NEW DELHI: The unprecedented victory of the BJP government has provided a template for consolidation of the Hindu identity. Delhi will play host to the first edition of the World Hindu Congress, a three-day conclave between November 21-23 to build the country’s religious majority, now spread across the world, into a “strategic force” so that they can assert their presence on the global stage.
If Muslims can have world Islamic conferences; Jews their own network, and Buddhists their own, why can’t Hindus have their own platform to rally, asks the organisers.
Anchored by the saffron outfit, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the conference, unlike the other functions organised by the body, will not see the participation of sadhus and sants. Instead, it would have ‘Hindus’ drawn from various fields talking about increasing their footprint in education, media, politics, and more importantly, economics.
Ringing in modernity to VHP run conclaves, the WHC would instead be held at state-run Ashoka Hotel where almost half – over 700 delegates will come from foreign countries. The Congress will be inaugurated by RSS chief Mohan Rao Bhagwat, while other senior functionaries like Suresh Soni and Krishna Gopal, will chair various sessions. Nobel Laureate Dalai Lama and Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman will give addresses, apart from experts from the fields of economics, education, public policy and media.
The brain behind the initiative is Swami Vigyananand, the IIT Kharagpur-educated sanyasi, who also holds a Phd in philosophy. He is currently the joint general secretary in VHP, an organisation that was in the forefront of the Ram Temple movement. “The idea behind such a Congress was to bring together all the Hindus on a single platform. When they are united they can exercise strategic influence at the global level. The Congress aims to develop an institutional framework where they can come and debate issues of common importance, not merely religious,” Vigyananand told The Sunday Standard. He went on to add that discussing issues under such a platform does not mean that one is being discriminatory. Swami Vigyananand started with seven different forums, covering different areas, which needs intervention to make any community “powerful and respected globally.”
Currently seven groups: World Hindu Economic Forum, and forums and networks on women, youth, politics, education, Hindu organisations and media have their branches in several countries. The conference would provide them a place to network and start joint ventures. “It’s the first time all these forums will come together to hold a World Hindu Congress, which from now onwards will be a held once in four years. The next conference will be held in 2018 in USA,” said Vigyananand.
The agenda for various parallel sessions gives an insight into the discussions to be held. In one of the session, discussion will be held on Hindu women’s participation in politics and leadership. In the session moderated by V Shantakka, senior functionary, Rashtra Sevika Samiti, a women’s organisation run on lines of RSS, HRD minister Smriti Irani, would speak on ‘encouraging leadership among Hindu women’; Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman would speak on ‘women in politics: Bharat & World.’ The other sessions would see discussion on the impact of women on economy; Hindu Women: Law and Education; women and Hindu resurgence.
Irani will also give a special address on creating and networking educational resources for national re-emergence. Another session on sustaining culture through educational innovation would be moderated by RSS leader Suresh Soni. CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi will also participate in one of the session. Contribution made by Sangh -run schools like Ekal Vidyalaya, Vidya Bharati schools would also come for discussion.
Food will be strictly vegetarian, and delegates will be given a copy of Prabudham, a book on the lives of Hindu leaders. “Hindus at one point of time in history contributed to 35 per cent of the global GDP, now despite being billion-strong people it’s negligible. We want to rally Hindus to re-discover our past,” said one of the co-ordinators.
Gadkari would speak on infrastructure and small scale enterprises. The media sessions would have discussion on strategic positioning of Hindu Society; influencing media projection of Hindus; social media and learning to surf on the waves of opinion. Billboards of WHC have come up in Delhi. A team of 500 volunteers is trying to trend the topics on social media. There is a conscious use of “Bharat” instead of “India”. Liza Bhansali, a coordinator explains: “India was given to us by the British. The word “India” has negative connotations. We are insisting on ‘Bharat’ as that has always been the name.”