June 28 2017, updated 9:51pm

Hindu 'swastika' causes offence

Last updated 14:29 13/05/2008
JASON OXENHAM/Central Leader
CONTROVERSIAL SYMBOL: This emblem was painted as a sign of religious devotion, but is upsetting the neighbours.

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A World War Two veteran captured by Germans and held prisoner for three years is reminded of his torment every time he looks out the window of his house.

The Mt Roskill man’s neighbours have painted a large white symbol – resembling a swastika – on their roof.

He says the symbol, painted late last year, is distasteful.

"If I could get rid of it I would," says the man, who didn’t want to be named.

"It’s not necessary, it’s actually stupid. It’s insulting to the neighbours."

But Ambrish Gupta says when he painted the symbol, he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

He simply did it as a sign of his religious devotion.

In the Hindu religion, the swastika is the symbol of the god Ganesha, who is acknowledged at the beginning of prayers.

Mr Gupta painted it on his roof as a symbol of protection for his family and house.

He says he had no idea it had another meaning in western culture – as the mark of the Nazi regime – when he painted it.

"If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have done it," he says.

Another neighbour, whose house gives her a direct view of Mr Gupta’s roof, says she doesn’t particularly like it.

"When it first went up, I thought it was an insult."

Mr Gupta says now that he’s aware the painting is upsetting some people, he will have it changed to look more like the Hindu symbol and less like the Nazi version.

It already has dots in between the arms and there will be extra pieces added.

"It will be a little bit different. I hope with a bit of change it will not disturb people."

Sandringham man Lindsay Johnston noticed the painting on the roof in April when he was working on Carr Rd.

He says he was horrified.

"I find it very offensive."

Mr Johnston is worried that it will be visible to traffic when the new motorway is built through the area.

"People will be driving along wondering what kind of a country this is," he says.

Mr Johnston says he went to the police about the painting, but they referred him to the Auckland City Council, who were also unable to help.

"The council has no authority and there is no authority it can be referred to," says a council spokeswoman.

"If it was a sign, a complaint could be made to the Advertising Standards Authority but it is not advertising anything."

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Mr Johnston also wrote to Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff to complain about the symbol, who visited the house and talked to Mr Gupta.

"We spoke to the owners of the house who are very decent people and who were most concerned that the emblem had been misinterpreted," says Mr Goff.

"Far from being a white power group identifying with the policies of Hitler, the family’s beliefs are in fact the opposite.

"They are anxious that people understand what the symbol actually means and their motivation for having it on their house."

- Central Leader

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