Swastika: BHUPINDER SINGH MAHAL
Heart of Darkness
Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart ...
- Rabindranath Tagore
Monday, July 9, 2012, was a morning like any other for Ripsodhak Singh Grewal, Principal of the Brampton Khalsa School in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. As was his routine, he was the first to arrive at the school in the early hours of the morning.
But this Monday morning was unlike any other day. As he neared the school he was appalled to see swastikas and 'KKK' spray painted on the school walls. A pained expression came over his face. He could not fathom the reason behind the racist graffiti.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, condemned “the cowardly attack on the Khalsa Community School in Brampton which serves the large Sikh community in Ontario’s Peel Region”. He was outraged by the racist vandalism, saying “vandalism is an appalling criminal act that harms both its target and the community as a whole. Acts of vandalism aimed at the faith or cultural background of a specific group of people are especially deplorable”.
Elizabeth Wolfe, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), offered the Jewish community’s “solidarity to members of the Sikh community who have been affected by this act of hatred. This is a cowardly attempt at intimidation.’ David Spiro, CIJA co-chair for the Greater Toronto area, called the incident “shameful”, adding that “in a civil society, an attack like this is rightly seen as an attack against all, which violates our core Canadian values of human rights and respect for all faiths”.
He reiterated that “to the Jewish community in particular, the swastika represents hatred and evil; symbolizing the murder of six million Jews”.
Sikh community leader Nachhtar Singh Chohan believes that “some racist people are jealous of our success,” adding that “our community has not only set up our own schools, but we have elected our own people as MPs, MPPs and councilors. So this factor triggers jealousy, and hence attacks such as this one”.
Among the growing chorus of outrage were the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) and community leaders from various ethnic groups who denounced the vandalism at the Sikh school.
But the incident was a cue for Palash Ghosh, "world editor" for International Business Times, and a self-avowedly RSS (an extremist Hindu group) activist, not just to undermine the protest but to lecture on the antiquity of the swastika, a symbol that is “considered a harbinger of good luck and well being in India”.
He lauds the links between Hitler and German Nazism and India which he avers were “deep and profound”. He proudly claims that Nazi ideologies were anchored in “symbols and history of ancient India” and source of instruction, persuading Hitler in believing that Aryan tribes, including Germans, were a “superior master race”.
In support of his hypothesis of the strong bonds between Nazis and Hindu India, he quotes a Hindu Mahasabha spokesman who in 1939 said “Germany’s crusade against the enemies of the Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory”.
Palash Ghosh then goes on to advance the notion that ethnologists classify the Sikhs of Northern India as of Aryan stock, “something the ignorant spray-painters in Brampton, Canada, likely have no clue about”.
Indirectly he appears to imply that Ripsodhak Singh, Principal of the school, is descended from Aryan stock and should have realized the importance of the swastika and that all the distress over the racist vandalism was much ado about nothing.
The swastika is not particular to India. The symbol has appeared in diverse cultures around the world. In some cultures, such as that of the Hindus, it is a symbol of religious significance; in other cultures, such as Navajo, the iconography is used as an adornment. In Buddhism, it appears as an auspicious mark in the beginning of their sacred texts.
In 1920 Hitler made the swastika the official insignia of the Nazi party and in 1935 it was adopted as the national symbol. Uniforms of the armed forces, paramilitary and the dreaded storm troopers were emblazoned with the swastika. Laws were passed that shut the door for the Jews from all aspects of social and political life.
With the launch of a series of attacks (the most notorious of it known as Kristallnacht - the Night of the Broken Glass), in November 1938, against its Jewish citizens by the paramilitary, the Third Reich had embarked on a prologed and intense program of ethnic cleansing. Jews were rounded up, interned in concentration camps, gassed and incinerated by the million.
To the victims the swastika was emblematic of oppression and murder and a symbol of unadulterated evil. Since then, the civilized world has made the swastika a symbol synonymous with pogroms.
Because the swastika is a reminder of Nazi atrocities, its use, in any manner or form, has been banned by all respectable people. Readers may recall the furor over Prince Harry’s decision to wear a swastika at a fancy dress party in 2005. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said: "This was a shameful act displaying insensitivity for
the victims, not just for those soldiers of his own country who gave their lives to defeat Nazism, but to the victims of the Holocaust who were the principal victims of the Nazis” [The Independent, January 13, 2005].
Palash Ghosh has wilfully turned a blind eye to the acts of genocide carried out by the Third Reich. His thinking is not just rooted in antiquity but is stoked by the born-again Hindus who embrace the myth of Aryan superiority and its aspirations. He appears to have developed a selective amnesia on the Jewish Holocaust. It accounts for the rapid paradigm shift in his racial hatred.
He needs reminding that the swastika (a noun) has mutated into an adjective denoting evil. He needs reminding that when vandals set out in the thick of night to spray-paint swastikas on Sikh school walls or synagogues or Jewish cars and homes, they do so not out of Aryan pride but out of hatred.
Palash Ghosh needs to learn to distance himself from this heart of darkness.
August 2, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: John Levin (New York, USA), August 02, 2012, 10:08 AM.
Please note: the swastika spray-psainted on the wall, as shown, is a Hindu swastika, not a Nazi one. If it was a Nazi one, it would be drawn differently. Trust me, I know. Draw your own conclusions from this fact! Sadly, it won't make it any less evil.
2: Jas Kaur (New Jersey, USA), August 02, 2012, 10:44 AM.
I wonder if we'll ever know who did it or why. Regardless of whether it is a Hindu style Aryan symbol, or an inaccurately done Nazi Aryan emblem, it reflects badly on those who use this symbol today as something worth bragging about. Period.
3: Bhupinder Singh Mahal (Dundas, Ontario, Canada), August 02, 2012, 11:02 AM.
Mr. Levin is correct in saying that the Nazi swastika is different from the Hindu swastika. The design of the Nazi swastika has the symbol cast on a white circle, tilted to the left, against a red background. But it is not the design that is as pivotal as the image that the symbol has given rise to. However it is drawn or however some may look at it (e.g. reversed cross), the symbol reeks of racism and symbolizes evil.
4: Jaggi Singh (Sarnia, Ontario, Canada), August 02, 2012, 12:52 PM.
No matter how Ghosh tries to sugar coat it, the swastika in the western world is a sign of ultimate EVIL. To include Nazis and Hindu "aryans" in the same sentence exposes his right-wing connections. RSS and its ilk gave us the mass murders in Gujarat not too long ago - just as the Nazis did.
5: R. Singh (Canada), August 02, 2012, 3:23 PM.
When evil acts are perpetrated under certain symbols, they are not going to invoke any fuzzy feelings whatsoever, irrespective of some past fantasised glory attatched to it. Mr Ghosh does not stop at merely informing others of hindu symbology, but goes ahead and spews laurels about its Nazi connections. It does not matter, whether hindu or nazi, this kind of encouragement does not sit well in any civilised society, nor does anyone belonging to a hallowed group makes an iota of difference to mankind unless it is for common human welfare.
6: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), August 02, 2012, 9:52 PM.
I whole heartedly agree with S. Nachhatar Singh that acts of racism aimed at the Sikh community are rooted in an inferiority complex. With regard to Palash Ghosh, I would not say that the point of his actions are to undermine this protest but to reclaim what he sees as being a Hindu symbol which has gotten negative attention in western culture. However, what he has done is very selfish as he trying to remove the spotlight from this disgusting incident to serve his own self-interest.
7: Ramnik Shah (London, England), August 03, 2012, 6:45 AM.
I am in complete agreement with the broad thrust of Bhupinder`s well argued piece and both his and other feedback comments, particularly those from Jas Kaur, Jaggi Singh and R. Singh.
8: Jaswinder Kaur (Germany), August 03, 2012, 12:05 PM.
With regard to Palash Ghosh, when will such ignorant people learn, how can one race be superior? Do they have a superior blood group?
9: R. Singh (Canada), August 04, 2012, 3:52 PM.
Mr Ghosh's thrust is not to redeem a Hindu symbol, at this late day, when it should have been done when the Nazis were using it. Though even at that juncture, he assigns some manner of pride in the association. As a Hindu symbol, today once again fascist ideology is finding roots in such symbolisms and attitudes. If Ghosh really was not out to undermine the protest, he would have tried to reinstate the symbol by taking it away from modern day fascists and restore it to its benign origins. It cannot happen by promoting some manner of superiority based on it, praising those who misused it, and then revert back to aryanisms. Would the sky fall down for all those who are not aryan, for many a civilisation has emerged and disappeared in the past, yet no one seems to claim superiority by association with them. In this case Hindu glory has nothing to do with the current act of vandalism in a Sikh school.