travel from India a “racist attack on human life” and slammed the Government for blocking a WTO proposal that would make it easier for poorer countries to have access to vaccines. He also criticised the Indian government for asking Twitter and Facebook to block posts that criticised the government.
Other members of the Australian-Indian community also shared their personal stories at the vigil.
The vigil was jointly organised by Amnesty International Australia, The Humanist Project, Sydney Alliance, Sydney Community Forum, Turbans for Australia, Hindus for Human Rights and The Indian Crescent Society of Australia.