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5 Reasons Why VHP’s “World Hindu Congress” Makes Me Very Uncomfortable

More from Shambhavi Saxena

By Shambhavi Saxena:

As the 3-day Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s World Hindu Congress came to a close on Sunday, 23rd November, it’s now time to review the conference, its relevance and its hits and misses.

WHC

1. At the very outset, the word “Hindu”, with all its historical and cultural connotations (and I urge you not to get trapped in arguments of etymology and geography) implies a deliberate exclusion of non-Hindu communities in India, of which there are many – those who practice Islam, Christianity, Judaism, (dare we say Wiccanism?), identifying agnostics and atheists, etc. Also, tribals, Dalits and other Hindu communities who are relegated to a sub-human position in the still prevalent caste-system.

2. VHP patron Ashok Singhal’s rather ominous proclamation of, “There will be many more things made compulsory.” The statement was made in the context of the proposition that Sanskrit replace German as a taught language in Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools). Which, considering right-wing fundamentalism in India today, sounds vaguely threatening, at least to the ‘sickular feminist’ writing this article! Since there is talk of exercising control over the languages we use to communicate, what other areas is that control likely to spread to? Are we to see more moral policing, then, of how women dress and talk and how late they may remain out of the house, of what kind of professions are suitable for men, of what sort of gender expression is ‘appropriate’, etc? Might I remind the reader that these things are already happening without being ‘compulsory’; one can only imagine a situation where this is formalized and enforced by law.

3. The VHP leader’s need to “achieve our nationalism and cultural freedom,” (Source) brings up a very old debate about nationalism itself. The pre-independence era was a conducive environment for cohesive nationalist politics, having identified a common enemy in the Empire. Post-independence Indian Nationalism is rather vulnerable to neo-colonialism – that is, the guy at the top is Indian, but the structures of oppression are just as they were. The main problem with nationalism today is that it falls into the trap of carving out a single national identity, the majority identity, and pass it off as representative of India. This, for the most part works, because statistically, the selected group or identity is very visible, but is responsible for marginalizing hundreds upon hundreds of other identities. I don’t think that in 2014, 64 years after the enforcement of our constitution, we should still be struggling with the problem of marginality. One hopes that Singhal’s idea of nationalism and the national identity includes every kind of linguistic, regional and religious group as well as every gender, orientation, age and physical capability in the country.

4. The VHP leader stressed on protection of cows, save Ganga and prevent Hindus from conversion, as a part of Hindu revival programme. While saving cows, generally wouldn’t raise objections, especially from vegetarians and vegans across the nation (and I’d like to remind you food choices are exactly that, choices – they aren’t genetic or religiously-inherited), the cow protection programs in India are guilty of vilifying traditionally beef-eating communities, and furthering that corrosive Hindutva propaganda. Singhal’s statement on preventing conversions confused me, until I remembered the very, very recent ‘love-jihad’ furore. I needn’t say more, except that following a faith of your choice is, again, a choice and should you choose to convert, you are constitutionally granted that freedom, and if you happen to be forced, once again, the law is on your side there. The anti-conversion stance is just a ploy to maintain the purity and numbers of the Hindu majority in India. Throwback to Hitler’s pure-race ideology, anyone? I must admit that his point on Ganga, which is of course an important symbol for Hindus and is therefore motivated by religion, isn’t so bad as long as the river gets to breathe easy after decades of rot.

5. Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari- “Our development should be based on our history, culture, values and our family system – our biggest capital.” Certainly problematic, as the main effort seems to be negating non-Hindu histories or versions of history, including Mughal and British rule in the subcontinent, which contributed greatly to India’s image

There is no mention whatsoever of a sustainable model of development that will protect, among these, the ecological health of India, which is dwindling with only 23.07% of forest cover (World Bank, 2011) that is about ten-percent under the lowest limit any country should dare to have, 47 endangered species (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2011), and having 15 of the most polluted cities in the world (World Health Organization, 2014). In fact, the BJP’s priority is environmental clearances, not conservation, and the environment should really have been a huge concern for a Congress that prides itself on affiliation with religion that deifies nature and whose pantheon includes animal-gods.

The family system Gadkari is so enamoured with is obviously the traditional patriarchal set up, leaving no room for non-normative family units, the nuclear family, single-parent households, same-sex partnerships (with or without children), live-ins and individuals choosing to live independent of family, no matter how much economic contribution each of these makes to the Gross Domestic Product of India.

Did the WHC Get Anything Right?
Maybe. There were some pulls in the right direction, but even those seemed a little half-baked or murky. This Congress would have really benefited by focusing solely on those issues rather than what is obviously a Hindutva thrust (once again) in the light of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral victories this year.

The Dalai Lama’s rather poignant statement about the abundance of temples in the face of a lack of learning centres was significant. He said: “There should be less of routine rituals, and more of intellectual rituals,” but with a promise of making more things “compulsory”, the RSS and VHP members appear to be entertaining other ideas – particularly of cultural hegemony – a Hinduizing of education and discourse, so to speak, which contradicts the Tibetan spiritual leader’s intent entirely.

Gadkari’s insistence that “existing acts (of rampant corruption) needed to be altered and streamlined” rather than introducing new acts, is rather sensible. What doesn’t add up though is why such a statement emerges from a specifically Hindu-oriented conference rather than a regular cabinet meeting of state functionaries?

While the idea behind the WHC seems to be to reach out to Hindus that are minorities in other parts of the world, and to promote cultural heritage, it takes on a self-aggrandizing tone here in India, and wants to function as something more. Still, when one lives in a democracy, one tends to observe from a safe distance, and hope for the best. The only assurance in the face of an event such as this is that India’s democracy is grounded in the idea of improvement. There is always room for improvement, should the WHC prove to be problematic, that is, falls short of secular, inclusive and peaceful expectation. And that can soothe discomfort somewhat.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aditya Malpani

    A lot of paranoia, misinterpretation on facts are evident from this article.

  2. Arjun

    #1
    Just like there can be an Islamic Conference, Christian Conference so there can be Hindu Conference. And in those conferences people only talk about issues of follower of that particular religion. You objection of use of word Hindu just shows your bias, may be a result of 3rd class post-colonial Marxist education system of India.

    > dare we say Wiccanism

    Wicca is a European paganism, and Hinduism you can say is Eastern Paganism. Both European Paganism and Hinduism are more closer to each other than Abrahmic Religions.

    > tribals, Dalits and other Hindu communities who are relegated to a sub-human position

    BTW, PM of India is from OBC community. And talking about caste is the usual way of attacking Hinduism. You people are still crying over Sati and I think you will continue to cry over caste for the next 100 yrs.

    #4
    Hindu tax payer money is also used for sending Muslims to Haj, Interest Free Loans, Scholarship to them. And not to forget Personal Law Board. You can also write about them to show in your CV.

    #5
    > including Mughal and British rule in the subcontinent, which contributed greatly to India’s image.

    Image what, or a large scale Genocide?

    Bengal famine of 1943, which killed 1.5 to 4 million people.
    Or Islamic Genocide of 300 Years which killed Millions more.

    From WikiPedia
    ” During the Mughal period (1526–1858) in the 16th century, the gross domestic product of India was estimated at about 25.1% of the world economy.

    An estimate of India’s pre-colonial economy puts the annual revenue of Emperor Akbar’s treasury in 1600 at £17.5 million (in contrast to the entire treasury of Great Britain two hundred years later in 1800, which totaled £16 million). The gross domestic product of Mughal India in 1600 was estimated at about 24.3% the world economy, the second largest in the world.[17]

    By the late 17th century, the Mughal Empire was as its peak and had expanded to include almost 90 per cent of South Asia, and enforced a uniform customs and tax-administration system. In 1700 the exchequer of the Emperor Aurangzeb reported an annual revenue of more than £100 million.

    In the 18th century, Mughals were replaced by the Marathas as the dominant power in much of Indian, while the other small regional kingdoms who were mostly late Mughal tributaries such as the Nawabs in the north and the Nizams in the south, declared an autonomy. However, the efficient Mughal tax administration system was left largely intact.

    By this time, India had fallen from the top rank to become the second-largest economy in the world. ”
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India

  3. Arjun

    I suggest you to read more before you start writing articles. Like most ‘Indian Intellectual’, You are a Result of 3rd class post-colonial Marxist education system of India. I guess this is people’s Bread & Butter, this is how they get a Journalist Job in India as well as a few coins from West.

  4. Arjun

    #1 > Also, tribals, Dalits and other Hindu communities who are relegated to a sub-human position in the still prevalent caste-system.

    Some links for you, from BBC not RSS Website.

    Dalits find no refuge from caste in Christianity
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11229170

    Where converts do not find a place at Dalit graveyard
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/where-converts-do-not-find-a-place-at-dalit-graveyard/article3388319.ece

    We Demand Equal Rights For Dalit Christian
    https://www.facebook.com/IITagainstAAP/photos/1550495381828655/

    Caste system among Muslims
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_among_Muslims

    Caste system among Indian Christians
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_among_Indian_Christians

    😀

  5. Vignesh

    Superb article 🙂

    Keep writing more. 🙂

    1. Aditya Malpani

      Did you forget the word paranoid?

  6. Gaurav

    writer belongs to a group which indulges in blind hatred for hinduism. writer should show integrity and convert to islam.

    1. Fem

      Since when did opposite of Hinduism become Islam?

    2. Gaurav

      i never said islam is opposite of hinduism, all i said is if you do not like hinduism, convert to islam , so simple

  7. Youth ki Awaaz(The REal YOung Blood with real sense)

    Don’t worry they even saw men & women from every sphere come together and tender their views democratically. It was attended from people across the globe. Men and women worked together and discussed on various issue. Delegates came from 50 countries. They had all in all 7 conferences, 45 sessions and 200 speakers in these 3 days.. It had different forums like Media..Women.. Education..etc. Secondly we never saw you registering protests about someone being conferred Saint hood just the other day. Made many think, are saints born or are saints made & strange is this happened even when the authorities had more stains of various massacres from Rwanda to Child abuse cases? Third this conference was not something like Saudi Arabian men alone deciding what their women should do in a conference titled – Islamic Conference for women. It included all. Including noted foreign writers. Now if writer has loose-motions with this meeting then please don’t dirty people’s mind. It is your problem. We certainly know that the conference has given many answers to Marxist scums and they perhaps have no counters left with them and that is why you are so uncomfortable ….and last thing……if hinduism,its beliefs, practices WHC and this whole deal makes you uncomfortable,then go to hell……….

  8. Ram Golapudi

    Interesting article. Agree with most of the facts. To lighten up I found this about VHP , don’t know will it be interesting or not. You can check the slideshow http://hawww.in/7-weird-things-which-only-vishva-hindu-parishad-vhp-can-do/

  9. AgniR

    Excessive ‘sickularist feminist’ vomit! I have only used the label because the author has herself identified with the same.

    “At the very outset, the word “Hindu”, with all its historical and cultural connotations (and I urge you not to get trapped in arguments of etymology and geography) implies a deliberate exclusion of non-Hindu communities in India, of which there are many – those who practice Islam, Christianity, Judaism, (dare we say Wiccanism?), identifying agnostics and atheists, etc. Also, tribals, Dalits and other Hindu communities who are relegated to a sub-human position in the still prevalent caste-system.”

    Dharma have two major branches: astika (theistic) and nastika (athiestic). Majority of the literature in Sanatana Dharma is agnostic. Most Hindus themselves either identify themselves as theist, atheists and agnostics.

    Dalits, and it seems it is only the neo-liberals who call themselves as such, are now commonly referred to as Hindus. As a matter of fact many Hindus have many a times objected to the use of the word Dalit for labeling a community that is very much part of the larger Hindu community.

    Tribals have their own rituals and practices and which are very much ‘Indic’ in origin. I wonder why would anybody not consider them part of the larger family of Hinduism, apart from the extremely misguided, misinformed communists like this author.

    Followers of Abrahamic religions DOT NOT identify themselves as Hindus. Also, Abrahamic religions are NOT of ‘Indic origin’, i.e do NOT have the same origin as Dharma and are also have no philosophical or conceptual similarity. There are Indians who follow these religions, but all Indians are not by default Hindus.

    Caste system is as much a Christian or a Muslims, or any other community’s problem as much as it is Hindu. For that matter, caste is a social problem in India not a religious one. Muslims and Christians of India do NOT intermarry out of their castes. Also, caste discrimination as ill-informed communists like this author would want to allege, is not exactly from top to bottom. But also from bottom to up and even horizontal and true for all Indian communities, no matter their religious affiliations.

    “VHP patron Ashok Singhal’s rather ominous proclamation of, “There will be many more things made compulsory.” The statement was made in the context of the proposition that Sanskrit replace German as a taught language in Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools). Which, considering right-wing fundamentalism in India today, sounds vaguely threatening, at least to the ‘sickular feminist’ writing this article! Since there is talk of exercising control over the languages we use to communicate, what other areas is that control likely to spread to? Are we to see more moral policing, then, of how women dress and talk and how late they may remain out of the house, of what kind of professions are suitable for men, of what sort of gender expression is ‘appropriate’, etc? Might I remind the reader that these things are already happening without being ‘compulsory’; one can only imagine a situation where this is formalized and enforced by law.”

    Not only is the author biased against Hindus, but it seems also has no knowledge of Indian constitution and India’s language policy. India’s three language solution language policy states that a state is to teach a student three languages: English, the state’s own and another Indian language.

    I wonder when did German exactly become an Indian language and was allowed to be introduced in Indian school system by govt college, and that too at taxpayer’s expense?

    Also, if the author of the article could remove the glasses of hatred from her eyes, she would realize that neither has Sanskrit been made compulsory, and nor has German been banned. You are as always free to chose the language to learn and communicate.

    Strange, that author connects a language policy issue with moral policing, a subtle indicator of of complete lack of intellect and comprehension. I wonder when has any Central govt in India indulged in moral policing? Or has made any laws to that affect? Like any neo-communists, she will give no facts or cases to back her rants.

    “The VHP leader’s need to “achieve our nationalism and cultural freedom,” (Source) brings up a very old debate about nationalism itself. The pre-independence era was a conducive environment for cohesive nationalist politics, having identified a common enemy in the Empire. Post-independence Indian Nationalism is rather vulnerable to neo-colonialism – that is, the guy at the top is Indian, but the structures of oppression are just as they were. The main problem with nationalism today is that it falls into the trap of carving out a single national identity, the majority identity, and pass it off as representative of India. This, for the most part works, because statistically, the selected group or identity is very visible, but is responsible for marginalizing hundreds upon hundreds of other identities. I don’t think that in 2014, 64 years after the enforcement of our constitution, we should still be struggling with the problem of marginality. One hopes that Singhal’s idea of nationalism and the national identity includes every kind of linguistic, regional and religious group as well as every gender, orientation, age and physical capability in the country.”

    I think the Indian constitution is as valid as it was about 60 years ago. If the author think so so too, I see no cause for her fears. Her hatred for anything Hindu has led her to imagine the marginalization of communities, just as how she thought that Hindus were not atheists and agnostics, dalits and tribals are not considered Hindu by the majority etc etc.

    As a matter of fact, 70% of the Indian population identifies itself as Hindu. And as far as I know, as Hindus we have deep respect for any and every Indian language, community etc. Hindus believe in ‘Vasudev Kutumbukum’, and it seems like many things Hindu, this too is completely alien to the author.

    “The VHP leader stressed on protection of cows, save Ganga and prevent Hindus from conversion, as a part of Hindu revival programme. While saving cows, generally wouldn’t raise objections, especially from vegetarians and vegans across the nation (and I’d like to remind you food choices are exactly that, choices – they aren’t genetic or religiously-inherited), the cow protection programs in India are guilty of vilifying traditionally beef-eating communities, and furthering that corrosive Hindutva propaganda. Singhal’s statement on preventing conversions confused me, until I remembered the very, very recent ‘love-jihad’ furore. I needn’t say more, except that following a faith of your choice is, again, a choice and should you choose to convert, you are constitutionally granted that freedom, and if you happen to be forced, once again, the law is on your side there. The anti-conversion stance is just a ploy to maintain the purity and numbers of the Hindu majority in India. Throwback to Hitler’s pure-race ideology, anyone? I must admit that his point on Ganga, which is of course an important symbol for Hindus and is therefore motivated by religion, isn’t so bad as long as the river gets to breathe easy after decades of rot.”

    A really long rant! God, this is tiring!

    Hindus are as much Indian as any other community in this country, but the author would like us believe otherwise. India is a democracy, in case the author has forgotten or plain simply ignored in context of Hindus, they have as much as right to express their wishes and propagate their ideas when it comes to ‘cow protection’ or any other thing.

    And because the author is so little informed about global issues and challenges, let me point out one of the main reasons for global warming today: the increasing deforestation to allow livestock feed to grow, i.e the meat that non-vegetarians justify as lifestyle choice is a major cause of global warming today.

    As a converted vegetarian myself, I completely support the efforts of all animal rights activists, including many Hindu organisations, who are aware of the problem and taking steps to combat it.

    As for anti-conversion, I think the Hindu organisations have as much democratic rights, as the Missionaries and as the Islamist, when it comes to conversion, anti-conversion and re-conversion. I am pretty sure, as soon as the Missionaries will stop harvesting ‘poor’ souls in India, VHP or any other Hindu organisation will change its attitude towards the ‘conversion for money’ practices which are rampant here.

    I never knew that Hindus have a history of setting up concentration camps! But then, obviously, the author thinks this to be true. Strange, she does not realize how much she insults the victims of Holocaust by her foolish statements.

    “Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari- “Our development should be based on our history, culture, values and our family system – our biggest capital.” Certainly problematic, as the main effort seems to be negating non-Hindu histories or versions of history, including Mughal and British rule in the subcontinent, which contributed greatly to India’s image”

    Merely stating something, does not imply it! Either you have the substance to back your claims or you don’t. Any proof of the so called negation?

    For that matter, dear readers, please read Rajiv Malhotra’s books and wherein he has explained the continuous negation of Hindu identity, history and culture, and which is more or less along the lines of what this author is trying to do.

    And then the author goes on and rants some more! Really not worth anybody’s time.

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