On 22 July 2023 the New Zealand Herald carried an article about Hindu temples across Aotearoa receiving letters that were critical of idol worship and seemed to carry quotes from the Quran. AAPI wrote an open letter to journalist Cherie Howie, New Zealand Herald and other media including Radio New Zealand and their new Indian division critiquing this story and how such ‘receiving anonymous letters but implying it is the Muslim community’ is classic Hindutva methodology. (Letter included further in this post.)
Gaurav Sharma, senior Indian journalist at RNZ who does digital stories for their new RNZ Asia funded by NZ On Air’s Public Interest Journalism Fund, contacted us to talk to someone about this issue. We directed him to one of our activists. However Gaurav Sharma did not speak with this person. Instead the RNZ website carried a story quoting spokespersons from fascist organisation Hindu Council of New Zealand with the slightly shifting, obfuscating manner that is also classic Hindutva methodology. We wish to point out here that Gaurav Sharma used to edit Indian News, a hard right Hindu platform whose current editor Yugal Parashar openly abuses Indian activists. He called Professor Mohan Dutta a communist rat and despite a complaint to the Press Council had not taken down the article from his website at the time we write this.
But before we question Radio New Zealand on their questionable journalists and complicity in platforming a Hindu fascist organisation we want to break down the stories and show how the kōrero shifts to maintain the façade of decency while also being Islamophobic at the same time.
Even before that we wish to inform once again about the fascist origins of the Hindu Council Of New Zealand. It is the diaspora avatar of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that has been deemed a terrorist organisation. We also urge you to look at their exclusive definition of Hindu in the image below. Finally we ask you to read through our blog to understand how this organisation and affiliates function in Aotearoa.
As we publish this blog the VHP is busy with genocidal acts against Muslims in the Indian state of Haryana with impunity.
The Herald article.
We draw attention to the words ‘intimidating anonymous’ letters with ‘several passages quoted from the Quran, Islam’s holy book. And that Multicultural New Zealand organised a meeting with Hindu and Muslim community leaders. Also highlighted how the story quotes Pancha Narayanan about both Hindus and Muslims condemning the letters.
AAPI’s response below expresses our concerns about this story. We won't repeat it again separately in the blog.
The Radio New Zealand article.
On 31 July the RNZ website carried a story, without a byline, about the letters to Hindu temples. (The story was later posted on their Facebook page with comments turned off.) This time, representatives of fascist organisation the Hindu Council are quoted in the story.
- See how they now say the letter mentions saints and Jesus but yet call it vague.
- Then they go on to say the letters could have been written by anyone adding that the Muslim community had reached out.
- The organisation further says that ‘imported international tensions…can play up’. This alludes to not only Leicester but also India.
- The Hindu Council, particularly Selva, who is from Malaysia, has always preached to Indian activists that they should keep their concerns about the failing Indian democracy in India and not speak about it in Aotearoa.
- Finally, Tandon of the Hindu Council raises the bogie of Hinduphobia by talking about ‘alienation’ of the Hindu community saying they have asked other religious communities to look out for ‘suspicious’ characters. As if a shady person in ‘Islamic clothes’, beard, fez and all is lurking around writing letters to Hindu temples. This harks to Narendra Modi in 2019 when he alluded how Muslims could be identified by their clothes. Tandon is the caricature of a Sanghi WhatsApp Indian uncle with this statement.
Did you notice the shifting narrative in the two stories?
- From ‘intimidating’ to ‘vague’
- From strongly implying that a Muslim wrote it to ‘anyone’ could have written it.
- From seeking a meeting with Muslim leaders to ‘not pointing fingers’ at anyone. YET, saying that the Muslim community had reached out to express their support.
We reiterate here that the Indian Muslim community has not participated in this process of meeting or expressing support. Unlike the Hindu fascists that went to town about the Lynmall horror, the Indian Muslim community has stayed silent.
Most disappointing though is how this Radio New Zealand journalist has not attempted to speak to any member of the Indian Muslim community, not questioned the obfuscation from the Hindu Council, nor asked the police how it intends to investigate.
Instead, RNZ platformed a fascist Hindu organisation with terrorist roots. Would Radio New Zealand platform a Christofascist organisation? Would they platform a Chinese communist organisation? Would they have platformed the protestors outside Parliament?
Radio New Zealand has no cultural expertise on India, no pedagogy to lean on, no understanding. And if they are going to seek Gaurav Sharma’s expertise, who as we mentioned earlier, worked for hard right Hindu platform Indian News, then what weight would Radio New Zealand carry as a national broadcaster?
Now that their independent editorial audit has made 22 recommendations will RNZ investigate their journalist Gaurav Sharma’s connections with hard right Hindu platform Indian News and the Hindu Council that has well documented terrorist roots?
Will RNZ walk the talk or continue to be complicit with Hindutva ultimately losing all credibility and harming the wider Indian community?