On May 23 (local time), California Legislative Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan read Assembly Bill 2282 for the second time with specific amendments that would differentiate between peaceful Hindu Swastika and Nazi Hakenkreuz. Once the bill is passed by the Assembly, it would decriminalise the Hindu Swastika.
Notably, Hindu American Foundation has been extensively working on educating the general public as well as the lawmakers about the difference between the Nazi Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) and the Hindu holy symbol Swastika. In a tweet, the organisation wrote, “California Legislative Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan responds to education efforts of Hindu American Foundation and California Dharma communities to amend #AB2282 & decriminalise the Hindu Swastika!”
— Hindu American Foundation (@HinduAmerican) May 23, 2022
Executive Director of the organisation Suhag A Shukla said, “This is the first time in American history that a state legislature bill recognises that the Nazi #Hakenkreuz is a hooked cross, not a #swastika! We thank Bauer-Kahan for collaborating with Hindu American Foundation and call on the full Legislature to pass amended CA-AB 2282!”
— Suhag A. Shukla (@SuhagAShukla) May 23, 2022
Assembly Bill No 2282 of the California Legislative Assembly
In February 2022, Assembly Members Baurer-Kahan and Levine introduced Assembly Bill No 2282 to amend Section 11411 of the Penal Code that deals with the crimes. At that time, the bill did not differentiate between Nazi Hakenkreuz and Hindu Swastika and called for punishment for anyone who places or displays the signs of hate, including “Nazi Swastika”.
It read, “This bill would expand these offences to include hanging a noose, placing or displaying a sign, mark, symbol, emblem, or other physical impression, including, but not limited to, a Nazi swastika, and burning, desecrating, or destroying a religious symbol, such as a cross, on public properties, such as school campuses, public parks, and other public spaces, as specified, for the purpose of terrorising a person, as specified. The bill would, for the first and any subsequent convictions, punish a person who hangs a noose or places, displays certain symbols, or burns or desecrates a religious symbol, as specified, with imprisonment for 16 months or 2 or 3 years, by a fine of not more than $15,000, or both the fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed $10,000, or by both the fine and imprisonment. The bill would make conforming changes.”
After it was introduced, Hindu organisations called for the amendments to differentiate between the Nazi symbol of hate and the Hindu holy symbol. The efforts of the Hindu organisations worked in their favour, and the amendments introduced by the authors of the bill on May 19 added the required differentiation between the two.
As per the proposed amendment, the law would read, “It is the intent of the Legislature to criminalise the placement or display of the Nazi Hakenkreuz (hooked cross), also known as the Nazi swastika, that was the official emblem of the Nazi party, for the purpose of terrorising a person. This legislation is not intended to criminalise the placement or display of the ancient swastika symbols that are associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and are symbols of peace.”