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PV Narasimha Rao statue inaugurated in Sydney

Ninth PM of India PV Narasimha Rao honoured on his 100th birth anniversary with a statue at Strathfield, NSW

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A bust of the ninth prime minister of India, PV Narasimha Rao, was inaugurated in Homebush NSW on 22 Oct to mark his 100th birth anniversary.

Serving from 1991 to 1996, Narasimha Rao is credited with significant contributions towards the liberalisation of India’s economy.

His daughter Vani Devi flew out for the occasion to Sydney. She did the honours by unveiling the statue and was watched on by the mayor by the Strathfield Local Council Matthew Blackmore, Councillor Sandhya (Sandy) Reddy, and Mahesh Bigala, the Overseas Convenor of the PV Narsimha Rao Centenary Celebrations Committee.

PV Narasimha Rao statue Sydney
Sandhya (Sandy) Reddy, Vani Devi, Mayor Matthew Blackmore, Mahesh Bigala (Source: Supplied)

Some 200 people from the local Indian community gathered to pay their own respects.

The statue sits on a Council property (52 Hamstead Road, Homebush West), the home of the Homebush West Community Centre. It was created by Hyderabad-based sculptor BSV Prasad.

Later, at an official ceremony at Strathfield Town Hall, Mayor Matthew Blackmore said, “Strathfield is a multicultural community, and this statue is an example of our inclusiveness.”

Mahesh Bigala thanked the Australian community and the Strathfield Local Council for accepting the statue.

Councillor Sandy Reddy told Indian Link the process of having the bust installed began in May.

“Our proposal to Council was accepted unanimously. 16.5 per cent of the residents in the area have Indian heritage, and many came here because of the wide-reaching economic reforms that PV Narsimha Raoji instituted,” she elaborated.

She added that Australia is the first country outside of India to host a statue of the former Prime Minister: “The PV Narsimha Rao Centenary Celebrations Committee aims to take a statue to every country. The program has the blessings of the Telangana CM  Sri K. Chandrashekar Rao.”

PV Narasimha Rao statue sydney
Vani Devi garlands the statue of her late father, Shri PV Narasimha Rao (Source: Supplied)

No representation came from the Consulates or High Commission in Australia even though a former prime minister was being honoured.

The story received some coverage in India, significantly in the Telangana press.

Having come to the role in January, Councillor Reddy’s contributions so far have included organising murals by local artists in Council area; community gardens; arranging free parking for volunteer caretakers at the wetlands, and helping introduce a Strathfield Local Council App which will be launched early next year.

Is she hoping to see the Narasimha Rao statue become a spot of community congregation, just like the Gandhi statue at Parramatta or the Anzac jawan memorial at Cherrybrook?

“Yes we hope so,” she replied, adding, “but you can’t compare the Rao statue to these two, as it is not in a spacious park where people can congregate in large numbers.”

Among other India-origin statues and busts in Sydney, we have a Mahatma Gandhi bust at UNSW (inaugurated in 2010), a bust of Rajiv Gandhi at UTS presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at New Delhi in 2012, and an Ambedkar bust at Western Sydney University’s Law Faculty (inaugurated in 2016).

Source: Supplied

The issue of erecting – and indeed, the taking down of – statues of mainstream leaders in Australia has been a recurring debate in recent years. Much discussion has centred around the fact that white and colonial personalities are over-represented.

It wasn’t until 2021 that Bennelong and Barangaroo, two significant Indigenous figures of NSW, got their own statues.

Given that Bennelong belonged to the Wangal clan – whose native lands include those which house modern-day Strathfield Council, perhaps we will see a statue dedicated to him, in the area. It will go a long way in educating the area’s 16.5 per cent Indian-origin residents, as well as New Australians of other ethnicities, about First Nations peoples, their culture and their particular struggles. PV Narasimha Rao would probably have appreciated that.

Perhaps Councillor Reddy will take this up as a future project.

READ ALSO: A record-breaking cake effort at BAPS Temple Sydney

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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