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Little India plaque: Looking for a home

Where exactly at Harris Park will the Little India plaque unveiled by PMs Albanese and Modi be located? And when can we expect to see it?

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It was unveiled with full fanfare by not one but two Prime Ministers.

The Prime Ministers of India and Australia drew the curtains back to inaugurate the Little India plaque, in front of 18,000 attendees at the Qudos Arena community reception for PM Modi.

The plaque reads “The Foundation Stone of the “Little India” Gateway in Harris Park, City of Parramatta was laid by the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia and His Excellency Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India on 23 May 2023.”

Yet days after the event, the plaque lies in the offices of Andrew Charlton, local Federal Member of Parliament, with what seems to be an indefinite timeline as to its permanent home.

Gurmeet Tuli, President of Little India Australia Park, has stated his concerns about this.

“Where will it be erected?” he asked. “Will it occupy one of the proposed streets in Harris Park or the roundabout? When will the council allocate the necessary land? When will the Development Application be lodged? Will the Little India precinct receive its own postcode, or will it remain a symbolic part of Harris Park? These questions remain unanswered.”

 

The official recognition of Little India entails a lengthy and complex process. Tuli emphasised the initial steps: “First of all, the council needs to submit a Development Application. With the community’s support, I hope they do so sooner rather than later. Next, the proposed name will be presented to the Geographical Names Board, and they may conduct a community consultation. Subsequently, the council must allocate suitable land, which won’t be easy, given the various stakeholders involved.”

The question which has been raised is if this was a pre-mature announcement of an event which has not been sanctioned at the various levels of government, including at the Parramatta Council level which is ultimately one of the main parties, other than the Geographical Names Board.

Sanjay Deshwal, president of the Little India Harris Park Business Association, was one of the strong proponents of having a plaque at the Little India gateway. Now that the plaque is officially here, Deshwal believes that Parramatta Council needs to step up.

“It is in the hands of Parramatta Council now,” he told Indian Link. “We had been working towards this goal for over a decade. The unveiling of the plaque by Narendra Modi was a significant outcome of our collective efforts. I hope the council acts upon it promptly.”

There are calls for the newly elected Parramatta mayor Sameer Pandey to assist the community in this endeavour and help get the Council to accelerate their efforts on the concept of Little India to gain legitimacy. Indian-born Lord Mayor Sameer Pandey confirmed the Council’s intentions, saying, “We’ll be installing (the plaque) to mark the gateway to Little India precinct.”

The Lord Mayor said a bronze plaque unveiled by the two Prime Ministers on the night is intended to be attached to a foundation stone at the gateway to Wigram Street, Marion Street and Station Street East in Harris Park – a precinct already known by many in the community as Little India.

“The City of Parramatta is engaging closely with the community and the Federal Member for Parramatta Andrew Charlton MP to secure grant funding from the Investing in Our Communities Program to fund the installation of the plaque. The project contributes to the shared goal of making the Little India precinct a national and international destination,” the council said in a statement.

MP Andrew Charlton had promised funding of $3.5 million for the Little India precinct prior to the last election.

It is understood some Parramatta councillors are uncomfortable with the renaming of this precinct, citing deep historical reasons for retaining the current status quo.

There are also questions being raised by different members of the community as to the constant rumours that circulated during PM Modi’s visit, that the unveiling of the plaque would take place at the site itself, Harris Park, on 23 May, with PM Modi himself attending.

“It would have been clear to all, given that there was no structure or post or site earmarked for the plaque to be installed,  that PM Modi was not coming to Harris Park. We spent a few hours in that area on 23 May with high expectations of seeing the PM as the local community leaders were still suggesting on radio and TVs that he may come there. It just seems to be a case of self-promotion,” Kanti Shah from Glenwood said.

The saga of the Little India plaque location will still take time to play out, but one thing is for sure, PM Modi in his multiple references to Little India in his Sydney address has put Harris Park on the map.

Read More: Penny Wong: ‘PM Modi’s three Ds exemplify the depth of our relationship’

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