Police in the Toronto suburb of Brampton are investigating a case of malicious graffiti in which three unidentified vandals spray-painted swastikas on a private Sikh elementary school.
Ripsodhak Grewal, principal of the Khalsa Community School in Brampton, told Canadian media: “It’s hard to imagine this happening in the 21st century. I’m beginning to wonder what we are missing when we are educating these young children.”
Grewal added: We're surprised to see this happening at this time and age. We've never experienced anything like this. This is a little odd for us to [comprehend].
Brampton has one of the highest concentrations of South Asians in the country – almost one-third (31.7 percent) of the local population traces its ancestry to the Indian sub-continent, including a large contingent of Sikhs from the Punjab.
Sikhs, with their distinctive beards and turbans, have often been targeted for verbal and physical abuse ever since the 9-11 terrorist attacks in Canada, as well as in the U.S. and Britain. Balpreet Singh, acting executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, told reporters: “We’ve been quite concerned about incidents across the country,” he said.
However, what the vandals (and perhaps even Mr. Grewal himself) need to realize is that the swastika is an ancient symbol of India and many prominent Nazis (who, of course, appropriated the symbol and misused it) greatly admired ancient Indian culture, which they believed was created by the ‘Aryans’ whom they revered.
The swastika is considered a harbinger of good luck and well being in India.
With respect to Adolf Hitler and German Nazism, the links to India and Hinduism were deep and profound.
Much of Nazi ideology and imagery came from the symbols and history of ancient India. Moreover, the legendary history (some would say, myth) of the invasion of prehistoric India by the mysterious “Aryan” tribes would (centuries later) provide Hitler with his notion of a “superior master race” that was destined to dominate the world.
During World War II, some Indian nationalists received explicit support from German Nazis -- in fact, some Indian soldiers even served in Hitler's armies and in the notorious SS.
Moreover, many right-wing Hindu nationalists criticized Mahatma Gandhi for opposing Nazism and fascism. In 1939, a spokesman for the Hindu Mahasabha (Hindu Party) intimately connected Germany with Indian culture and people.
Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the Swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning and the ardent championship of the tradition of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope,” the spokesman blustered.
“Only a few Socialists headed by… Nehru have created a bubble of resentment against the present government of Germany, but their activities are far from having any significance in India.”
He added: “Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory.
Another prominent Hindu nationalist, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, also praised Nazism and believed the ideology should be applied to India.
German race pride has now become the topic of the day,” he wrote.
“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. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan [India] to learn and profit by.
Granted, Sikhs in India generally do not revere the Swastika, which has been used against them by extreme right-wing Indian Hindu nationalists. Still, the Sikhs of northern India are regarded by many ethnologists as being “Aryans,” something the ignorant spray-painters in Brampton, Canada likely have no clue about.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.