New York removes reference to Swastika from anti-Semitic and fascist symbols legislation, time to take same approach in Australia

The phrase “anti-Semitic and fascist symbols including swastikas” was amended to “anti-Semitic, fascist, and neo-Nazi ideology.”

The swastika is a living enigma that displays auspiciousness, wealth, good fortune, the sun, the circle of life, and other things. The emblem has both auspicious and ornamental meanings. There are a variety of viewpoints regarding its origin, functions, meaning, and elucidations. It may be traced throughout the Indian subcontinent, from prehistoric periods through the Indus Valley and Saraswati civilizations.

The swastika symbol holds the highest spiritual significance for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. The importance of Swastika became more prominent around the Indian subcontinent as Buddhism expanded. It moved westward through Afghanistan, then eastward across Central Asia to China, Korea, and Japan. Another path it took was to China around 1800 BCE, then to Korea in 37 BCE, and finally to Japan in 538 BCE (Kant A.K. et al., 2016, Diversity of an ideogram: A Case of Swastika in the Eastern World).

The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (Chevalier J. & Gheerbrant A., 1996) says: “One of the oldest symbols in existence is the Swastika, and it is one of the most widely spread, from furthest east to Central America, via Mongolia, India, and Northern Europe. It was well-known to Celts and Etruscans and to Ancient Greece so the so-called Greek key pattern derives from it. Some writers have tried to take it back to Atlantis, which shows its great antiquity.”

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Furthermore, the word Swasti (स्वस्ति) is found in many Rigvedic mantras and the meaning of the iiSwastika (卐) sign is taken from the word Swasti (i.e., well-being). For example, Rigveda V.51.15 mentions “स्वस्ति पन्थामनु चरेम सूर्याचन्द्रमसाविव”, i.e., May we ever follow “path of peace & bliss” (स्वस्तिपन्थाम्) like the Sun & the Moon.

Despite these facts, the Nazi insignia, which was originally known as the Hakenkreuz (“Hooked cross”), was substituted with Swastika in early English translations of Adolf Hilter’s “Mein Kampf,” popularising the phrase “Nazi swastika,” and, thus, confusing the two concepts. As a result, Swastika, an Indian sign of peace and auspiciousness, became erroneously connected with Hitler’s preposterous Aryan supremacy theory.

figure 1: A Visual Comparison of the Indian Swastika and the Nazi Hakenkreuz.

On 29th July 2020, Asian News International reported: “The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA), a US-based advocacy group, has welcomed the New York State Assembly’s decision to reconsider a bill that would require schools to teach the Swastika as a symbol of hatred and intolerance in the school curriculum.

CoHNA further asserted that it is well known that Hitler’s symbol (“Hakenkreuz” or the Hooked Cross) had nothing to do with the Swastika and the two have been conflated due to misuse and misappropriation.

It is also important to note that the vital nuances in this conversation have been recognised by Hindu and Jewish leaders … CoHNA has reached out to the offices of the Assembly Education Committee Chair as well as other Assembly members and senators to offer help in rewording Bill’s language in consultation with Jewish, Native American and African American groups.” (Asian News International. 2020, July 29. US-based advocacy group welcomes New York State Assembly’s decision to reconsider the bill for Swastika.

On 29th April 2022, it was reported that the term “Swastika” has been deleted from New York State Assembly and Senate bills NY A.9155 and NY S.7680, according to Hindu American Foundation. The swastika was initially described as an “anti-Semitic and fascist emblem” in both legislation (Hindu American Foundation, @HinduAmerican on Twitter

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NY Assembly and Senate Bills,  A.9155 and S.7680 (https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/A9155 & https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s7680/), initially mentioned:

The attackers carried white supremacist symbols including the flag known as the Confederate battle flag, as well as anti-Semitic and fascist symbols including swastikas. At the same time as many were carrying these symbols of the enemies of the United States, some of the attackers were observed removing the flag of the United States, throwing it to the ground, and replacing it with a flag bearing the name of President Donald J. Trump.

The phrase “anti-Semitic and fascist symbols including swastikas” was amended to “anti-Semitic, fascist, and neo-Nazi ideology.

Thus, the basic distinction between the Nazi hate symbol, the Hakenkreuz, and the Indian auspicious emblem, Swastika, was preserved by the New York State Assembly and Senate after considering the facts surrounding Hakenkreuz and Swastika, thereby accepting the facts and honouring the sentiments of the Indian Diaspora in the United States.

The Indian Diaspora globally and especially in Australia is opposed to the Nazi hate emblem, the Hakenkreuz, which serves as a terrible reminder of genocide and misery and supports the banning and criminalizing of Nazi hate symbols.

However, it is equally important to note that Swastika and Hakenkreuz are not the same entity, and conflating the two is incorrect and unjustified. The Australian lawmakers should take a lead from the above-mentioned amendment by the New York State Assembly & Senate and cognition the difference between Swastika and Hakenkreuz. 

Furthermore, the state machinery and systems in Australia should be employed to launch an awareness campaign on the differences between the Nazi hate symbol and the Indian Swastika in order to educate people, law enforcement agencies, judiciary and legislators about the differences between the Hakenkreuz and the Swastika because a false equivalence, direct or indirect, of Nazi Hakenkreuz and the Swastika, is unjust and wrong. 

Yadu Singh is a Sydney-based Cardiologist who has a keen interest in Indian History.
Vikrant Parmar is Electrical Engineer with a strong interest in Indian Medieval History.

Disclaimer: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The opinions and facts are presented solely by him, and neither The Australia Today News nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.