Freedom of Misinformation & a tragedy in making -Crying wolf targeting Hindus in Australia.
by Kunal Atharv, Published by NRI Herald Australia 03 Nov 2021
Scrolling through my twitter feed on a lazy Sunday afternoon in beautiful Melbourne, I came across a tweet mentioning an article from the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA). What drew my attention was the headline: ‘Saffron Terror and Hindutva Ideology’. This instantly reminded me of relentless shows and debates across Indian news channels who compete with each other to outdo Fox News. Anyone who understands the Indian media space knows well how loyalties are divided between news channels who support one of two political parties, the BJP & Congress.
‘News’ channels that are pro-BJP incessantly attack the Congress party for its multiple failures and shortcomings, notably endless-corruption, soft-on-terror policies & being a dynastic political party. Pro-Congress news channels stick to bashing the BJP for alleged cultural Hinduism and deploy insults like ‘fascist’, ‘saffron-terror’ & ‘Hindutva’. While this tone is not unexpected of the Indian media, I wondered why an Australian outlet would use this alarmist tone. India being of Hindu majority, Hindus tend to ignore such provocations and answer with the ballot when time comes. The Congress party, due to this demonization, are not supported by the majority and likely to stay out of power for a decade or maybe more. Dr Khan apparently writes for the AIIA (Australian Institute of International Affairs) only against India and in this paper recreates the propaganda of Congress and the Pakistan Government to smear the Indian Government, the arch rival of Pakistan, with the unsubstantiated accusation of terrorism. Aside from the obvious hypocrisy, the argument claims that these terrorists are a threat to Sikhs in Australia by the selective citation of an alleged anti-India, Khalistani sympathiser and activist, Amar Singh.
Dr Seema Khan's Story
In Khan’s seemingly twenty-two years of association with Pakistan’s government she must have collaborated with a series of Pakistani regimes. Nawaz Sharif’s government initiated the localised & limited Kargil War with India followed by the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf who was allegedly the mastermind of Kargil and the force behind hijacking of an Indian airliner to a Taliban controlled Kandhar. Indian agencies blamed Pakistan’s government for supporting religious fanatics who carried out the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. The mastermind behind the Mumbai terror attacks was interestingly, the key terrorist released by India’s government in 1999 after the Kandhar Hijack. Until then successive regimes in Pakistan were accused by India for harbouring terror on their soil. Pakistan’s big moment arrived in 2011 when US special ops entered Pakistan and gunned down Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 9/11 and the key focus of American military operations in Afghanistan. Suddenly there was a loud chorus of voices accusing Pakistan to be a harbourer of terror. Indians felt their allegations had finally found global support. Today Pakistan happens to be in FATF’s grey list for supporting and funding terror but that hasn’t stopped Pakistani government agencies from supporting the resurrection of the Taliban in Afghanistan, something that caused global humiliation to the greatest fighting force in human history just two months ago.
Seema Khan portrays a rival country’s law and order issues as terrorism, and to do so has to redefine the terminology beyond recognition. She works for a country that was created on religious supremacy and hatred for Hindus, less than a century ago by partitioning lands that were historically and culturally associated with Indic civilisation. Despite the ongoing oppression and genocide of Hindu, Christian and Sikh minorities across Islamic states, and the terrorist violence her own country have proven to facilitate, Khan chose to go on a Hinduphobic rant using slurs like ‘saffron terror’.
Had this been an article in an Indian newspaper most people would have not even bothered to go through it but seeing this published in an Australian journal is an indication of what is to come for Hindus settled in Australia. Over the last few years there has been a wave of Indian immigrants arriving and settling in Western countries, especially those that are English speaking. Although India is around 80% Hindu, Australian Hindus are a minority within a minority.
As it is, it’s not easy for a new culture to be accepted into an established society with a largely different skin tone, religious beliefs and social practices, but Hindu immigrants like their Chinese, Greek and Italian predecessors are focused on integrating and adding value to the Australian society. My former boss of British heritage would often joke- Indians are like Anglos, focussed on making money and leading good lives. Rationally thinking he made sense, Hindus generally hold degrees and largely work corporate jobs with sole focus on buying properties, cars and sending their kids to good schools. Australian jails see a significantly lesser number of Indian prisoners and most of those who happen to end up in the system are not Hindus, reason being Hindus are not a violent people.
So, the question arises – why build a narrative that paints such a peaceful & successful community (Hindus) as terrorists?
One obvious detail is that massive Indian immigration along with itself has brought in India’s political divide. Supporters of the two Indian political parties frequently clash on social media and this has provided an opportunity for certain anti-Indian government immigrants to run a campaign targeting India’s current government, copying the tone used by Pakistan and pro-Congress media houses and journalists in India. Hindus in Australia are the collateral damage in this series of social-media wars. Hinduism being the dominant religion in India and Indian Hindus being a prime vote-bank of the ruling BJP has seen them repeatedly being targeted by India’s left wing eco-system. But when a similar campaign is initiated in Australia where the Hindu community is still new and in ways still struggling to stand on its feet, some would see it as signs of bad things to come.
Time and again in the Christian majority world, ‘outsiders’ like Jews would have narratives created against them: stereotypes of being greedy, moneylenders, or responsible for sufferings of Christians. Time and again this led to pogroms against Jews in Russia, France, England and finally the Holocaust that till date remains as one of the biggest crimes against humanity. Hindus in diaspora see a similar narrative being built here, in the UK and America, against a new group of immigrants in countries that have traditionally been part of the Christian world. Sadly, the narrative arises out of differences between various factions of the Indian immigrant communities. When western media, academia, NGOs and think tanks jump in to pick up this narrative, without bothering to check the references, and when they amplify it many times, the risk of a tragedy waiting to happen increases.
Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah once said, ‘We will divide India or destroy India’, and then to follow-up on his warning called for ‘Direct Action Day’. On his call supporters of his party Muslim-league took onto the streets of Calcutta and rest of Bengal and started massacring Hindus. Traditionally dormant Hindus retaliated in neighbouring Bihar and a series of unending bloodshed ensued that lasted until India was divided to create Pakistan. Seema Khan who is associated with the Pakistani government knowingly/unknowingly tows down to Jinnah’s ideology of Hinduphobia and Pakistan loyalists like herself won’t let go of an opportunity to paint Hindus in bad light if somehow can be projected as a victory. Be it a cricket match or number of hits scored by a local musician’s video on YouTube, the rivalry between India and Pakistan comes out at the drop of a hat. Behind the scenes many would argue it’s not India that the Pakistanis hate so much but the fact that a secular India is still dominated by Hindus, while comfortably sidelining the fact that their own ancestors were Hindus who had to change religions thanks to numerous foreign invasions leading to demographic shifts.
Claims versus facts.
The opinions of Dr Khan are not evidenced by data Regarding the CAA even the AIIA has disagreed.
Claim One: “The introduction of India’s New Citizenship Policy is blatant discrimination against the 172 million Muslims who constitute almost 14.6 percent of the population. Other minorities such as Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, people from the scheduled castes – the lowest, including Dalits – and Adivasis – the indigenous people of India – also live under constant fear.”
Fact: The new Citizenship policy aims at speeding up citizenship process of minorities fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the countries with Indic past where followers of Indic beliefs have shrunk to minority status and are frequently persecuted. Interestingly the list of those minorities includes Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists alongside Hindus.
Her own country Pakistan which was the birthplace of Sikhism barely has any Sikhs left. Hindus who once constituted 12.9% of its population have shrunk to around 2% of the population which begs the question – What happened to those Hindus? In comparison the Muslim population of India has risen from less than 10% after independence to around 15% .
Recent events in Afghanistan and now Bangladesh have proved why a law like India’s CAA is required to give a safe-haven to minorities of countries like Pakistan, who despite being native people of those lands face persecution and oppression at the hands of religious fanatics belonging to the majority faith.
Claim 2: “RSS sevaks regularly carry metal rods, cricket bats, and rocks to attack people in minority communities in the name of Hindutva or saffron terror.”
Fact : How many people walking around the streets in India witness this every day? None.
A baseless allegation stemming from Hindu hate that the author can never prove. Time and again anti-India social-media accounts have picked up instances of local criminal acts and tried to push narratives with communal twist.
It’s akin to painting a brawl in some Melbourne carpark into a race issue without bothering to verify the facts.
Claim 3: “According to Amar Singh, president of Turbans 4 Australia, the whole Sikh community is concerned about increasing attacks by Hindu nationalists in Australian cities.”
Truth is stranger than fiction. This allegation is probably based on the Vishal Jood case in Sydney. The author, publisher and person quoted have very smartly made yet another allegation without proof while completely ignoring the court verdict in the matter. True a court of law adhering to a democratic setup has no bearing on the minds of religious fanatics who idolise the way of a Taliban styled judicial setup.
Fact- In court Vishal’s lawyer played video pieces of evidence to prove that Vishal was provoked by a group of individuals. Police request to lay a further charge under section 93Z of the Crimes Act of publicly threatening or inciting violence on grounds of religion was not sanctioned by the DPP. NSW's Department of Public Prosecutors dropped 8 charges including racial hate crime against Vishal Jood in a plea bargain. A number of documents were tendered to the court by Vishal’s counsel relating to the Khalistan movement and the Sikh religion, including:
A statement from a historian tracing the origins of the Sikh religion and the Khalistan movement as well as the acts of terror carried out by Khalistanis.
A reference from a Sikh Indian-based journalist in Haryana confirming the respect for Sikhs in that state by Hindus, including Vishal’s family.
References from two of Vishal’s Sikh friends in Sydney confirming that he has never disrespected the Sikh religion.
The DPP submitted that the 16 September 2020 offence was motivated by hatred for or prejudice against a group of people to which the offender believed the victim belonged (an aggravating factor under s 21A(2(h) of the Crimes Act):
Jood’s counsel pointed out that the Khalistani movement was not synonymous with the Sikh religion. He informed the court that Hindus and Sikhs had been living in harmony in India for the last 500 years. The Khalistan movement is not a religious movement. Further, on the evidence before the court, Vishal’s conduct could simply not have been motivated by a prejudice against or hatred for Sikhs.
So, back to our question – why build a narrative that paints Hindus as terrorists?
The answer is clear, long-term enemies of the Indian state have now found out an easier way to achieve their goals. Time and again the founding fathers of Pakistan believed in exterminating Indian Hindus in order to gain divine victory in their religious war of ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ (Hateful concept of the islamists normally preached by pakistani establishment). From sending in armed terrorists to indiscriminately open fire upon unsuspecting Indian civilians the modus operandi has now changed to spreading misinformation against Indian immigrants to Western countries, creating stereotypes in the minds of their neighbours and co-workers intending on turning them into social outcasts while waging a psychological war that probably would give agents of Pakistani government a sense of victory, that their fabled armed forces have failed to deliver in the battle-field.
One can only hope articles coming out of bodies like the ‘Australian Institute of International Affairs’, give a thought to what chain of events they might trigger or whether they are laying down the foundation of a series of hate crimes against a specific community, when they make it a practice to publish such articles containing unverified & deceptive reports aiming at not providing facts instead focus on bringing other people’s/country’s wars onto Australian shores by using misinformation to build a specific narrative against different communities.
Immigrants from India move into Australia to make better lives for themselves and often escape social/political chaos back home. By knowingly/unknowingly becoming a foreign power’s associate in unleashing a media war upon a section of Australian society. It is hard to believe that any media outlet would be serving in the best interests of Australia, a country built by immigrants that aims at giving a fair go to everyone and becoming the most successful multicultural society in this world.