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Vishva Hindu Parishad

(Devanāgarī: विश्व हिन्दु परिषद, World Hindu Council), widely known as 'VHP' is a Hindu organization in India, an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It was founded in 1964. Its slogan is "धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः Dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ", which means "Dharma protects when protected." Its symbol is the banyan tree.

History

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad was formed in 1964 by Swami Chinmayananda as president and former RSS member S.S. Apte as general secretary, with Master Tara Singh as one of the co-founders. It was first mooted at a conference in Pawai, Sandipani Sadhanalaya,Mumbai on August 29, 1964. The conference was hosted by RSS sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar. The date coincided with the festival of Janmashtami. Several representatives from the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths were present in the meeting, as well as the Dalai Lama. Golwalkar explained that "all faiths of Indian origins need to unite", saying that the word "Hindu" (i.e people of "Hindustan") applied to adherents of all the above religions. Apte declared:

The world has been divided to Christian, Islam and Communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. it is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organize the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three.

It was decided at the meeting that the name of the proposed organisation would be Vishva Hindu Parishad and that a world convention of Hindus was to be held at Prayag (Allahabad) during Kumbha Mela of 1966 to launch the organisation. It was further decided that it shall be a non-political organisation and that no office bearer of any political party shall be simultaneously an office bearer in the Parishad. The following aims and objectives were set before the Parishad.

  1. To consolidate and strengthen the Hindu Society.
  2. To protect, promote and propagate Hindu values of life, the ethical and the spiritual in the context of modern times.
  3. To keep in touch with all the Hindus living abroad, and to organise and help them in all possible ways in protecting their Hindu identity also popularly known as Hindutva.

Growth in 1980s

The growth of this Movement to ban cow slaughter in the late 1950s and early 1960s gave rise to the VHP. Initially, the VHP mainly worked among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, setting up hospitals, temples and schools for the much-neglected lower class Hindu society. Over 900 people were killed across the country in riots and police action. The Liberhan Commission headed by Justice Liberhan was constituted to investigate the whole episode. A large number of VHP workers testified before the commission.

The incident at the disputed structure came as a shock to many Indians, who had known the VHP as a peaceful organization}. In its defense, many VHP supporters have claimed that the VHP simply represented the increasing alienation and anger of India's Hindu community in response to marginalization by the government in favor of Muslim and Christian minorities. As far as VHP supporters were concerned, the Mosque demolition was an inevitable consequence of continuing prejudice against Hindus in post-independence India and their subsequent disaffection.

Ideology

Continually criticizing its political ally the BJP for acting too slowly on the Ram temple issue, conversions and a uniform civil code, the VHP demands legislation from Parliament authorizing the temple construction, and the proclamation of a Hindu Rashtra, literally the "Hindu Nation," in Bharat and explains it as a statement of cultural nationalism. It claims not to deny Muslims fundamental rights and freedoms.

The VHP says Bharat has historically been a Hindu nation, in culture, heritage and history. Islam was brought by foreign invaders who imposed and coerced it upon millions of Hindus (corroborated by many historic acts of temple destruction, pogroms and mass conversions); Christian missionaries brought in Christianity when the Portuguese, French and the British colonized the land. It is a fact that Christian missionaries often denigrated and demonized the Hindu religion to coerce native peoples into converting. While working to convert Christians, tribal peoples (native Hindus) and Muslims to Hinduism, the VHP states that all Muslims and Christians were Hindus in the first place, and that all citizens of Bharat are naturally Hindus. The VHP demands are broadly as follows.

  • Creation of Ram temple at Ram Janmabhoomi
  • End of alleged forcible conversions by Christian missionaries and Islamic institutions.
  • Ban on cow slaughter.
  • Declaration of India as a Hindu Rashtra, literally Hindu Nation (note that this term includes all those who can trace their religious beliefs back to India, including Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains).
  • Tougher anti-terror laws and tougher penalties for terrorists.
  • Implementation of a Uniform Civil Code.
  • Revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Erasure of Casteism from Hindu society.

The stated goals of the organisation are as follows:

  1. To consolidate, strengthen and make invincible the global Hindu fraternity by following the eternal and universal life values based on Sanatan Dharma (i.e Hinduism) and work for total welfare of humanity on the basis of the unique cultural ethos of Bharatvarsha.
  2. To promote activities of education, medical aid and relief to the poor or any other activity in the advancement of general public utility for furtherance of literature and scientific and socio-religious research.
  3. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of religion, sex, caste, race or colour at any time amongst the beneficiaries of the Association.
  4. For fulfillment of above-mentioned objects if any activity is carried out which requires money to be collected in the form of sales, charges for boarding and lodging, distribution of books, literature etc., then the prices and charges will be such that as far as possible they will not yield any profit.

The VHP has recently engaged in several programs to reconvert Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity. VHP has advanced that conversion to Christianity had earned them no significant benefits and so their return to Hinduism was relatively straightforward. The law enforcement authorities have reported that the conversion processes have largely been peaceful and voluntary. However, there has been some aggressive altercations associated regarding this issue, the subject of religious conversions being very controversial in many parts of India.

In addition, the VHP has spoken out against Islamic Fundamentalism and the rise of Islamist terrorism in various parts of India in recent years. The VHP has organized awareness programs to educate people about Islamic terrorism and have criticized the central government for being soft on terror in order to cultivate Muslim votes. They have also protested against Islamism by organizing business shutdowns ("Bandhs") as a gesture of civil disobedience.

The VHP has been a prime backer of the World Hindu Conference in which issues such as casteism, sectarianism, and the future of Hindus were discussed. Prior Conferences have included Hindu Groups such as Parisada Hindu Dharma.

Organization and leadership

The Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP, and it is organized in many states in major training camps called shakhas, where thousands of young men simultaneously train in group activities, receive religious and cultural education and in many cases, self-defensive arms training. The Durga Vahini, founded in 1991 under the tutelage of Sadhvi Rithambara as its founding chairperson and the support of the VHP, is described as the "female arm of the Dal". Members of the Vahini contend that the portrayal of their group as a branch of the Bajrang Dal is an oversimplification, and that their goals are to "dedicate ourselves to physical, mental and knowledge development.

The VHP organizes in community meets and shakhas throughout the country. Its national organisation is democratic, with an International Working President and an International General Secretary as their most important executives. However, only seasoned, senior leaders control the seats on the Central Council which will elevate men to the varying posts.

The Dharma Sansad is literally a religious parliament, a gathering of Hindu seers, scholars and high priests from all over the country. They rule on policy and principles and advise the executive on social and cultural questions.

The VHP and its religious parliament have no recognition in Hindu religion or society. The religious parliament is by no means the central authority of Hinduism, as the Vatican City and the Papacy is to Catholicism. The VHP is an independent, modern organization of a socio-cultural nature, but also many political activities. It has many active branches in North America, South East Asia and East Africa, where large numbers of Hindus live. It is engaged in many social development activities in hundreds of villages in different parts of the country, helping in their economic alleviation and cultural revitalization.

The VHP also have divisions comprising of women. During the Babri Mosque/Ramjanmabhoomi dispute, VHP secretary Giri Raj Kishore charted out highly visible roles for women in the group. He charted out two "satyagrahas" for women during their demonstrations.

Criticism

The VHP along with other Hindutva organisations are accused of several riots in the country, the most recent being their involvement in the 2007 Orissa Violence and previously in the Gujarat riots in 2002 . VHP leader Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia had justified the Gujarat 2002 riots saying it "had the blessings of lord Rama". The riots were claimed by the VHP to be a response to the Godhra Train Burning in which the VHP alleged that some "anti-social" elements had "burnt" the train carriage containing women and children of Hindu religious leaders. VHP is also accused of being involved in many incidents of violence against religious minorities and religious extremists. Some recent incidents involve torching churches in the Indian state of Orissa.

In 1999, The Indian Express reported that United States Department of State without having done any independent verification, named Vishva Hindu Parishad along with BJP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and RSS in its annual human rights reports for 1999 in incidents where they were said to have instigated violence against Christians and Christian institutions..

On 5 October 2008, the Indian Prime Minister has decided to call a special cabinet meeting to discuss a possible ban on the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad over the continuing attacks on Christians and its institutions in Orissa and Karnataka. .

See also

References

External links

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