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Made in India Magazine | October 21, 2021

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| On 07, Sep 2021

Many Hindus will be left reeling by the planned expansion of Victoria’s anti-vilification laws. The new laws are intended to end propaganda and extremism, including symbols such as the infamous Nazi swastika. However, this symbol has been revered by Hindus long before the Nazis adopted it. For the Hindu community, it represents wellbeing, originating from the root words Su, which means ‘good’, and Asti, which means ‘to exist’. The symbol itself has four arms which have their own meaning to Hindus, representing what is commonly acknowledged as the primary endeavours of life – emotional, economic, moral, and spiritual. Together they represent wellbeing.

While the symbols look identical, they’re not. The Nazi’s Hakenkreuz is different to the Hindu swastika. The Hakenkreuz lays on a white circle and is black and tilted. The red was used by Hitler to represent social thought juxtaposed against the white, i.e., national thought. Hitler placed the Hakenkreuz to represent the Nazi mission of Aryan supremacy. This fascist rendition of the swastika is at the other end of the spectrum of its intended Hindu meaning. Unfortunately, the modern Nazi interpretation links the symbol with the evil perpetrated by Hitler and his army.

For example, a recent Sydney Dance Company production came to make news when one dancer introduced it into the show. In 2019, a Diwali rangoli was destroyed in Adelaide when a delivery driver thought it to be the Nazi symbol. Also, back in 2013, the ‘Learn to Love The Swastika Day’ failed, even when global tattoo artists offered free swastikas tattoos. The ensuing criticism drowned the valid argument that the symbol has a rich history that predates the 1930s; it is an ancient symbol of blessing that marks the opening pages of books, doors, thresholds, and events.

While the Victorian Government has not yet banned the swastika symbol, there is positivity in the fact that the symbol is open to certain exceptions. Recently, the Victorian branch of the Hindu Council of Australia made submissions into the legislative process. Other Hindu organisations are expected to elaborate further; therein, seeking allowances for the symbol to be used in any context related to the Hindu faith. Alex Hawke, the Minister for Immigration, Migrant Services, and Multicultural Affairs, noted the difference between the two symbols earlier this year and confirmed that the Federal Government plans to acknowledge the Hindu symbol’s historical usage. In addition, he noted any ban is set to target Nazism and not to target religion. 

While these planned reforms aim to curb hateful behaviour; therefore, making civil and criminal vilification easier to prove in Australian courts, it needs to be done cautiously. When introduced in 2022, penalties will carry up to $10,000 fines or six months imprisonment. We recognise these well-intentioned motives; however, the Hindu community fears it will encroach on their civil freedoms and religious heritage.

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