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The Journey through the Years 2000:

The World ushered in the New Millennium (although it began in 2001) with thunderous applause and millions of people burnt the midnight oil to farewell the 20th Century.

It was a smooth transition as if nothing had happened except the tempest in the human mind that conjured up images of imminent apocalypse or the ultimate return of Jesus Christ.

The first issue of the Indian Newslink in 2000 did not dwell on centennial issues but revealed that Former Prime Minister David Lange could be appointed as the High Commissioner for India. This of course did not eventuate.

Immigration issues dominated a number of editions, along with those from Fiji. The January 2000 issue reviewed the modern history of India and recalled the ten most significant events, including the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi (1948), establishment of the Indian Constitution (1950), the Non-Alignment Movement (1961), Chinese Aggression (1962), death of Independent India’s first and second Prime Ministers, respectively Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1964) and Lal Bahadur Shastri (1966), appointment of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister (1966), Bharatiya Janata Party rule (1995).

New Editor

Ruci Farrell took charge as the Editor of Indian Newslink in February. She championed many causes and gave a boost to the Newspaper’s readership.

Helen Clark, who assumed leadership as Prime Minister on December 5, 1999, spoke at the 50th Republic Day celebrations of India at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland on January 26. She told the 1000-strong crowd that she would put in place a more robust and just ‘Resettlement Policy.’

Shakti, an Organisation established to empower women and promote their welfare, asserted its turf and organised a march from Aotea Square (Queen Street, Auckland City) protesting over violence against women. The procession was triggered by the murder of Asian woman Jian Huang by her husband.

Then US President Clinton’s five-day visit to India drew global interest.

Growing trade ties between New Zealand and India, the proposed visit of then Commerce & Industry Minister Murasoli Maran from Delhi and India’s appeal to Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism were among the issues that dominated a number of editions.

Indian Youth Gangs

For the first time perhaps, the existence of ‘Indian Youth Gangs’ was mentioned in the media, with the management of Logan Campbell Theatre warning that “there would be zero tolerance” towards them.

I did not see any reference to this in later issues. Members of the Indian community were seen more as victims, rather than perpetrators of crime, although they began to figure prominently as both in family violence.

Indian Newslink provided extensive coverage to the Festival of India held in Aotea Square in Auckland’s Central Business District in Auckland, at which Major General Sitiveni Rabuka (of Fiji) launched his Autobiography, Rabuka of Fiji and promised that he will stand by his statements and would not apologize for its contents. Fiji President Sir Kamisese Mara said he was defamed by the claim that he had prior knowledge of the military coup, which terminated the Bavadra Government.

Indian Newslink marked a milestone on April 20, 2000, when it launched its own website (www.indiannewslink.co.nz). With up-to-date news, it was a bold initiative of the time and readers from other countries, including Fiji, India, South Africa, Europe, UK and US said they felt closer at home reading the contents.

The murder of Ranvir Sharma, whose body was found in the boot of his car parked in Ellerslie in Auckland received extensive coverage. Yash Pal, a close friend, was accused of shooting the victim in the chest at point blank range with a rifle.

Hostage Drama

Indian Newslink published a Special Edition on May 24 to cover the hostage drama in Fiji, following a civilian coup, headed by George Speight, which deposed the Government and held Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhary and his parliamentary colleagues’ hostage in the Parliamentary complex. The New Zealand Government expressed its outrage at the criminal actions of the Speight mob and pledged its support to the then President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Fiji Indians living in New Zealand petitioned the New Zealand Government to pressurise Fiji to release the hostages and restore the democratically elected Government. A delegation of Indo-Fijians living in New Zealand met Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel and requested her not to deport overstayers to Fiji. The Minister agreed to grant a temporary extension of two months to such persons.

India’s Lara Dutta won the Miss Universe title 2000. The 21-year old model topped 78 other contestants to win the coveted crown.

The July issue captured the tragic death of 29-year-old Sarabjit Kaur and her 10-month-old son Kamaljit. According to Police, Sarabjit left her home following a domestic fight, at midnight, walked to the Mangere Bridge, from which she fell to her death, clutching her son.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama told reporters that indigenous Fijian banker; Laisenia Qarase would head the interim civilian cabinet as Prime Minister.

India was rocked by the probe initiated by the income tax authorities against the Indian cricketers, administrators and bookies.

The horrific murder of liquor shop owner Shiu Prasad in Mangere on August 30, dominated the September 2000 issue. He was stabbed in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack. Close to a thousand people filled the Manukau Memorial Gardens to pay their last respects to a highly respected member of the Indian community.

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase announced at the Methodist Church conference that a new Constitution would be in place by August 2001, and elections would follow between April and September 2002.

Former Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao was convicted for conspiring to buy votes of MPs in 1993.

Indian Newslink produced its Second Diwali Special. The publication celebrated its first anniversary in November.

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