Vishva Hindu Parishad
Logo of V.H.P
|Motto||Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah
धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः
|Formation||August 29, 1964|
|Founder||S. S. Apte
|Type||Right-wing Hindu nationalist organization|
|Purpose||Supporting Hindu nationalism|
|President||G. Raghava Reddy|
|Main organ||Sangh Parivar|
|Subsidiaries||Bajrang Dal (youth wing)
Durga Vahini (women's wing)
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The Vishva Hindu Parishad (pronunciation: /vɪʃv(ə) hɪnd̪uː pərɪʃəd̪/, English: World Hindu Council), abbreviated VHP, is an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization based on the ideology of Hindutva. It was founded in 1964 by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with Swami Chinmayananda. Its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma." It belongs to the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations. It has been involved in social service projects, construction and renovation of Hindu temples and in issues such as cow slaughter, conversions to other religions, the Ayodhya dispute and its role in the Babri Masjid demolition. The VHP has been involved in reconverting Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity or Islam.
The VHP was founded in 1964 by RSS leaders M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with the Hindu spiritual leader Chinmayananda. The delegation of the founders included Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan founder K. M. Munshi, Gujarati scholar Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, Sikh leader Master Tara Singh, Namdhari Sikh leader Satguru Jagjit Singh and eminent politicians such as C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer. Chinmayananda was nominated as its founding President, while Apte was nominated as its founding General Secretary. It was decided at the meeting that the name of the proposed organization would be "Vishva Hindu Parishad" and that a world convention of Hindus was to be held at Prayag (Allahabad) during Kumbha Mela of 1966 for its launch. It was further decided that it would be a non-political organization and that no office bearer of any political party shall be simultaneously an office bearer in the Parishad.
The VHP, which considers Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as well as native tribal religions as part of the greater Hindu fraternity, officially mentions that it was founded by the "Saint Shakti of Bharat". The VHP was first mooted at a conference in Pawai, Sandipani Sadhanalaya, Bombay on 29 August 1964. The conference was hosted by RSS chief M. S. Golwalkar. The date was chosen to coincide with the festival of Janmashtami. Several representatives from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths were present in the meeting, as well as the Dalai Lama. Golwalkar explained that "all faiths of Indian origins need to unite", saying that the word "Hindu" (people of "Hindustan") applied to adherents of all the above religions. Apte declared:
The world has been divided to Christian, Islam and Communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. It is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organise the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three.
Its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma." It has been involved in social service projects and in encouraging the construction and renovation of Hindu temples. It is against the caste system, opposes cow slaughter and conversions to other religions. Defending Hindus around the world and Hindu rights has been one of its stated objectives. The other main objective which it has been involved with is the Ayodhya dispute.
The organisation acts under the guidance from Dharma Sansad a religious parliament of Gurus. The VHP is associated with the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist. Its slogan is Dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ, which means "Dharma protects its protector" and its symbol is the banyan tree. The current international president of VHP is Raghava Reddy, while its executive president is Praveen Togadia.
- Medical - People are trained in villages to provide primary health care and referral services. The organisation also conducts Medical check-up camps.
- Vocational training - Organisation is running self-employment training camps in Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maha Kaushal, Assam, Brij Pradesh, Orissa and Maharashtra. The training areas involve farming techniques, bee-keeping, agriculture, horticultural techniques, animal husbandry and sewing. There are 959 training centres currently operating.
- Education - It tried to provide educational facilities in remote area. It supports 3266 educational facilities.
- Social welfare - Organisation runs 45 Orphanages, Marriage Bureau, Help Centres, Rescue Centres, Working Women Hostels. VHP is also active in environmental causes such as Tree Plantations. Social Services are provided in religious pilgrimages, emergency help during natural calamities and rural development.
- Relief services - Vishwa Hindu Parishad has provided emergency Relief services. In 2014 Jammu and Kashmir floods, Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised medical and relief camps. These services provided relief via medical camps to 1400 patients.
The VHP had been involved in the dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi, or Babri Mosque, for twenty years before its demolition. This activity involved demonstrations, petitions and litigation. According to the VHP and its affiliated organisations, the Babri Mosque was built by demolishing the temple at the birthplace of Rama (Ram Janmabhoomi) by the Mughal Emperor Babur in the 16th century. It further stated in Allahabad court documentation that the building was in a dilapidated condition. It was in ruins and could not be used for worship or any activities .
The Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP, and it is organised in many states in major training camps called shakhas, where thousands of young men simultaneously train in various activities, receive sports, education in Hindutva and cultural education. The Durga Vahini, founded in 1991 under the tutelage of Sadhvi Rithambara as its founding chairperson and the support of the VHP, is described as the "female arm of the Dal". Members of the Vahini contend that the portrayal of their group as a branch of the Bajrang Dal is an oversimplification, and that their goals are to "dedicate ourselves to spiritual, physical, mental and knowledge development". The VHP also have divisions made up of women. VHP secretary Giri Raj Kishore charted out highly visible roles for women in the group. He charted out two "satyagrahas" for women during their demonstrations.
The VHP has been a prime backer of the World Hindu Conference in which issues such as casteism, sectarianism, and the future of Hindus were discussed. Prior Conferences have included Hindu Groups such as Parisada Hindu Dharma.
VHP organises programmes to reconvert Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity or Islam through their trained missionaries called Dharma Prasaar Vibhag (Dharma Propagation Unit), some of them were sent to remote villages and tribal areas which have substantial Christians and Muslims population. On 4 March 2004, more than 200 Christians were reconverted in a ceremony organised by the VHP in the state of Orissa, part of its plan to reconvert 400,000 tribal Christians. According to them, the tribal folk were lured for monetary benefits and Christian missionaries were there to convert them under the pretext of community service. They claim that Vanvasis (Tribals) are part of Hindu culture. The Christian community denied this and six women were beaten for refusing to reconvert to Hinduism. Religious conversions is a debated topic in Orissa.
In Punjab, the VHP has played an active role to prevent conversions of Sikhs. Majority of them are low caste Sikhs converting to Christianity. This may be a result of oppression by high caste Sikhs but there are considerable free will conversions among the higher class Sikhs too; however, the VHP have forcibly stopped Christian missionaries from converting Sikhs.
The VHP collaborated with Christian Association for Social Action and played an active part in providing relief to both Hindu and Christian families affected by the Love Jihad activity in Kerala during 2003 – 2013 period.
The then vice-president of VHP Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati was killed in 2008 in his Ashram. The VHP accused Christians for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, Maoist militants had claimed responsibility for the killing. Later the VHP engaged in reconversion program, involving both voluntary and forced reconversion. In the resulting disorder, Christian settlements were set on fire, and 250 Christians were forced to flee their villages. A Catholic nun was raped during the violence and Roman Catholic Church said that at least 7 Christians were killed. A judicial commission probing the violence said that conversion and re-conversion were among the major factors that led to the disorder, without blaming any religious groups or the CPI (Maoist). All the seven accused in the murder case were found guilty and awarded life imprisonment.
Presence outside India
Vishwa Hindu Parishad is active in many countries outside of India.
Known as VHPA, the VHP in the United States advocates for human rights for Hindus around the world. They also offer Hindu Pandits to serve the Hindu community, and usually hold rituals around the nation where members are invited. The VHPA has also organised many charitable causes, such as raising money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and the Fiji flood victims of 2012.
The VHPUK, is the British branch of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has held demonstrations in London for the rights of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It offers many Hindu services such as priests and matrimonial services. VHPUK has been vocal advocates of the pro-life movement, and stands against abortion.
Australia, New Zealand & Fiji
The Vishva Hindu Parishad is gaining popularity in these countries. The Australia wing of Vishva Hindu Parishad conducts activities such conducting weekend schools, language classes, cultural workshops, festivals. The festivals are also organised for open to all communities promoting Unity in Diversity. The press release from city council of Holroyd state that Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in supporting multiculturalism in the same region. In March 2014, the VHP had its first National Hindu Council in Fiji and New Zealand. The VHP has established a Vedic school in Sydney, has temples and organised 3 National Hindu conferences in 2014.
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