On August 29, 1964, one organisation bringing all sects and sages of larger Hindu family was brought together under the guidance of the then Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, M S Golwalkar (Sri Guruji) and this organisation was named as Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
In 1964 as per the Hindu calendar, this was Janmashtami also. So, there was a special significance behind the foundation of the organisation: it was for the protection of dharma. Since then, the VHP, has been spearheading various movements and emerged as voice for Hindus in Bharat and abroad. When VHP is touching almost sixty years of its journey, Shri Milind Parande, Secretary General of the organisation, spoke to Organiser Editor Prafulla Ketkar on VHP’s achievements, priorities, objectives, journey and its future trajectory
How do you see the journey of Vishva Hindu Parishad? What are the major contributions?
It has been a very eventful journey. The pujaniya sages and the pujaniya Sarsanghchalak had felt the need for such an organisation that will work globally for the protection of Hindus. Few organisational activities were chalked out to bring Hindus staying all over the world on one platform. Till now, Vishva Hindu Parishad has presence in around 29 countries. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA etc. have some of the good working units that are registered there according to the laws of those countries. Then, VHP should be in the vanguard of protecting the Hindu society against all external aggressions was another dimension of this vision. That is why VHP has taken up many topics that are dear and near to the Hindu heart: like ‘Gau-Raksha’, freeing temples, which include Shri Rama Janmabhoomi, Ram Setu, Baba Amarnath and the Buddha Amarnath. Third aspect was to focus on making our society faultless (nirdosh). So, various activities were undertaken to eradicate social evils, educate and awaken the society and change the behavioural patterns of individuals and social groups. We have done a significant amount of work in this regard all over the country. Then a very wide range of service projects were undertaken in the field of health, education, women’s empowerment, environment and skill development. We have achieved some success here as well. However, more needs to be done.
One very significant achievement is the growing expression of Hindu pride and increased sense of unity in the Hindu society. Guidance and cooperation of Pujaniya Dharmacharyas made this possible. One of the points of aggression was religious conversion. Due to Vishva Hindu Parishad’s work, lakhs of Hindus have returned to their Swadharma and that has happened voluntarily. So, we have made a significant progress in realising the objectives that were thought of during formation of Vishva Hindu Parishad.
Ram Janmabhoomi movement was a momentous occasion in the journey of Vishva Hindu Parishad and Hindu society at large. Now, that the temple is also being built up with contributions from all over India, how do you see it? The Ram Mandir issue is being seen only through the political prism. What is the impact of this movement on Hindu society?
One of the very major, very visible effects is that Hindutva has come to the centre-stage of the society’s thinking. Initially, any movement or any political move in our country, even at the national level, could be undertaken either by ignoring or insulting the Hindu society, but now, it is not possible. After Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Hindutva has come into mainstream. So, we have corrected the centre of gravity as far as Hindu ethos and Hindu Sanskriti are concerned. That is one visible effect of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Secondly, many people view Ram Janmabhoomi, from a political prism, but actually it has been a fight for self-pride. The disputed Babri structure was a symbol of insult, and any proud society must get rid of such symbols. It has happened in many places in the world. So many people from all over the country identified themselves with this movement, because they did not think of only in terms of Upasana (worship). In that case, only Vaishanavas would have gathered around this movement. Every sect of Hindu society rallied around this point as it relates to our sense of identity, and sense of pride. In the North East also, there are two tribes, the Dimasa and Karbi. Dimasa Janajati identifies them with Ghatotkacha, a son of Bheema. They did not convert to Christianity as they considered themselves to be the descendants of Pandavas. Even Karbis identified itself with Ram as they believe that they went to the North East in search of Mata Sita. This sense of identity is very important for Ram Janmabhoomi movement which reasserted the Hindu identity. Thirdly, there was an element of Bhakti. There are crores of people who believe that Bhagwan Shri Ram ji is the incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu, so they were connected. But there were many, who considered Bhagwan Shri Ram was not just an incarnation, but a Rashtra Purush, the Maryada Purushottam – whatever we believe in, whatever values that Hindu society and sanskriti cherish, Sri Ram symbolises them. Hence, entire nation identified with the Ram Janmabhoomi.
“After Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Hindutva has become a mainstream. So, we have corrected the centre of gravity as far as Hindu ethos, Hindu Sanskriti is concerned. That is one visible effect of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement”
The last leg of this agitation was the public contact programme that we took up last year. We achieved a phenomenal success in the Ram Janmabhoomi Sampark Abhiyan. We have reached out to over four lakh villages, over 12 crore families. So, that’s almost 65 crore people. It has never been done in Bharat and not all over the world. And this happened just in 45 days. It is truly a record-breaking public contact effort. This shows how deeply Bhagwan Shri Ram is rooted in our ethos, our shraddha, bhakti and everything that we value. Ram Janmabhoomi has corrected and rejuvenated the Hindu society. Like Shri V S Naipaul said that a wounded civilisation is standing up again. Ram Janmabhoomi has helped this civilisation to stand up again with pride. That is a great contribution of Ram Janmabhoomi.
Despite the success of Ram Janmabhoomi movement in last 15-20 years, there are many sections who want to dissociate from the Hindu identity. How does VHP look at it?
Actually, I beg to differ with you. We should make a general statement that everybody is saying – we are not Hindu. There are certain sections in each section of the society, a very minority section, which is trying to root for certain political or other selfish reasons like running a minority institution. The majority of that particular section does not agree with that small minority. Few people having control over media strategies make a lot of noise around this –it is like manufacturing a false narrative. The Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, gave a statement at a programme that ‘Adivasis’ (Scheduled Tribes) are not Hindus. When he says something like that, people think that it is very important, because he is a democratically elected leader. But then tribal villagers, from thousands of villages came forward and contributed to the Ram Mandir Abhiyan. They associate themselves with Bhagwan Shri Ram who spent 14 years with them; with Mata Sabari, a very age-old bhakt of Bhagwan Shri Ram. They sent soil, holy water, donations. So, a very powerful person spoke, but still that powerful person was not a true representative of the community’s voice. This is what is happening everywhere, that there is a very wicked plan here of some people who want to break the Hindu society.
‘We achieved a phenomenal success in the Ram Janmabhoomi Sampark Abhiyan. We have reached out to over four lakh villages, over 12 crore families. So, that’s almost 65 crore people. It has never been done in Bharat and not all over the world. And this happened just in 45 days’
Is VHP trying to make the silent majority vocal? What about cases like Jains and Lingayats. If there is a voice, then there are certain fault lines, which are being worked on. What is VHP’s strategy to counter this?
Mainly, we are meeting with Pujya Dharmacharayas, like you said about the Jain Samaj. We met many saints of different sects. They have said publicly that Jains are Hindus. I can name many sadhus who have stated this publicly. We went to all 13 ‘Gacchas’ (Jain monastic orders) and the Swetambar Murti Pujak Sangh. All the acharyas sat down and called shravaks (disciples) to have an open discussion and nobody agreed with the idea of going out of the Hindu fold. There are certain people either politically motivated or running some institutions who want to utilise the minority status and are trying to propagate this theory. Now the sadhus are taking a stand against this as the representatives of the community. Many office bearers of VHP, from local to the national level, are from the Jain community.
Same is with the Lingayat Samaj. Many leaders from Maharashtra and Karnataka came to meet me when I was at Ayodhya. They were also surprised about coming up of this issue. It was tried by some of the Congress governments for vote bank politics. They wanted to break the society. But now the sadhus and community leaders are working on the common grounds to argue that Ligayats are part of the larger Hindu Dharma.
‘We have proved that every mob lynching incident that has been told is false. Not a single Bajrang Dal Karykarta has been convicted, as there was no truth in any of the allegations. On the contrary, we have given a list of over 114 incidents where the butchers have attacked the police, killed police, killed security forces or killed other people while smuggling. Nobody wants to talk about those 114 incidents’
The same trend is visible in the tribal communities. We are holding programmes and meetings with various tribes like ‘Rana Punja’. It is the Punja Bhil who fought against the Mughals with Maharana Pratap. Half of the Rajput Raj Mudra (Royal Seal)– is Bhil. Tantya Bhil was a freedom fighter. So were Rani Gaidnilu and Bhagwan Birsa Munda. Everywhere we are working for these communities and are trying to bring forward these historical contributions of those sections of the society for the protection of Dharma and nation. This helps in understanding things clearly. This interaction is very important for creating developing and protecting the historical and cultural synergy. But, this is a continuous effort and we are working on it.
Gau Raksha is another contentious issue, which is, of late, is projected as a regressive, anti-Muslim issue. If we have to communicate this to the larger audience, especially in the intellectual space, how would you go about it?
Actually, it is a very complicated and challenging issue. I can say it is a chronic problem of last at least 800-900 years old. With the advent of Muslims in this country, this problem started, as Hindus did not kill or eat cow. When we started working on this, one of the factors that we realised is the availability of Gau Char Bhoomi (the green pastures for cows) available in the villages. This is one of the major problems when we’re dealing with Gau-raksha. Wherever Bharatiya cow breed and its progeny would grow, we will require grass and other facilities. People have taken over the land that is allocated to them, this issue has become complicated. It should be addressed legally. Secondly, the farming sector has become more mechanised, which was initially dependent on cow and her progeny. Cow dung and cow urine was used as fertilizers. Now chemical fertilizers and chemical insecticides are being used. That’s a very powerful and big lobby as far as farming sector is concerned, it has 1000 crore business. Thirdly, the Muslims and Christians eat cow meat. So there are business interests, leading to inbreeding and crossbreeding. The quality of the indigenous breed is naturally hampered. This is our mistake as a society. So, when we are talking about cow protection, we have to talk and correct all these issues.
Cow protection is not just about protecting cows from the butchers, it is just a part of the larger issue. All these are very long-term problems. To correct them, it is going to take multifold efforts, and it will require policy correction and implementation also. So much smuggling is going on. Despite of having Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Animal Preservation Act, thousands of cows and our progenies are killed every day. Thus, law is being broken every day of the year thousands of times, nobody wants to talk about breaking of this law, and what they’re talking about the words that you mentioned – lynching and beef eating. That is also a very false narrative to discredit the efforts to save indigenous cows. This issue has been really demonised all over the country by those forces that are opposing cow protection. I’m proud to say that we are associated with the Gau-Raksha movement, because we are the biggest force for saving cow and her progeny from the butchers. We are saving over 2 lakh cow progenies every year from being butchered. At the same time, we are working on development of the breed, improving the breed. Thirdly, we are undertaking organic farming. Thousands of farmers have been trained every year by VHP into organic farming, last year the number of such farmers was over 10,000. We are also collaborating with various universities for research in developing medicines from cow urine, insect controllers – not insecticides, and cow dung as fertilisers to increase the productivity. If we can promote cow-based farming, then the productivity will increase. This work is multifaceted.
Then there is a smuggling business involved in it. The smuggling is going on such huge scales, cow killing is a very big business in India and without the complicity of the police machinery, it cannot happen. It is a cross country smuggling ring involving many States. So, the challenges are complex. Our karyakartas are working for it. We have proved that every mob lynching incident that has been told is false. Not a single Bajrang Dal Karykarta has been convicted, as there was no truth in any of the allegations. On the contrary, we have given a list of over 114 incidents where the butchers have attacked the police, killed police, killed security forces or killed other people while smuggling. Nobody wants to talk about those 114 incidents. They’re talking about false accusations again and again, to discredit these efforts. This is the complete picture of the cow-protection issue.
Service or sewa is another important initiative by VHP. What is peculiar about these projects, how far they are successful? Please explain about the service activities undertaken by VHP.
Now, VHP is carrying out over 5,000 service projects, and as I mentioned earlier, they are in the fields of health, education and skill development, women empowerment, environment protection. Ekal Vidyalaya project is working independently. I will not touch on that topic right now. But, to give you some examples that we are working in the tribal regions of Rajasthan (South of the State), that is (Banswara, Pratapgad, Udaipur) in all these districts, we are running around 300 primary and middle schools. We are making a difference in the lives of lakhs of tribal children. Like Talasari, VHP’s first project that is in Maharashtra tribal region and hundreds of bank servicemen, teachers, lawyers, public representatives including MLAs and MPs have come from this project. We have certainly made a qualitative change in the weakest sections of the society and empowered them so that they can lead the society. Like if you go to Odisha, where Pujya Swami Lakshmananand ji’s, martyrdom happened, at Kandamahal district, we have been working there for the last 50 years, working among women and children for many decades. Nobody, can think about the fact that we are also running the ‘Only Girls’ Sanskrit residential schools in the country. There is a very big project that is happening in Mumbai, where we are serving the cancer patients. Every day, hundreds of cancer patients and their relatives are being served there. We work for the dialysis patients. It’s a huge project that covers a huge population in an urban centre. So, when you talk about service projects, VHP is helping the weakest sections of the society. It may be SC or ST section, we are really empowering them and not only serving them, the effect of the service is that many of them have stood up to serve the society again. That I think is a larger transformation. They were receiving Seva, now they’re doing so, rather than being beneficiaries, they are becoming people who are benefiting the society.
Besides this we believe that dharma should be for every person – it should be easily available for every person to practice and profess. Social harmony should be in action, not just talk. We have undertaken is very big experiment in Tamil Nadu, where we have trained over 25,000 pujaris – out of which hardly 15-20 per cent must be from Brahmin community, rest are coming from various sections of the society. We believe that everybody has the right to do puja. We have done such experiments in Jharkhand amongst the tribal population also. We are going to undertake this in every State as we have prepared syllabus for this, with the help of experts which is available both in Sanskrit and their respective mother tongues. We are the first to train women as Pujaris. Thus, it is not only caste-wise equality or social harmony, but equality genders also.
VHP has played a very important role in changing the mindset, because these are the social evils that we have to eradicate from our society. They have no dharmic or philosophy sanction, that is what we believe, but the fault was there in practicing. So, that correction should come in vyavahar (practice), that is what we are trying for, and the results are very good.
There are rampant conversion activities, leading to de-hinduisation of certain sections through various means, whether education, health and force. How far VHP is successful in addressing this issue, especially in the tribal areas?
The total central belt of Bharat right from Bengal to Rajasthan, Gujarat, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh has a significant population of tribals. Vishva Hindu Parishad is working in all these areas, mainly through service projects. Many sadhus are also working among these sections. The involvement of the tribal population in the freedom struggle as well as opposing every aggression against the dharma as well as the country has been huge. Though many people are trying, and some of them are slightly successful, because of the money they are spending and the illiteracy and the poverty of the tribal population, there is some adverse effect. But, when we go to work there, then it is changing. For instance, an organisation called ‘Jan Jati Suraksha Manch’ is working to exclude converted people from the Scheduled Tribe reservation benefits. This issue was originally taken up by Kartik Oraon, he was a Member of Parliament from Congress. There are around 18 to 19 per cent tribals who are converted to Christianity or Islam and they are taking up only 80 per cent of the reservation benefits. This awakening is very important because the reservation in the tribal section is for the protection of their Parampara (tradition); not on the basis of discrimination as in the case of Scheduled Castes. When you delink from your tradition, you are no longer a tribal. This point was missed, unfortunately, while formulating the law. Many of the sadhus like Pujya Lakshamanand, Pujya Shanti Kali maharaj, who also was mercilessly killed by the terrorist organisations in Tripura, there are many people who have offered their lives for the cause of tribals. The work of these sadhus is changing the scenario right now, but much work needs to be done.
‘VHP has played a very important role in changing the mindset, because these are the social evils that we have to eradicate from our society, they have no dharmic or philosophy sanction, that is what we believe, but the fault was there in practicing. So, that correction should come in vyavahar (practice), that is what we are trying for, and the results are very good’
There is one more narrative that is going on that we are also addressing is about the indigenous peoples day ‘Mul Niwasi Diwas’ that is celebrated on August 9. Now we are talking about November 15, Bhagwan Birsa Munda jyanti is celebrated as ‘Jan Jati Gaurav Diwas’ because that concept of Mool Niwasi is associated with the advent of Europeans in America, this does not apply to Bharat. We are taking up such issues while working in the tribal regions. We believe that awakening is good enough to answer many of these problems and narratives.
Islamic radicalisation and cases of religious strife are on the rise in Bharat and across the globe. Many believe that Hindu society is not ready to take on this because Hindus essentially believe in peace and harmony and equal respect for all ways of worships. What is your plan to deal with this phenomenon?
Firstly, we need to accept that Islamic radicalism is a problem and behaviour of Islamists must be corrected. Such people should be dealt with the iron hand of law. Those people, who use violence as a tool, who take law into their hands, who won’t accept the Constitution, cannot be tolerated. They must understand this. Secondly, the Government, the police, the law and order machinery, the military, will deal with this in a proper way. But all these mechanisms may not be available at the hour of attack as all the villages do not have police stations as we had seen in the bordering districts of Bengal last year in May after the TMC won the elections. There, Hindus were attacked in 4,000 villages in three days and the police acted as mute spectators, because the political dispensation was on their side. In such a scenario, the society must be strong; and the society must stand up to protect itself. That is very necessary. We believe in that. The readiness of the society to protect its values, its families, its women, its property is required and there is nothing wrong in this. Everybody has a right of self-defence. And that is why within the bounds of law, the Hindu society must be strong and organised. We are paying attention to that. Our youth wing, Bajrang Dal, will play a very important role in creating such a society.
Liberating temples and handing them over to the Hindu society is another sensitive and much talked about issue. Is it on VHP’s agenda and how far Vishva Hindu Parishad is taking it forward along with other organisations?
Definitely, we are working on it. It is a very important issue on our agenda. Recently, in Uttarakhand Government took over around 52 ancient temples. So, VHP took up this issue, awakened the society and then interacted with the Government. The then Chief Minister came to meet the sadhus in Haridwar, at VHP’s Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal. After the deliberations, he announced that all those temples that were taken over by the Government will be given to the society and that has happened. So, we reversed a decision. Now, the major issue is in the southern States where thousands of temples have been taken over. Unfortunately, the properties of these temples have been misused, misappropriated by the people who are handling them, and many Christians and Muslims are working in the society, who don’t believe in Hindu Dharma. VHP is working with many legal experts including lawyers and retired judges. Along with some Sandhus, we are trying to create a model where the society can accept the temples given by the government. The Karnataka Government has agreed to hand over the government-controlled temples to the Hindu society. But there are many questions involved – how does one accept those temples? Who will appoint the trustees? Who will manage the properties? What will be the dispute resolution mechanism within the Constitutional framework, with the minimum interference of Governments or the judiciary? How to ensure a complete participation of every section of the society is also a critical question. Temples should become centres of social harmony, Dharma Prachar and Sewa. Considering, all these aspects together we are trying to create a model which will be ready in a few months.
VHP will be completing 60 years of its existence. There were very loudable objectives, some of them have taken shape; some new challenges have come up. What is the future agenda now? Is Kashi and Mathura now going to be the priority?
Rama Janmabhoomi, Kashi and Mathura were the pledges of the Hindu society, VHP works for that. Rama Janmabhoomi is reaching to the logical culmination with the reconstruction of the glorious temple in Ayodhya. We are concentrating on that first. On the Hindu society’s agenda Kashi and Mathura are definitely there. And I’m very confident that Hindu society will complete her agenda.
As far as VHP is concerned, there are certain priorities for us. How to expand our organisational work in all the countries where Hindus are leaving, is our first priority. Secondly, as many forces are trying to confuse the Hindu society, de-Hinduise the Hindus which includes missionaries, communists, Islamists or Western Capitalists, we will need to educate, alert and prepare the Hindu society and organise the Hindu society to face these breaking India forces. Gau-raksha has been a very important issue. Dharmic Jagat, our Sadhus and sages, appointment of Pujaris, Dharmic Yatras, freeing of the temples, all these things are going to be on our agenda. And of course, expansion of the service activities to all unreached sections. We have been doing from day one and we have to take that forward as we were born for that very purpose.