11 September 2017: Protest against a controversial advertisement campaign by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) further intensified today with nearly two dozen Hindu, Muslim and Sikh community leaders meeting with NSW minister for multiculturalism Ray Williams.
The ad shows Lord Ganesha, a Hindu deity, partaking of a lamb lunch. Although other religious figures also appear in the video, it has particularly offended members of the Indian Australian diaspora as they consider Ganesha to be a vegetarian.
Ever since the ad was launched on September 4, Indian Australians have been calling on MLA to withdraw the ad. The protest went official on September 8 when the High Commission of India in Canberra took notice of Indian Australians’ protest and “made a demarche to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Communication and Arts and Department of Agriculture”.
Today’s meeting between the minister and concerned community leaders was organised by Dr Yadu Singh, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of NSW.
In a blog post, Dr Singh revealed that the Indian community has been considering a protest march to MLA office in North Sydney but the plan has been put on hold pending results of today’s meeting with Mr Williams. The meeting between the community representatives and the government minister proved that the matter is not related to the sentiments of Hindu Australians alone as the delegation included leaders from Sikh and Muslim faiths as well. The multicultural delegation included Jagtar Singh, Pallavi Sinha, Gurdeep Singh, Anju Kalra, Surinder Bhogal, Shamim Khan, Brijrajsinh Jhala, Premjitsinh Rathod, Sri Ranga Reddy, Pandit Athreya Ramachandran, Pandit Krishnamurthi Venkataraman, Chirag Parikh, Dr Manish Bhutada, Anagan Babu, Tara Chand Sharma, Dr Nihal Agar and Dr Yadu Singh.
“To people from the Hindu faith, associating Lord Ganesha with meat and alcohol is inappropriate, incorrect, offensive and hurtful,” Dr Singh said in his blog.
According to the Sydney-based cardiologist, community representatives urged minister Ray Williams and Multicultural NSW to take up the matter of the “offensive video” with relevant authorities including with the Federal government. The minister was also urged to get the standards of advertisement reviewed to ensure that public videos are not allowed to use religiously insensitive and offensive materials.
“The minister agreed that the community is offended and agitated. He agreed to write a letter to the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and to the Federal Government authorities, seeking remedial action,” Dr Singh further mentioned in his blog post.
Hindus in Australia are primarily from India and Nepal, two Hindu-majority South Asian neighbours. Nepal was officially a Hindu state until 2008 when the country became a secular nation with the promulgation of a republican constitution. In this light, it is interesting to note that leaders of the Nepalese Australian diaspora did not react to the video the way their Indian counterparts did.
The Consulate General of India in Sydney recently took up the matter with Meat and Livestock Australia urging them to withdraw the advertisement, it is understood.