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Preserving a heritage of 5000 yrs: Redeem Swastika


LONDON: Several hundred-thousand British Hindus have begun a high-pitched "reclaim the swastika" campaign in an attempt to prevent a Europe-wide ban on the 5,000-year-old Sanskrit symbol of good fortune.

Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum, an umbrella organisation of 250 groups of Hindus up and down Britain told TOI that the UK's Hindus were alarmed and deeply pained at the prospect of a European ban on the swastika "just because no one in the West now associates the symbol with Hindu ideology and as a positive symbol of the cosmos."

The Hindu Forum, which counts roughly half the UK's estimated 700,000 Hindus as members, says its campaign to redeem the swastika is urgent and pressing. Discounting thousands of years of positive Hindu association with the swastika, the West, it said, lamentably sees the most famous irregular icosagon or 20-sided polygon in history purely in terms of its more recent, 70-year-old link with Hitler and the Nazi killing machine.

The Hindu campaign to reclaim the swastika is seen as British Hindus' first major political initiative with Europe-wide implications.

Kallidai admitted it signalled a political coming-of-age of Hindus in the West because the Forum planned a four-pronged, mass-outreach programme of awareness about Hinduism in its campaign to save the swastika from the sins of Hitler and the Nazi doctrine of racial purity.

Many believe it may turn into a hands-on test of Hindu power and pelf in a multi-cultural Britain that is heading for a general election. The Hindu community is thought to be the crucial, secret swing vote in at least 15 electoral constituencies, claimed Kallidai.

The continent-wide swastika ban was proposed within days of an international outcry over Prince Harry's much-hyped choice of a swastika armband and Nazi military uniform as fancy dress for a private party. Many believe the proposed ban is a politically-correct over-reaction to a prankish private party piece by a young British prince.

The swastika is already banned in Germany, Austria and Hungary. But Hindus such as Kallidai say they are alarmed by the proposal to make it an offence across all of Europe.

Just imagine the future, said Kallidai. Europe's Hindus would no longer be able to use the swastika as they always have for 5,000 years, as a symbol of good luck.

"If there's a swastika on a building, no one in Europe sees it as anything other than a symbol of the Holocaust, pain and anguish and all that was suffered by the Jews," he added.

But Hindus admit it may be difficult to reverse years of European indoctrination and aversion to the swastika. Even so, Kallidai is indomitable. "One has to make a start somewhere. We want to tell the West that the wrong use of the swastika has just 60 or 70 years of history behind it. The Hindus have 5,000 years."

Just 24 hours ago, in a widely-condemned attack on race relations, vandals daubed swastikas on the walls of a mosque in the English city of Birmingham, in an attempt to signal suppressed menace to the Muslim faithful.

The swastika reclamation campaign includes a mass education of Western publics through the national, regional and ethnic media; a programme to educate faith communities throughout the West, with a special emphasis on the Jews and a major conference in London in March to remind the world about the long-and-lamentably forgotten history of the swastika.

The conference is expected to crucially invite members of the European Parliament, British MPs, leading academics, educationists, historians and religious leaders.

The fourth aspect of the campaign will include a sustained lobbying campaign of Britain's 659 MPs and hopefully, a parliamentary motion by a Hindu-friendly British MP calling for the UK to oppose a Europe-wide swastika ban.

On Wednesday, Indologists recalled that the ultimate empire-builder writer Rudyard Kipling, who was strongly influenced by Indian culture, had a swastika on the dust jackets of all his books until the rise of Nazism made this inappropriate.

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