A report in The Age newspaper http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/hindus-want-to-ban-play-that-has-ganesh-reclaim-swastika-from-germany-20110926-1ktkb.html says, quoting me “Indians saw the play, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, as part of a campaign of denigration against them by Australians, Dr Singh said yesterday”.
I wish to clarify this as it is not reflecting my correct views. It is an incorrect statement.
The issue involving this play are obviously not the issue between two nations. This is an issue between followers of Hinduism and Back to Back theatre, which is doing this play in Malthouse theatre, as a part of Melbourne Festival.
This issue is also not between the people of India or Hindus, and Australian people.
It is a matter only between the organisers of this play and us, who feel that the narratives in the publicity material is inappropriate.
I wish to clarify that a vast majority of Australian people are decent, fair-minded and great people, who have no interest in doing or saying anything which will denigrate any religion or offend followers of any religion. I do not believe they will support anyone either who would do or say something which will cause offence to others without a valid reason.
I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech, but I do not believe freedom of speech is an absolute thing, which gives any one a blanket permit to say or do anything without worrying about the consequences or genuine offence it might cause to others. There has to be a balance between the two.
I am also not demanding a ban on this Play, but I do want it to not denigrate the religious sentiments or beliefs of Hindus. They need to be sensitive towards the feelings of the followers of Hinduism. After all, the promotional material has words for Lord Ganesh like ““a mutated human,” “some form of genetic mutation…dreamt up as a secret weapon by the allies”, ” is interrogated and tortured by the Nazi SS”, and “desperately trying to cover his large elephant head under a wide-brimmed hat and high collar.” Lord Ganesh has been described as “crushing people and military” and shown to be wearing a child’s nappy. These words and depiction could be quite offensive to the believers.
I expressed my concerns that “Ganesh versus the third Reich” play may create more troubles for Australia India relations, with the background of the recent issues involving Indian students and others.
We are very aware of the role of a segment in Indian media, which harmed the image of Australia with its exaggerated reports on students, often using racism tag for things which had nothing to do with race. This same segment can easily hype the issue involving “Ganesh versus the third Reich” as the issue between Australians and Indians. I am concerned about it, but I am also hopeful that people and media in both nations will treat matter of this type with sensitivity, objectivity and care.
I am for the faster growth of trade and relations between Australia and India. Australia, to me, is the best nation of the world.
Yadu Singh/Sydney/28th Sept, 2011