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EU thinking of banning swastika - BBC News

Jagat - Tue, 18 Jan 2005 22:37:56 +0530
The origin of the swastika.

The EU has been urged to ban the swastika because of its Nazi associations with hate and racism. But the symbol was around long before Adolf Hitler.

The swastika is a cross with its arms bent at right angles to either the right or left. In geometric terms, it is known as an irregular icosagon or 20-sided polygon.

The word is derived from the Sanskrit "svastika" and means "good to be". In Indo-European culture it was a mark made on people or objects to give them good luck.

It has been around for thousands of years, particularly as a Hindu symbol in the holy texts, to mean luck, Brahma or samsara (rebirth). It can be clockwise or anti-clockwise and the way it points in all four directions suggests stability. Sometimes it features a dot between each arm.

Nowadays it is commonly seen in current and ancient Hindu architecture and Indian artwork, including the ruins of the ancient city of Troy. It has also been used in Buddhism and Jainism, plus other Asian, European and Native American cultures.

The British author Rudyard Kipling, who was strongly influenced by Indian culture, had a swastika on the dust jackets of all his books until the rise of Nazism made this inappropriate. It was also a symbol used by the scouts in Britain, although it was taken off Robert Baden-Powell's 1922 Medal of Merit after complaints in the 1930s.

It is rarely seen on its own in Western architecture, but a design of interlocking swastikas is part of the design of the floor of the cathedral of Amiens, France.

Nazi's hooked cross

Swastika is also a small mining town in northern Ontario, Canada, about 580 kilometres north of Toronto. Attempts by the government of Ontario to change the town's name during World War II were rejected by residents.

But it is its association with the National Socialist German Workers Party in the 1930s which is etched on the minds of Western society. Before Hitler, it was used in about 1870 by the Austrian Pan-German followers of Schoenerer, an Austrian anti-Semitic politician.

Its Nazi use was linked to the belief in the Aryan cultural descent of the German people. They considered the early Aryans of India to be the prototypical white invaders and hijacked the sign as a symbol of the Aryan master race.

The Nazi party formally adopted the swastika - what they called the Hakenkreuz, the hooked cross - in 1920. This was used on the party's flag (above), badge, and armband.

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: "I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika."


Comment on RISA by Shyam Sriram--

Like every issue concerning religion in India, this is a tricky one. Can the EU ban the use of a symbol, especially if that symbol is used by more than one culture or country, and that too, peacefully? Like the recent Godhra verdict, the EU swastika issue will undoubtedly be seized upon by Hindu right-wingers and the RSS, who will cry foul about the denigration on ancient Hindu culture. Who knows? Some crazed person might even claim that Prince Harry was trying to bespoil Hindu culture!
Jagat - Tue, 18 Jan 2005 23:50:49 +0530
From Koenrad Elst:

Hitler didn't have his swastika from Hindu sources. Pre-1933, the symbol was quite popular in Europe, figuring in the emblems of numerous movements and companies and army units of divergent countries, reportedly even in Coca Cola advertising. It was traditional in the Baltic region, where a German Freikorps along with Baltic militias all carrying swastika variations in their banners defeated the Bolshevik invasion ca. 1920. The Freikorps connection seems to be the direct source for the Nazi party's adoption of the symbol. India or Tibet or even Japan had nothing to do with it.

If any historic depth had to be given to the swastika, it was typically borrowed from Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of swastikas in Troy, annex his theory that it was typical of all "Aryan" peoples. Through the Aryan Invasion Theory, the presence of swastikas in India was explained as a matter of transmission from Europe to India, with Europe as the homeland of both the Aryans and the swastika.

Prince Harry was reportedly enacting a soldier of Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, an army consisting of conscripts most of whom were not Nazi party members. The swastika on their uniform represented the German state, not the Nazi party or ideology. So, strictly speaking, even the Hitler-designed swastika on poor Harry's arm wasn't a "Nazi swastika". Their general Rommel was an anti-Nazi who was ordered to commit suicide after he participated in the conspiracy to kill Hitler and remove the Nazi party from power.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the North-African frontline was the British army, which was to a large extent a British-Indian army. As you may know, the Hindu nationalist leader V.D. Savarkar was lambasted as a "recruiting officer" (just as Gandhiji had been in WW1) for calling on Hindu young men to take service in the British army and acquire military experience, so that after the war the British would be faced with an experienced Indian army and forced to concede independence. While the Leftist S.C. Bose, or "Netaji"/Fuehrer (whose party Forward Bloc is still part of the Left Front along with the Communists), raised Indian armies under German and Japanese tutelage, the Rightist V.D. Savarkar helped raise a far larger Indian army fighting *against* the Axis powers. But both leaders were convinced that through their opposite alliances, they were merely serving the common cause of India's independence, in accordance with the principle that "a country has no permanent friends, only permanent interests".

And indeed, Clement Attlee, the PM who conceded independence, later said in an interview that the militarization of the natives and the politicization of the native troops (as in the 1946 Naval Mutiny) had been decisive in forcing the transfer of power, not Mahatma Gandhi's walks and fasts.

In all due modesty, I am tempted to recommend to you the book The Saffron Swastika: On the Notion of 'Hindu Fascism' (2 vols., Delhi 2001) written by yours truly.