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VHP calls for 'Hindu rashtra'


DH News Service
AHMEDABAD, Feb 7

The eighth dharma sansad of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad asked the Bharatiya Janata Party to ''mobilise the Hindu vote bank``
and form a Hindu rashtra, even as ban on religious conversion was prioritised.

The three-day dharma sansad ended on Sunday on a note of uniting over ''two hundred crore Buddhist and Hindus`` of the
world to form a ''Vishal Hindu Front`` - an anti-Christian and anti-Islamic front.

Moving the resolution for unity Buddhist Bhikshu Bhante Gyanjagat saw many similarities between the two religions and culture
as well as the laws. President of the Kendriya Margadarshak Samity, the apex body, Acharya Dharmendra Maharaj said that
Buddha belonged to the Hindu pantheon of gods. Budh Gaya belonged to the Buddhists. He further added that Jains and Sikhs
also belonged to the same Hindu culture.

The VHP`s call for the unity of Buddhists and Hindus was a smart move to mobilise the Asian block of countries.

That the dharma sansad got the BJP government`s sanction was clear from Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel`s attendence on
Saturday. Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya and Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Fakirbhai Vahela
attended it on Sunday.

STATUTE AMENDMENT: Addressing mediapersons here after the completion of the eighth dharma sansad, VHP
International vice-president Giriraj Kishore said the ''VHP hoped that the BJP would amend the Constitution suitably to
implement the Hindu rashtra and the Hindu agenda set by the sansad.``

Critical of the BJP goverment for its inability to implement the Hindu agenda, he said: ''It was on crutches.`` The VHP leader
said the ''government should work closely with the religious forces.``

Contradicting his stand, the VHP leader said that the BJP was the closest to the Hindu ideology, they would compel the
government to implement the 40-point Hindu agenda.

Mr Giriraj Kishore said the VHP would in addition to unting the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs also include Gypsies and
ethnic faiths of other pre- Christians era to create an ''anti- imperialist`` front. Their programme of swadeshi meshed very well
with the BJP`s agenda.

The VHP also saw an international conspiracy of multinational corporations and the Christian missionaries in promoting
consumer culture. Sant Avichaldasji of Gujarat saw an international conspiracy by Christian missionaries in the tribal district of
the Dangs.

ADOPTION OF DISTRICTS: Mr Giriaj Kishore said sadhus would adopt a district each and fan out to educate people and
counter the activities of Christian missionaries. He saw a major threat by Christian missionaries in the North-East. The adoption
of a district was a bid to thwart the activities of the missionaries. Every sadhu who attended the sansad was assigned one
district. Seven districts were assigned in Karnataka.

Since banning religious conversion was focal to VHP`s agenda, they planned to mobilise opinion against Christian missionaries
and their inflow of foreign funds, which according to the VHP leader ran into crores.

''Renaisance in the Hindu religion, the VHP realised, was the best way of stopping conversion.``

Is VHP really Hindu?
(By M. N. Buch)

The Hindustan Times - Opinion - Jan 19, 1999

Addressing the VHP meet at Jaipur recently Ashok Singhal, its president, is
alleged to have stated that the award of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Prof
Amartya Sen is an anti-Hindu conspiracy.

His argument was that Dr Sen pronounced in favour of universal literacy, which is
an agent of conversion of Hindus to Christianity. By implication this means that if a
person is illiterate and ignorant he belongs to that primitive faith called Hinduism,
but if he becomes literate and capable of absorbing knowledge, he would naturally
gravitate towards Christianity.

What stronger condemnation of the Hindu faith can be found than this alleged
statement of Mr Singhal? Hinduism is the one religion which places great
emphasis on knowledge, refuses to tie its followers to the narrow confines of
bigotry and not only permits but encourages the search for truth by questioning, by
discourse and by seeking one's own path to salvation.

In other words, the Hindu faith demands that the human mind should develop to a
stage where it can, on its own, determine what is truth, without depending upon the
directions of the clergy or the tenets given in an immutable book. How can the
mind develop in the environment of illiteracy and ignorance advocated by Mr
Singhal?

Hinduism as a religion differs from those of Semitic origin in that it is not a religion
of exclusivity. It is not merely coincidental that neither Sanskrit nor Hindi have any
word for religion. In Arabic, religion is translated as "mazhab'', but "dharma'' is not a
translation of the word religion.

Dharma transcends religion because its opposite is adharma and no one, including
an atheist, can ever opt for adharma as a way of life. When religion itself is not
defined Hinduism becomes an exercise in faith rather than adherence to a tenet.

The VHP, in trying to give a definition to Hinduism which binds the religion into
narrow confines of bigotry, imitates that most communal of organisations, the
Jamaat-e-Islami. In the pronouncements of fundamentalist maulvis and an equally
fundamentalist Ashok Singhal one finds very little difference.

The VHP is running a campaign against conversion by the Christians. India had
over 200 years of Christian-British rule, including a highly evangelistic period during
the Victorian era. Despite this the number of Christians in India never exceeded two
per cent of the population.

A cross-section of conversions would indicate that the maximum number has
occurred in remote regions and among those sections of Hindu society which had
always been exploited and ostracised by caste Hindus.

The only parts of the country in which there has been some conversion of upper
castes are Goa and Kerala. In Goa it was fear of the inquisition which induced
conversion and in Kerala Christianity came as early as 52 AD.

Many of the conversions which took place amongst tribals and Harijans were the
result of the Christian missionaries creating an infrastructure of education and
health care amongst these people and offering them a degree of social equality and
acceptability which Hindu society had denied them.

Rejected by mainstream Hinduism these communities, to a very limited extent,
had embraced Christianity. The VHP refers to this as forced or rice conversion. I
would suggest that these conversions are the direct result of the neglect of the
backward people by the very people who are now posing as the champions of
Hinduism.

Even today there is a strong Christian missionary presence in the field of social
service in the backward regions. Has Ashok Singhal ever tried to create a Hindu
parallel?

Why should a Dalit or a tribal respond favourably to the VHP when all it can offer is
empty slogans?

The VHP was not founded to promote militant Hinduism which is a contradiction in
terms. Hinduism needs no militancy because it is already all embracing.

The origin of VHP lay in a desire to create an environment in which a whole series
of dharma sansads could help Hindus understand the religion better and to promote
its universality.

The minute the religion tries to become exclusive, it has to create a tenet or a book
which defines the religion and ordains that anyone not accepting it is beyond the
pale. Who will reveal such a book to Hindus?

Certainly not Ashok Singhal.

It is precisely because of the catholicity of Hinduism that the Guru Granth Saheb is
as much a holy book of the Hindus as it is the core of the Sikh faith. It is precisely
because of this that the message of peace of Islam and goodwill of Christianity are
part of the Hindu faith.

It is when Hinduism rejects other faiths that it, too, will die. The leaders of VHP,
who advocate such rejection, are no Hindus and the Parishad has lost itself in the
quicksand of bigotry.

Growing Up Extreme:
On th Peculiarly Vicious Fanatacism of Expatriates

By Shashi Tharoor

[ FromWashington Post ]


ON AUG. 6, 1994 some 15,000 mostly Indian expatriates will assemble at the
Washington Hilton and the Omni Shoreham Hotel for a "global conference"
grandly titled "World Vision 2000." A glossy brochure promoting the
conference describes it as "a grand effort to bring (together) youths from
across the USA and around the world" to "deliberate on the Vision of
Wholeness for the future of life on our planet."

Under the blazing headline "Look Who Is Comming (sic) to the Global
Conference!" one finds, in bold, the names of President Clinton and the
Dalai Lama and, in more modest type, Bill Moyers and Carl Sagan. Careful
scrutiny, however, reveals that these luminaries have not yet accepted their
invitations. And that those "dignitaries and spiritual leaders" who have
agreed to "guide the Global Conference" represent most of the pantheon of
India's Hindu extremist fringe.

The "Global Conference" is timed for the centenary of the appearance at
Chicago's World Parliament of Religions of the brilliant Hindu humanist
Swami Vivekananda, and its breathless blurbs seek to appropriate his luster.
But its organizers have no claim to the all- embracing tolerance and wisdom
of the late sage. They are the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, whose "Vision" extends
most famously so far to the destruction of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya in
northern India last December, an act that unleashed violence and rioting on
a scale not seen in India since independence.

The VHP, which enjoys the rare distinction of being considered more
extremist than the RSS, the party of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, has made
something of a specialty of incitements to hatred. Under its auspices during
the recent Bombay programs, Muslims have been abused, attacked, turned out
of their homes, deprived of their livelihoods, butchered in the streets. Its
more articulate sympathizers have expressed admiration for Hitler's way with
inconvenient minorities. This is the happy crew of moral and spiritual
guides to whom 15,000 Indian emigre youngsters, some no doubt inveigled by
the prospect of hearing the Dalai Lama and the president,will entrust their
Washington weekend. When the brochure declares that "this celebration will
include a variety of high-quality programs to raise the awareness of human
beings about their future direction," one's natural tendency to yawn is
replaced by a shudder down a slowly chilling spine. Washington seems an
unlikely setting for a celebration of Hindu fanaticism. And yet it is not
such an improbable venue after all. For there seems to be something about
expatriation that breeds extremism.

The American ethnic mosaic is full of imported bigotry, from the Muslim
fundamentalists who have been trying with commendable ineptitude to blow up
New York to Miami's many Cuban votaries of vicious virtue. Indian Americans
have done their best to compete with these Fidelios of the foreign fringe. A
coven of well-heeled Hindu professionals from Southern California recently
swamped newspapers in India with a post-Ayodhya advertising campaign
designed to counteract the bleeding-heart "pseudosecularism" of appalled
liberals like myself who published denunciations of the destruction of the
mosque and its aftermath. The ads - a farrago of ahistorical half-truths
calling upon Indians in India to "awake," for otherwise "India and Hindus
are doomed" - were merely the latest evidence that exile nurtures extremism.
The "Global Conference" continues in this tradition.

The strident chauvinism of these American Hindus is, after all, only one
more installment in a long saga of zeal abroad for radicalism at home. We
have already had expatriate Sikhs pouring money, weapons and organizational
skills into the cause of a "pure" (tobacco-free and barberless) "Khalistan";
Irish Americans supporting, willfully or otherwise, IRA terrorism in
Northern Ireland; Jaffna Tamils in England financing the murderous drive for
Eelam in Sri Lanka; and lobbying groups of American Jewry propounding
positions on Palestinian issues that are far less accommodating than those
of the Israeli government itself.

The irony of political extremism being advocated from distant aeries of
bourgeois moderation is only the most obvious of the contradictions of this
phenomenon. The more visible Khalistanis of North America may have carefully
regroomed their beards and thrown away their cigarettes as enjoined upon
them by the Sikh scriptures, but they derive sustenance almost entirely from
clean-shaven expatriate co-religionists largely unfamiliar with the
prohibitions and injunctions of their faith. And the Hindu chauvinists of
Southern California flourish in a pluralist melting-pot whose every
quotidian experience is a direct contradiction of the sectarianism they
trumpet in the advertisement pages of newspapers in India.

The explanation for this evident paradox may lie in the very nature of
expatriation. Most of the contemporary world's emigrants are people in quest
of material improvement, looking for financial security and professional
opportunities that, for one reason or another, they could not attain in
their own countries. Many of them left intending to return: A few years
abroad, a few more dollars in the bank, they told themselves, and they would
come back to their own hearths, triumphant over the adversity that had led
them to leave.

But the years kept stretching on, and the dollars were never quite enough,
or their needs mounted with their acquisitions, or they developed new ties
(career, wife, children, schooling) to their new land, and then gradually
the realization seeped in that they would never go back. And with this
realization, often only half-acknowledg ed, came a welter of emotions:
guilt, at the abandonment of the motherland, mixed with rage that the
motherland had somehow - through its own failings, political, economic,
social - forced them into this abandonment. The attitude of the expatriate
to his homeland is that of the faithless lover who blames the woman he has
spurned for not having sufficiently merited his fidelity. That is why the
support of extremism is doubly gratifying: It appeases the expatriate's
sense of guilt at not being involved in his homeland, and it vindicates his
decision to abandon it. (If the homeland he has left did not have the faults
he detests, he tells himself,he would not have had to leave it)

But that is not all. The expatriate also desperately needs to define himself
in his new society. He is reminded by his mirror, if not by the nationals of
his new land, that he is not entirely like them. In the midst of racism and
alienation, second-class citizenship and self- hatred, he needs an identity
to assert - a label of which he can be proud, yet which does not undermine
his choice of exile. He has rejected the reality of his country but not, he
declares fervently, the essential values he has derived from his roots. As
his children grow up "American" or "British," as they slough off the
assumptions, prejudices and fears of his own childhood, he becomes even more
assertive about them.

But his nostalgia is based on the selectiveness of memory; it is a
simplified, idealized recollection of his roots, often reduced to their most
elemental - family, caste, region, religion. In exile amongst foreigners, he
clings to a vision of what he really is that admits no foreignness.

But the tragedy is that the culture he remembers, with both nostalgia and
rejection, has itself evolved - in interaction with others - on its national
soil. His perspective distorted by exile, the expatriate knows nothing of
this. His view of what used to be home is divorced from the experience of
home. Expatriates are no longer an organic part of the culture, but severed
digits that, in their yearning for the hand, can only twist themselves into
a clenched fist.


Shashi Tharoor is the author of The Great Indian Novel and Show Business.
His collection of short stories, The Five-Dollar Smile, is published by
Arcade in 1995.

 

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .