Vishva Hindu Parishad
Logo of VHP
|Founded||29 August 1964|
|Founder(s)||Keshavram Kashiram Shastri
Master Tara Singh
Satguru Jagjit Singh
|Key people||G. Raghava Reddy (president)
Praveen Togadia (executive president)
|Subsidiaries||Bajrang Dal (youth wing)
Durga Vahini (women's wing)
|Motto||Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah
धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः
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Vishva Hindu Pariṣad (pronunciation: /vɪʃv(ə) hɪnd̪uː pərɪʃəd̪/, English: World Hindu Council), abbreviated VHP, is a Hindu right-wing organisation in India and is based on the ideology of Hindutva. It was founded in 1964 and its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma." The VHP 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 converting Christian tribals to Hinduism, including some reports of forced conversions and violence in 2004 and 2008.
The VHP was founded in 1964 by Keshavram Kashiram Shastri. The co-founders were the Hindu spiritual leader Chinmayananda, former RSS member S.S. Apte, Supreme Spiritual Head of the Namdhari Sikhs Satguru Jagjit Singh and Sikh leader Master Tara Singh. 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 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. The other main objective which it has been involved with is the Ayodhya dispute.
The VHP is associated with the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations which also includes the centre-right Indian political party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). 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.
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 CE. It further said that the mosque was in a dilapidated condition and not used for worship or any religious activity by the city's Muslims.
In the late 1980s, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) brought the temple issue to national politics, and the BJP and VHP began organising larger protests in Ayodhya and around the country. In 1992 a large group of Hindus, including members of the VHP, were camped on the site of the Babri Mosque. On 6 December 1992 the mosque was demolished by elements of the crowd. Rioting followed across India with 2000 people killed.
The Liberhan Commission headed by Justice Liberhan was constituted to investigate the whole episode. A large number of VHP workers testified before the commission. Totalling 399 sittings over the span of sixteen years, the Commission finally submitted its the 1,029-page report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 30 June 2009. According to the report, the events of 6 December 1992, in Ayodhya were "neither spontaneous nor unplanned".
Organization and leadership
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, indoctrination in Hindutwa 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.
Communal tensions and reconversions
The VHP engages in several programmes to reconvert Hindus who had previously converted to Christianity or Islam through their trained missionaries called "Dharma Prasaar Vibhag" (Religious Propaganda Cell), and some of them were sent to those remote villages and tribal areas which have substantial Christians and Muslims. 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. The Christian community denied this and there was an instance of six women being beaten for refusing to reconvert to Hinduism. Religious conversions were a debated topic in Orissa.
In Punjab, the VHP has played an active role to prevent conversions of Sikhs even if they chose their own religious path. The majority of them are low caste Sikhs converting to Christianity. This could be a result mostly from 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.
In August 2008, the VHP accused Christians for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, though Maoist militants had claimed responsibility for the killing. 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 the 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). Following the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, the VHP engaged in reconversion programmes, involving both voluntary and forced reconversion.
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