On March 5, 2021, New South Wales (NSW) State Senator David Shoebridge asked a brave question during a meeting with State Senator Geoff Lee, the Acting Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans:
“How did Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is a right-wing Hindu organisation that is considered a military extremist religious organisation by the CIA, find themselves in New South Wales public schools?”
For the past 23 years, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Australia (VHPA) has partnered with schools in New South Wales as an approved provider of Special Religious Education. This is unacceptable. Although the VHPA claims to represent all Australian Hindus, billing itself as “Australia’s largest Hindu organization,” a closer look at the VHPA’s ideology reveals that this is not the case.
VHPA is the Australian affiliate of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of India’s largest Hindu nationalist organizations. In contrast to Hinduism, which is a diverse group of religious traditions practiced worldwide, Hindu nationalism is a modern political ideology that argues that only Hindus are “true” Indians. In a country where one-fifth of the population is not Hindu, Hindu nationalists believe that Muslims, Christians, and other minorities in India should be relegated to the status of second-class citizens. The VHP’s founders include such figures such as MS Golwalkar, who was more inspired by Nazi Germany than by Hindu teachings:
“To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews … a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
– M.S. Golwalkar, We, or Our Nationhood Defined (1939)
The implication of Golwalkar’s quote above is that Indian Muslims should be dealt with just as German Jews were in the Holocaust. Golwalkar deeply believed that it was impossible for Hindus and Muslims to live peacefully together — an idea that is in complete contradiction to the ideals of a multicultural country such as Australia:
“Whatever we [Hindus] believed in, the Muslim was wholly hostile to it. If we worship in the temple, he would desecrate it. If we carry on bhajans and car festivals, that would irritate him. If we worship cow, he would like to eat it. If we glorify woman as a symbol of sacred motherhood, he would like to molest her.”
– M.S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts (1966)
Will Subramanian Ramamoorthi, VHPA president, publicly condemn these hateful statements? The VHPA may say that they are separate from the Indian VHP, and are registered as a nonprofit. Yet, their logo is the same, and they publicly advertise events that are being organized by the Indian VHP, such as the World Hindu Congress.
For decades, Hindu nationalist organizations have been able to successfully embed themselves in civil society by claiming that they represent a specific religious community. However, the recent attacks on Sikh Australians committed by Hindu extremists are clear signs of what happens when this hateful ideology is allowed to flourish under the guise of multiculturalism.
The VHP’s international affiliates have been spreading this ideology worldwide. Members of the VHP’s American affiliate participated in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. However, progressive Hindu Americans have been speaking out against the VHP’s ideology. Just a few days ago, a public awareness campaign led by Hindus for Human Rights succeeded in forcing VHP’s American affiliate to cancel a virtual event series featuring Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, a hate-mongering and Islamophobic Hindu extremist leader in India who has called for the “eradication” of Islam and Muslims.
If VHPA wants its fellow Australians to believe that it is truly a benign community organization working to serve Hindu Australian families, then it must disavow its hateful ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) and reject all hate perpetuated in the name of religion.
We are Hindu Australians who reject the VHPA’s ideology of Hindu supremacy. VHPA does not belong in New South Wales schools as a provider of Special Religious Education. Our children should have the opportunity to learn about different faith traditions and cultures — but not from organizations which perpetuate hate. Hindu Australians, and indeed all Australians, deserve better.
Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization founded in 2019. We advocate for pluralism and human rights in South Asia and beyond, rooted in the values of our Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). We provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu majoritarianism), and all forms of bigotry and oppression. We work with a broad coalition of partners to educate elected officials and the public in the United States about human rights issues in South Asia. Our advocacy takes many forms, including government briefings, peaceful protests, op-eds, webinars, conferences, and social media mobilization. HfHR’s Australia chapter was founded in early 2021.
This story first appeared on hindusforhumanrights.org