By Awaaz Network:
Editor’s note: Awaaz Network, which advocates for religious tolerance in South Asia and the UK, projected an image on the Palace of Westminster in protest of P.M. Modi’s visit to the UK. Many publications such as UK Mirror, Scroll, etc criticised their use of ‘Aum’ with the Nazi Swastika. Awaaz has now come out with a response explaining its usage of the symbol and protest against Modi.
Exactly three days ago, on Sunday 8 November at 9pm, we projected an image onto the Palace of Westminster. The image was of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wielding a sword. It also suggested how religious symbols revered by many Hindus, such as Aum, are being used by the political Hindutva movement, to which Mr Modi belongs, towards fascist ends, such as attacks on minorities, rationalists, Dalits and political opponents.
Suresh Grover from Awaaz Network said, “Pulling off the visual protest took weeks of planning and liaising with professional technicians. The protest was timed to coincide with the Bihar election results, UK’s Remembrance Day that commemorates the fight against Nazism and Fascism during the Second World War, and Mr. Modi’s visit. The day after, 9 November, is the day when in 1938 the first large-scale systematic pogroms began against Jewish citizens in Germany – Kristallnacht.” The banner was projected from halfway across Westminster Bridge and went up right next to the Remembrance Day poppies on Big Ben.
The image was chosen carefully and deliberately. Millions of people, including Indians, died in the battle against Nazism. Nazism was defeated shortly after the end of the Second World War. But movements it inspired remained scattered in different parts of the world, including India. Narendra Modi’s movement, the RSS, admired Hitler and Mussolini. It directly drew its inspiration from European Fascism and National Socialism, not any Indian traditions. Its founders glorified Nazism. They believed India should emulate Hitler and Aryanism. The RSS is responsible for trying to turn one of the world’s great religions, Hinduism, into their version of fascism. They abuse Hindu symbols every day, turning them into weapons of hatred and violence. The RSS in its daily branch meetings for its members does not allow images of Hindu Gods or Goddesses, only images of their Nazi-loving founders. That great apostle of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, was murdered by an RSS member. This was the point of the image we used: the struggle against fascism continues today and it has a powerful tradition and history. The RSS’s aims to supplant Hinduism with a deeply violent, racist ideology directly inspired by Nazism.
Bob Blackman, the Tory MP who has complained about Awaaz, has been a long-term supporter of the RSS, the VHP and BJP. He has attended an RSS camp in the UK as an honored guest and openly supported the RSS. He has lost any moral authority on this issue.
We wanted to project the image on Parliament because Mr. Modi seeks its legitimacy, just as he craves legitimacy on the world stage. “He has been invited to parliament by the Speaker of the House and Mr David Cameron,” said Suresh Grover, adding: “I think it sends a clear message that a large part of the Indian community here reject the politics of hate and intolerance, wherever it takes place – in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar any country in south Asia or in this country.”
Awaaz Network’s aim is to monitor and combat religious hatred in South Asia and the UK. The Network is a large alliance of community groups and individuals. Its participants come from all backgrounds, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and non-believers. Its members are opposed to the violence, intolerance and hate that Hindutva represents, just as it is opposed to religious hatred, intolerance and violence in any form. Awaaz is not affiliated to any political party nor does Awaaz subscribe to any single political ideology, or receive any funding. Awaaz Network has a strong tradition and history of combating hatred and intolerance from Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other fundamentalists.