New York State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs announced during a March 10, 2021, Zoom meeting with members of the Indian-American community, that the NY Senate Bill 2727, which designates the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious symbols as representing hate, “Will not move forward, it will not be advanced in the Senate or the Assembly, it is not going anywhere”.
The Zoom meeting was organized by the Nassau County Democratic Committee and the newly formed United Front of Indian Americans in North America (UFIANA).
“The meeting was the result of intense efforts by Kamlesh Mehta, who has taken a frontline seat in the ‘save Swastik’ campaign,” the press release from the United Front said.
Besides Mehta, others leading the initiative include Dr Raj Bhayani, Vibhuti Jha and Mukesh Modi, all of whom formed the host committee for the high profile meeting attended by at least 60 people.
Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America
Mehta introduced Jacobs as well as others attending the meeting — the Consul General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America.
All those attending unanimous said that the Bill S2727 should be rescinded, or the language relating to Swastik be removed from the text because the bill was intended to ban Nazi Hakenkreuz as a symbol of hate.
“I am familiar with Swastik as a positive symbol of peace, prosperity and good tidings among people of many cultures and nationalities. So, when Kamlesh Mehta brought to my attention the difficulty with this bill I understood the importance to the Indian community,” Jacobs is quoted saying during the meeting, in the press release.
“When I spoke to members of the Senate and others concerned, I said, we in this country have a culture of respecting each other. What makes America great is we are an amalgamation of people from all over and part of the lure of America is that you lead your life as good citizens with kindness towards each other and still have the ability to hold on to your own culture. This bill would have been an affront to that basic premise of American democracy. The Indian American community is essential to the success moving forward of this country,” Jacobs continued.
Kamlesh Mehta, one of the leaders of the ‘save Swastik’ initiative. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America
He thanked New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, the first Indian American to be elected to the upper house, noting, “He understood the need that the hate bill does not move forward.”
Dr Mysorekar emphasized that the Swastik has been a sacred symbol in the Vedic tradition for many millennia.
“Symbolizing well-being, auspiciousness and good luck charm, it is part of our festivals, temple rituals, and is displayed at homes, weddings and even below the deity as a yantra,” she said.
“Its negative connotation in the western world especially in the U.S. is because of Hitler. But today, misrepresenting and teaching Swastik as a symbol of hate will cause confusion in the minds of young people, who utilize it in their daily religious practice, and can lead to bullying and biases against them. It can also perpetuate misinformation,” Mysorekar warned.
She added that she has been receiving many calls from people worried about the hate bill, but after Jacobs’s assurance, “now we can all sleep peacefully.”
Ambassador Jaiswal shared some of his personal history with attendees. He said though he is a Hindu, and Swastik is personal (it is even displayed outside his father’s house in Hazipur in Bihar), he also carries the responsibility of Buddhist and Jain traditions because of their links with the place of his birth, Vaishali.
India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America
“Swastik has given a wealth of hope, happiness and philosophy to the modern world at large. So, juxtaposing something ancient and sacred with something as recent as early 20th century when it was twisted, would have amounted to doing injustice to the inner meaning of Swastik and the emotions of people attached to it,” Consul General Jaiswal said.
Mehta appreciated the prompt response and instant action by Chairman Jacobs. He emphasized the sanctity of Swastik, saying all taking part in the meeting follow different faiths, yet Swastik is the common auspicious symbol among them, uniting 1.8 billion people all over the world.
Jha, who has been active in promoting U.S.-India relations, also thanked Jacobs. “In the annals of India-US relationship, your name will last forever,” he told Jacobs.
Noting that the two symbols, Om and Swastik, are basic to Hindu religion, Jha said that Jacobs’ assurance will delight over a billion people, and it has prevented a fissure between India and the United States.
Mukesh Modi, who the press release said, was unofficially called the mayor of the Indian American community on Long Island, thanked Jacobs for respecting the constitutional and religious rights of everyone.
“You are going to get 1.8 billion blessings, which will give you more power and strength to protect our constitutional and religious rights,” Modi said.
Dr Raj Bhayani, an eminent leader in healthcare whose heart beats for India, said that the holocaust and difficulties faced by the Jewish community must be recognized, but that two wrongs do not make a right. Hakenkreuz is not Swastik, he stressed.
Dr Bhayani acknowledged the leadership of Kamlesh Mehta, founder of The South Asian Times, India Day Parade, Rotary Club of Hicksville South, RANA and the new organization which hosted the Zoom meeting.
Pradeep Tandon, in his power point presentation, showed how the ancient Swastik was a positive symbol and was freely used in U.S. society and culture before World War II. There is even a town named Swastik in Clinton County in New York.
Krish Rudra recalled working with Jacobs some years ago and requested him to see that Swastik identified as a hate symbol is also removed from New York Penal Code 240.31.
Bina Sabapathy expressed the hope that the issue does not arise again.
Many community leaders including Dr. Jay Sarkar, Narinder Kapoor, Dr. Rakesh Sharma, Dr. Ravindra Goyal, Dr. Raj Modi, Harish Thakkar and Fal Pandya also spoke and thanked Chairman Jacobs for his assurance to the Indian American communities in New York.
Jacobs noted that what needed to be done was educate people on differentiating Swastik from the Nazi symbol.