The president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, has called on South Africans to respect Hindus and allow them to celebrate Diwali in peace.
Speaking at the CRL Rights Commission dialogue on the upcoming Festival of Lights in Durban on Thursday, the outspoken Hindu leader said cultural intolerance should not be allowed.
Trikamjee said while he denounced loud bang fireworks, there was still a disproportionate amount of discrimination against Hindus.
"Fireworks have become part of celebrations for many things. Just look at New Year's Eve celebrations, Guy Fawkes and even sporting events. New Year's Eve fireworks often start at 23:30 and go into the early hours of New Year's day. Why are there no complaints about that?
"eThekwini is a warzone during these celebrations. So why do complaints just come during Diwali? It is cultural intolerance."
Trikamjee said fireworks do not have to be banned, but that the implementation of its use had to be stricter.
He added the practice of Hinduism allowed for the "controlled use of fireworks" and the religion called that no harm should come to living creatures.
Lack of tolerance
He said during apartheid the Group Areas Act had kept different cultures away from one another.
"Fireworks were always used by Hindus during Diwali because they were all confined to the same area. The white community and others didn't have to bother because it wasn't in their area."
Trikamjee said post-1994, the act was removed and that meant "everyone is living everywhere".
"Suddenly, instead of trying to understand, discuss and negotiate with one another and do the decent thing, there has been intolerance. We are now seeing violence being perpetrated against Hindus."
He said before 1994, Guy Fawkes Day was always "celebrated intensely as well".
"[This was] in white areas because it was culturally and historically their practice. But nobody had any complaints then."
Trikamjee said there was a lack of tolerance.
"I feel it is a lack of tolerance based on a misunderstanding of somebody else's culture. We all live together. I live in my home and I have my dog and I know how I have to look after it."
He encouraged other communities to embrace Hindus.
"We have been in this country for a long time and are an essential part of society."