Indian-Australians and anti-racist supporters protested outside Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre on June 4 as a leader of the Hindutva hate movement was addressing a conference sponsored by The Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD).
The protest against keynote speaker Tejasvi Surya was organised by the Australian Alliance Against Hate and The Humanist Project (THP).
A spokesperson told Green Left that the THP, an Indian diaspora civil society group, “seeks to counter hate, divisiveness and social discord being driven by Hindutva Hate groups”.
Aligned with “the values of multiculturalism and diversity”, it counters Hindutva hatred and social discord by working with various organisations, government bodies, politicians and law enforcement authorities.
“In organising against the Hindutva Hate representative Tejasvi Surya, THP collaborated with faith groups, various ethnic groups, government organisations and the media to raise concerns about the threat posed by such misogynist and hate mongers,” the spokesperson said.
Surya promotes Hindutva, an anti-woman and Islamophobic ideology supported by the right-wing ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party.
Asked why universities allowed him to speak, the spokesperson said universities had advised them they did not have “a direct role in his selection”.
“However, they did not object to his participation in the Australia India Youth Dialogue. In doing so, we are concerned that the universities failed to consider Surya’s links to the fascist Hindu organization, the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing, Hindu nationalist paramilitary] and his problematic background of Islamophobia, bigotry, misogyny and hate mongering.”
The AIYD website initially listed him speaking at University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Macquarie University, Deakin University and University of Melbourne. After the THP campaign, UTS, University of Melbourne and UNSW advised that their logo had been used without their knowledge.
THP said they wrote to vice chancellors of the supporting universities and “raised concerns about his bigoted and Islamophobic remarks after arriving in Australia and their implications for the safety and security of Muslim students”.
The THP spokesperson said: “We encouraged universities to consider having open public discussions about Surya’s links to fascist Hindu organisations.”
They said all the universities acknowledged their concerns “but also reiterated their commitment to ‘freedom of expression’ — the freedom to support people of ‘various thoughts’ — including the views of Islamophobes, misogynists, bigots, hate mongers and individuals with will links to fascist organisations”.
Deakin University, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and Monash University continued their program.
THP is continuing to engage universities, their councils, student bodies and wider society to “seek assurances that they will not support the AIYD platforming bigots, misogynists, hate-mongers, Islamophobes or those with links to fascist organisations”.
“We also want universities to consider and address the safety and security concerns of Muslim Students.”
[The THP spokesperson did not wish to be named for security reasons. Email The Humanism Project for more information.]