With the report of Sikh men identified by their turbans being attacked last Sunday evening 28 February in the Western Sydney suburb of Harris Park by yet to be identified men, Australian Alliance Against Hate and Violence (AAAHAV) says that Australia is least prepared to counter the rising threat of far right Hindu extremism and calls on politicians, federal and state governments to urgently recognise the threat that it poses to social cohesion in Australia and to take concrete steps to address this threat.
The Alliance has been formed to create awareness and advocacy to prevent the violence and hate speech that is causing so much hardship and suffering in India to come to Australia disrupting its multicultural, pluralistic and harmonious living.
The AAAHAV represents civil society activists and organisations that include Hindus for Human Rights, Turbans 4 Australia, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils AFIC, Pax Christi Australia, The Humanism Project THP, Basmala Australia and representatives of the Indian Ambedkarite community.
The call from AAAHAV is in response to a number of incidents of social tension driven by far right Hindu extremist elements allied with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India. Their actions are perpetuating targeted attacks and online hate speech against Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Indian Ambedkarite community (Dalits) and mainstream Hindus living in Australia.
In order raise awareness of the rising threat that far right Hindu extremism poses to social cohesion in Australia, the AAAHAV organised a press conference on Sunday morning 28 February 2021 in front of the Indian Consulate in Sydney along with Greens MP David Shoebridge, Former Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Mr Amar Singh, President of Turbans4Australia, Keysar Trad, CEO of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), Dr Haroon Kasim from THP and Mr Ansari Jainullabudeen from Basmalla Australia.
With the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) conducting an Inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia to report by 30 April 2021, the media conference called on the Australian government and opposition to acknowledge the dangers of far right Hindu extremism and security agencies to monitor Hindu fascist organisations like RSS just like white supremacist groups.
Mr Amar Singh raised concerns about the treatment of farmers in India. Greens MP David Shoebridge concurred with Mr Singh’s statements and said that the AAAHAV stands with Indian farmers and other communities in India that are standing up against an increasingly intolerant Modi government.
In February 2021, these far-right Hindu extremist elements have attempted to disrupt Sunday services at the Glenwood Sikh temple and were involved in two separate attacks on Sikh youth in Harris Park and Granville areas. This follows an ugly street brawl between these far right Hindu extremist elements and Sikh youth late in 2020.
The Hindutva extremist elements infiltrate community organisations under the guise of multiculturalism, set up sub-cultures and micro-networks and drive social discord in a coordinated and discrete way. Most worryingly their growth has been made possible through foreign funding from India.
This highlights an urgent need for politicians from all parties, federal and state governments to recognise that right Hindu extremism has sunk its roots in Australia and concrete steps need to be taken to address this threat.
Mr Shoebridge reaffirmed AAAHAV’s solidarity with members of the Sikh community who have been subject to far too many incidents of attacks by far right Hindu extremists. In particular he raised concerns about the recent disruption of Sunday services in a Sikh temple in western Sydney and Sikh Youth feeling threatened just walking around the streets.
He said such acts have no place in a successful multi-cultural society like Australia. He also asked for federal, state politicians across parties to call out such far right extremist violence and stand with the communities under attack.
Mr Keysar Trad also expressed his solidarity with members of the Indian Sikh and Muslim community. He also raised concerns that the political dispensation in India was exporting far right extremism to Australia and called for the need to support the Indian farmers and promote peace and harmony in Australia.
Dr Kasim from The Humanism Project, echoed the sentiments of AAAHAV, raised concerns about the attacks on the Sikh community and called for an urgent need for state and federal politicians to take note of the escalating attacks and investigate them.
In a media release dated Sunday 28 February, AAAHAV has raised concern for increasing hate speech and intimidation of Indian minority groups by Hindutva extremist linked with Hindu Fascist organisations like RSS.
Activities, strategies, campaigns and hate language by far right groups in India are increasing being replicated in Australia. The far right groups in India have established Australian chapters and infiltrated community organisations trying to influence its members.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) is designated as a religious militant outfit by the CIA World in 2018. Within New South Wales, however, VHP is a designated Special Religious Education (SRE) provider to the Department of Education, NSW. It also provides SRE to Australian children in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. In the financial year 2019 – 2020, VHP received $105,161.00 in funding from Australian tax payer money. This is of concern.
The Hindu Council of Australia organised and published a number of online webinars, between 18 and 19 January 2021, where speakers used hate speech against Islam and Muslims. This has raised great concern amongst members of the Australian Muslim Community as reported by Australasian Muslim Times (AMUST).
On 14 January 2021, SBS Punjabi radio reported concerns about a recent onslaught of online hate speech by such organisations that was leading to “divisions and spreading hatred” within the Indian-Australian community.
On 15 February 2021, SBS Punjabi radio again reported concerns by Australian Sikh Association Limited (ASA) and the management body of the Glenwood Gurudwara about a car rally by these organisations to “provoke and disrupt services” attended by thousands of worshippers on Sunday.
While majority of Hindus are peaceful, Hindutva extremists vilify and hate lower caste Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. The movement has been around for 80 years or so and have been responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and have a long track record of attacking places of worship and festivals of minority communities increasingly after Modi came to power.
Ms Tanvi Mor from Hindus for Human Rights said, “For Hindus, the core of our faith is encapsulated in these vedic verses, “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (the world is one sacred family). For us, the divine is equally and identically represented in every person, and indeed in every particle in the universe. To the Hindus who have responded with intimidation and threats of violence to those standing up in support of India’s farmers, or anyone defending India’s inclusive democracy, we say: Not In Our Name.”
Mr Amar Singh said, “As a proud Australian Sikh, I feel recent events will have long term implications to the multicultural and peaceful subcontinent communities in Australia. The evil of far right extremism and hate mongers especially online must be made accountable and called to answer.”
Dr Rateb Jneid, President of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, stated: “I’ve been proud to call Australia home for the decades that I’ve lived here. Hindutva extremism has shown that it can be among the deadliest in the world. Australian authorities must take a tough stand on all right-wing extremism including the kind that the RSS and BJP affiliated groups operating in Australia engage in.”
Mr Parag Bhagat, Indian Ambekarite said, “The tiranga rally incident in Sydney was utterly disgraceful. It provides a glimpse into the disdain and hatred harboured by such fascist elements for democratic values and minorities. As a member of the Ambekarite community, I condemn any such religious extremism by the Indian diaspora or otherwise.”
Father Claude Mostowik MSc, President of Pax Christi Australia, said “It is very alarming that since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there has been widespread suppression of dissent, attacks against farmers, human rights defenders and environmentalists. We also note these attacks have now spread to the Sikh and Muslim communities in Australia. We call for relationships through dialogue and pray that people will live in security, free from fear and oppression.”