AT A GLANCE:
- The Hindu Council of Australia (HCA), which claims to represent all Australian Hindus, have been platforming and fostering relations with far right party One Nation (ONP), in particular their NSW Senator Mark Latham but also other ONP candidates.
- HCA’s growing bond with ONP goes back to comments made by David Shoebridge from The Greens raising valid concerns about the HCA affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
- In courting ONP and snubbing The Greens HCA are fuelling an extreme conservative agenda of bigotry at odds with Hindu ideals of inclusivity. This approach does not represent the views of Australian Hindus many of whom have progressive values.
Progressively minded Hindus should be concerned about the Hindu Council of Australia’s political dealings, in particular their growing relationship with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (ONP) over the last few years. (The ONP is well known for its nationalist standpoint, its view of multiculturalism as “a threat to … Australian culture, identity and shared values“ and its anti-immigration policies). This follows yet another recent media release promoting controversial NSW State One Nation MP Mark Latham as a defender of Hindus. It is not the first time that HCA have platformed and promoted the far-right party.
On Thursday 13 May 2022, HCA held a Meet and Greet with ONP candidates prior to the Federal Election (full video here) and have promoted another event featuring Mr Latham himself as the keynote on Thursday 2 March 2023 a few weeks before the NSW State Election.
Greens excluded on the basis of comments about VHP
While several political parties have been given Meet and Greet opportunities, it appears that The Australian Greens were not invited for either the Federal or State election.
This partisan favouring of One Nation over the Greens may well be due to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), being identified in 2021 by then NSW State MP (and now NSW Greens Senator) David Shoebridge as an organisation of concern because of the its links with Hindu extremism in India and increasingly in the diaspora.
In response, it was ONP’s Mark Latham who proposed a motion calling on Mr. Shoebridge to withdraw the statement and apologize to the Hindu community and this happened to be passed by the NSW Senate. VHP Australia is a member organisation of the HCA.
One acknowledges the many benign activities and commendable service done by VHP Australia volunteers (some of whom are people dear to me since childhood) but the association of VHP with Hindutva ideology and its alleged promotion within a pluralistic secular democracy do warrant concerns.
After all, despite the CBI Court verdict acquitting the organisation of culpability it is widely known that fanatical members of VHP in India were among those responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Regardless of one’s political and religious affiliations the rise in religious violence, tensions and hateful rhetoric in India is difficult to ignore.
Raising these concerns does not especially require an apology to the Australian Hindu community for whom the VHP is not the sole representative.
Neither do the concerns support the allegation by HCA that the Greens are somehow an anti-Hindu party.
Why are the HCA anti-Green?
The Greens have been committed to multiculturalism and standing up against racism including speaking up when Indian students were violently targeted in racist attacks and have been compassionate and progressive on rights for refugees, First Nations and LBTQIA+ folk as well as the planet.
A flashpoint seems to have been the violence in Harris Park where Sikhs were allegedly targeted by Hindu nationalists prompting Mr. Shoebridge to raise concerns about Hindutva in NSW Parliament.
One may disagree with his stance but to deduce that the Greens are anti-Hindu on that basis is a big leap and offensive to Hindus who support the Greens progressive values. Yet such a conclusion is inelegantly presented on the HCA website in a manner which does not befit any respectable community organisation let alone a dignified peak body claiming to represent all Hindus in Australia and be non-partisan.
One Nation’s appalling track record
Meanwhile, on the subject of divisive political forces, many will remember well Pauline Hanson’s first speech in the 1997 Australian Parliament about Australia being “swamped by Asians” which emboldened increased racism against Asians including Indians. In the early 2000s Muslims became the new target for One Nation and Indians including Hindus were sometimes victims of misplaced Islamophobia (I count myself among them). The party has always had extremely regressive stances on First Nations, refugee rights and the environment and is also strongly homophobic and transphobic.
Meanwhile, Mr. Latham’s tweet from just a month ago shows his true colours on colonialism and acknowledging First Nations sovereignty.
I pay my respects and acknowledge the traditional lands of the Macarthur family, on whose calf farm I live today. https://t.co/Iq9rhfdGlx
— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) February 8, 2023
The platforming of bigotry
Against that background it was surreal to attend the HCA organised Meet and Greet zoom event with One Nation Party on 13 May 2022 at which some of these bigoted views were openly aired following HCA National President Prakash Mehta’s address to the ONP candidates wishing them “on behalf of Hindu Council and Hindu Community a successful campaign and chance to serve this nation”.
In particular, Daniel Connor, NSW State Director of One Nation, who spoke of the shared history between India and Australia also stated, “We don’t need to name the group of people who is persecuting you- we know who it is- you have bravely defended yourself against these people”.
And when asked about the Nazi’s appropriation of the Hindu Swastika he used it as a prompt to share homophobic attitudes likening it to the “appropriation” of the rainbow by the LGBTQIA+ community because it happens to have symbolism in the Bible as a sign of “God’s covenant with mankind”.
Underneath the cordiality amongst the candidates and organisers showing a party which is trying to appear changed the anti-Muslim, anti-gay and assimilationist attitudes were thinly veiled, leave aside the dangerous irony of discussing the Swastika in this forum given One Nation’s track record as an actual gateway to neo-Nazism.
The lofty Hindu ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, “the world is one family”, felt like a very distant concept.
Given the polarised atmosphere we live in, such associations as that between the Hindu Council of Australia and One Nation Party are not entirely surprising.
And yet on several levels it is profoundly disturbing and shocking to any Hindu who believes in inclusivity and justice. Exactly whom this serves and to what end it will lead is a question for readers to ponder both in the lead up to the upcoming NSW State election and beyond.