Majority report

priyanka kotamraju | Updated on November 28, 2014 Published on November 28, 2014

In focus: The World Hindu Congress was attended by people from different walks of life — monks and laymen, to scientists and businessmen. Photo: S Subramanium

The recent World Hindu Congress in Delhi gave a platform to a few reasonable, and all too many extremist voices

Eight centuries after the reign of the last Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan, “proud Hindus” have finally come to rule Delhi, claimed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) patron Ashok Singhal at the recent World Hindu Congress, held in Delhi. The event was the first such gathering where 1,800 Hindus from different professions and geographies — doctors and academics, ministers and priests, businessmen and scientists, fathers and mothers, and from Suriname to Vietnam — came together for what appears to be the beginning of a Hindu renaissance. “When you start that is the right time. What can be a better time than this,” said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat. Indeed, they couldn’t have chosen a more propitious time. A “swabhimani” (proud) Hindu government occupies the Capital; discussions were led by ministers of Narendra Modi’s cabinet; and official observers marked their presence at each session.

For three days, over 45 sessions, members of the community discussed what constitutes a Hindu family, society and State. Religion took a backseat; Bharat replaced India, and vedic knowledge became a base for technology and innovation. Women warned mothers about the ills of live-in relationships and WhatsApp, and NRI priests grappled with issues of inter-faith marriages and homosexuality.

Dr IB Vijayalakshmi is a successful cardiologist and a multiple gold medallist (32, we were told) from Karnataka. In her session on ‘Impact of live-in relationships, conversion, inter-religion marriages on Hindu society’, the good doctor compared different forms of relationships. “ Vivaah,” she told us, “is a pavitra bandhan (pure bond) between a man and woman and their families.” Live-in relationships, on the other hand, were temporary bonds between only two people, two “bitter halves”. According to the Padma Purana and Manusmriti, she explained, there are eight forms of marriage; Pishacha, the worst form of marriage, translated into ‘Love Jihad’. “LJ,” she told an audience, “begins with a missed call. Then it turns into a Mrs Call. Our ‘converted daughters’ are ‘free wombs’ to produce more Muslims. Then they become vehicles of terrorism.” A “bloodless coup”.

Reports of false cases of love jihad in Meerut, Mangaluru and Bengaluru notwithstanding, “it is a global threat,” said Swami Vigyananand, joint general secretary of VHP, in an interview. “We are living in denial. This is a menace and it is growing,” adds Sushil Pandit, spokesperson of the World Hindu Congress. At the Hindu Women Congress, it seemed there was an overwhelming consensus for “freedom with fetters.” Freedom to wear whatever you choose, but not who you date. Freedom powered by technology, but restrictions on what you watch online.

If global Islamisation was perceived as a threat to Hindus, aggressive evangelical conversion was identified as another. “They (missionaries) have a right to propagate, no right to convert,” says Vigyananand. “They can’t claim to have a right to proselytise. They can’t claim to be minorities (here in Bharat).” In one presentation, figures were shown to indicate the Eastward expansion of Christianity and Islam from 1900 to 2010. In Asia, it was revealed that the Christian population increased from 2.3 per cent to 8 per cent and the Muslim population from 16 per cent to 26 per cent. Unbeknownst to the organisers, a fringe organisation was reported to have circulated a pamphlet titled ‘M5: The biggest enemy of Hindu society’. The pamphlet asked — Who are the Malicious 5? The answer was Marxists, Macaulayists, Missionaries, Materialists and Muslim extremists.

The proposal for the congress took root 15 years ago, says Vigyananand, the brains behind the World Hindu Congress and an IIT alumnus. Over the last decade, multiple editions of the World Hindu Economic Forum and Hindu youth and women conferences paved the way for the organisation of a Hindu society united by economic, educational and political ties. “We didn’t time the congress with Narendra bhai’s government. It’s just a coincidence,” he says. While Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under the two NDA regimes, had to practise coalition dharma, Modi’s unencumbered government can carry forward the torch of Hindu dharma. “It’s a majority government with constitutional authority and people’s mandate. We won’t have to hide our agenda,” Pandit says.

In Islam Assembled: The Advent of the Muslim Congresses, author Martin Kramer writes, “The congresses were grounded in the belief that the vastness of the Muslim world constituted a strength. In their numbers, and in their broad geographic dispersal, the Muslims represented a potentially formidable force. Were Muslims to express themselves as one, were they to define their political priorities, resolve their own disputes, and even mend doctrine, then their collective determination would serve to ward off their enemies.”

While the organisers maintain the assembly is not modelled after Islamic or Christian congresses, the aim — to bring together a “split diaspora” over “four-five common causes” — bears a striking resemblance to Muslim congresses, and maybe even the ecumenical movement of the Church.

While it’s too early to say if the congress will be successful in shaping Hindu nationalism, organisers hope it will help establish ties, provide information and foster collaboration. But could a congress like this, which makes Bharat and not India its foundation, risk excluding rather than including, and dividing rather than uniting people?

Published on November 28, 2014

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