Some members of the Indian Muslim community have started a campaign on change.org, calling for the resignation of Councillor Sahana Ramesh, accusing her of supporting a right-wing nationalist Hindutva politician at an event on June 4th at the Thornbury Theatre.
The controversy erupted after Cr. Ramesh attended the recent Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD) conference, where controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP member Tejasvi Surya was an invited delegate.
The AIYD event ran in Sydney and Melbourne from 31st May to 4th June.
The BJP is regarded as a right-wing party, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions.
The change.org page recalls that In July 2015, he (Tejasvi Surya) preached in a tweet “In short: terror has no religion. But the terrorist has a religion and, in most cases, it’s Islam.”
The 2015 statement is one of many cited as hate speech from the Indian MP, and there are many online articles where he is accused of promoting violence, encouraging hate against ethnic and religious minorities and promoting islamophobia, as noted in this article https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/aftermath-tejasvi-suryas-islamophobic-raid-war-room-16-speak-out-152163
The change.org petition shows a collage of pictures that includes tweets by Tejasvi Surya, protesters at the event, and an arrow pointing to a figure in the crowd that the petition organisers say is Cr. Sahana Ramesh.
The petition is now on its way to 1000 signatures, with organisers stating, “…Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Sikh brothers, and sisters must condemn any support of right-wing nationalists with racist and bigoted views including towards Arabic women in our community.
There is no place for hate speech, and our local representatives supporting hate speech nationalists at Wyndham City Council. Wyndham City Council must stand against this behaviour.
Sahana Ramesh must resign, and our community must stand united against sexism, racism, and bigots.”
A member of Wyndham’s Indian community has condemned the group’s attempt to divide the community by organising such a campaign against Cr. Ramesh, while another has made the point that the Australian Government has allowed Tejasvi Surya to enter the country without issue.
Resident and Marine Pilot, Ritesh Bhamaria wrote in to say, “I am a local resident of Wyndham and a member of the community that is properly informed on the nuisance of Indian politics and challenge of relationships between religions within an Indian context. Having left my home, India and chosen this beautiful land which supports pluralism, which supports multiculturalism, my heart bleeds when I see someone spreading a one-sided narrative.”
Cr. Ramesh said in a statement written to Wyndham TV, “I was invited as a private citizen to listen to a visiting Indian MP discuss the progress of Indian policies towards bettering that country.
I do not condone the religious discrimination, and firmly believe that it is something that does not have any place in Australian society.
It is not what or who you listen to that defines who you are. It is what you say and what you do with the knowledge obtained from listening to others.
It is unfortunate that an individual from another municipality has chosen to get involved in Wyndham matters on a platform that does not enable two-way dialogue and understanding.”
The petition will be sent to Wyndham City Council calling for Cr. Ramesh to resign.
Meanwhile, another change.org campaign was organised overnight to support Cr. Ramesh and has gained over 200 signatures.