North American Hindu outfit protests demonization of Swastika, releases documentary film



To protest against the demonization of the Swastika, a symbol revered in many parts of the globe, the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) in partnership with AKTK Media, has released a new documentary titled “The Silence of Swastika.”

Released in English, the thought-provoking documentary explores and sheds light on this multi-faceted sacred symbol that carries varying meanings in different parts of the world.

In the Western milieu, the mere mention of the word “Swastika” can evoke strong sentiments due to its false association with the barbaric persecution and genocide of millions in Nazi Germany. This lingers on even though Hitler never used the term Swastika in his own writings – only the word “Hakenkreuz” (German for “hooked cross”).

“On the other hand, over 2 billion people worldwide consider the Swastika a sacred symbol of peace and well-being. This is not an aberration or ignorance of its Western context, but the result of unbroken religious practices and deeply held beliefs ingrained over several thousand years,” CoHNA said in a statement.

What leads to this paradox? Western newspapers since a hundred years now have used Hakenkreuz, to describe the symbol used by the Nazis to strike terror. They even called Hitler’s followers as “Hakenkreuzlers,” echoing the name the Nazis used prolifically in their own materials, including a paper (The Hakenkreuzbanner) they published for 14 years.

“Clearly, there is more than meets the eye in understanding how the narrative was distorted to ensure Hitler’s symbol came to be called the Swastika in the Western world,” said Nikunj Trivedi, President of CoHNA. “We partnered with AKTK to adapt and release their new documentary to shed light on these questions. We hope the documentary can help drive education and conversations on this important topic – as part of an awareness campaign we have been running since 2020. Our effort in no way denies or downplays the horror of the Holocaust or the trauma communities feel even today when faced with reminders of that horrific time.”

The recent spikes in hate crimes have made it even more imperative that we distinguish between sacred symbols and symbols of hate – much like how the Western world has come to differentiate the sacred cross from the burning cross.

The “Silence of Swastika” was first released in Hindi by AKTK Media in December 2021, to a great reception because it asked some difficult, but resounding questions.

“The viewer response to our Hindi version made clear the need to reach global audiences – hence this adaptation. We thank CoHNA for the amazing support and ‘Team Spirit’ with which they collaborated in making the documentary in English,” said Anuj Bharadwaj, director and anchor of the film. “The film is for every truth seeker and in some way, we all are the seekers of the truth. We hope this film will help to people differentiate between the Nazi symbol of Hakenkreuz and the Dharmic symbol of Swastika.”

CoHNA as well as several Hindu, Buddhist and Jain organizations have been working to create a better understanding of the Swastika while condemning hatred and bigotry peddled under the Nazi Hakenkreuz against the Jewish, African American and other vulnerable communities.

CoHNA had also launched Swastika Education and Awareness Campaign (SEAC), an initiative meant to bring about awareness regarding the Swastika, one of the most sacred symbols for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains around the world.

“Through this campaign, along with education and awareness, we hope to foster a mutual understanding of the Swastika with other communities and to prevent misunderstanding and misuse while imparting much needed education on hatred and intolerance in today’s world. It is our hope that individuals can learn to distinguish between the Swastika and the Hakenkreuz and rightly denounce the latter for what it stands for, rather than the Swastika, which (along with its equivalents), has been around for thousands of years and is used by many cultures as a symbol of peace, well-being and auspiciousness. Close to 2 billion people use this sacred symbol and have been using it for thousands of years,” CoHNA said in a statement.

“Hindus believe in the fundamental concept of Dharma and peaceful co-existence and have never tolerated hatred towards others. On the contrary, Hindus have provided shelter to persecuted communities, including Jews, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists and others due to our inherent aversion to hatred. It is imperative that we equip our children with proper knowledge about world cultures and religions, so that they can develop the mutual respect and pluralism that must be the cornerstone of any multi-racial, multi-ethnic and inclusive society,” the statement added.

In May, the organization had triggered a signature campaign in this regard. A letter addressed to senators regarding the Swastika on AB2282 says: “We, the undersigned, are writing to express our strong concerns regarding Assembly Bill AB2282 on hate symbols. While we thank Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s recent efforts to acknowledge the importance of the Swastika to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, its reference to the term “Nazi Swastika” once again repeats the problematic language of the California Penal code and earlier bills. Indeed, it goes further by stating that “Nazi Swastika was the official emblem of the Nazi party”. This is not only factually incorrect, it further solidifies the current state of misinformation about this sacred and ancient symbol for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and other indigenous communities worldwide.”

The letter added: “Let us be clear that we fully support the intention of the bill to combat hate and stamp out bigotry. However, the bill (which is now in the Senate), is still flawed because it does not remove the hateful association of Hitler’s symbol – the Hooked Cross – with the Swastika. This runs contrary to claims that its intention is not to criminalize the “Swastika” sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. Worse, it associates our sacred and ancient symbol of good luck, with hate and genocide by saying that the Nazi Hakenkreuz is “…also known as the Nazi Swastika, that was the official emblem of the Nazi party…”

“This bill has a historic opportunity to help correct this mistranslation. It is only appropriate for a state like California to take the lead and set an example for other states by listening to the voices of formerly marginalized minority communities and silenced indigenous groups. “Swastika” is a Sanskrit word and a symbol of peace, well-being and prosperity currently used by nearly two billion people and numerous cultures around the world. It is displayed in our temples, monasteries, in our homes, in our sacred art, during our festivals, during our marriages, and on many other occasions. It has been in continuous use for over 5000 years,” CoHNA stated.

CoHNA is a grassroots advocacy group representing the Hindu community of North America. The coalition seeks to protect the collective interests of the Hindu community by working on the issues faced by them and educating the public about Hindu heritage and tradition. It is building a movement to empower Hindus whereby they can become meaningful contributors and active participants in their local communities on a wide range of issues.