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On Armistice/Remembrance day, someone projected a Swastika on the UK Houses of Parliament. Why?

The image was a protest against the visit of Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India. The stunt was executed by the anti-Modi group, the projection lasted a few minutes, enough time to take pictures and skedaddle. Much of the British coverage focused on the fact that the projection contained a Swastika, and that too on the day the UK sets aside to commemorate World War II (Armistice day originally commemorated WW-I). The Svastika has symbolized auspiciousness in India and parts of Asia for millenia and the Nazi co-option is largely ignored in the country. This was in London though, and the projection had the letter Om (ॐ) morphing into a Nazi Swastika alongside a picture of Mr. Modi holding a sword aloft and the words “Modi Not Welcome”:

The image was a creation of the Awaaz Network whose aim is to monitor and combat religious hatred in South Asia and the UK. Pulling off visual protest took weeks of planning said Suresh Grover, director of The Monitoring Group that is part of the network. The protest was timed to coincide with the Bihar election results, UK’s Remembrance Day that commemorates the fight against facism and the Second World War, and Modi’s visit. The banner that was finally projected from halfway across Westminster Bridge went up right next to the Remembrance Day poppies on the Big Ben.

The Awaaz Network also had its reasons for choosing the British parliament building. “[Mr Modi]  has always tried to get legitimacy on the world stage by speaking at parliament. Although he is not speaking at parliament, he has been invited to be in parliament by the Speaker of the House and Mr Cameron,” said Grover. “I think it sends a clear message that a large part of the Indian community here reject the politics of hate and intolerance, wherever it takes place – in India, Pakistan, any country in south Asia or this country,”

So the reference was clearly to the Nazi Swastika, and the protest was a comment on the Hindutva movement, which Mr. Modi has been a part of from an early age. The RSS organization, which Mr. Modi joined at the age of eight, was explicitly modeled on European fascist movements. The RSS’s early leaders, Vinayak Savarkar (who created the term Hindutva) and especially Madhav Golwalkar expressed deep admiration for the Nazis, Hitler and their program for dealing with minorities and “purifying” the Aryan nations (which in their mind included India). So the protest was both a reference to the RSS’s deeply controversial past, but also aspects of Mr. Modi’s governing style and attitude towards minorities.

More about “Modimania”, lynchings and elections, and the harassment of human-rights organizations below the orange rangoli.