Vishva Hindu Parishad
Logo of the V.H.P, depicting a Banyan tree and the slogan dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ
AbbreviationVHP
Formation29 August 1964; 57 years ago (29 August 1964)[1]
Founder
TypeRight-wing
PurposeHindu nationalism and Hindutva
HeadquartersNew Delhi, India
Coordinates28°20′N 77°06′E / 28.33°N 77.10°E / 28.33; 77.10Coordinates: 28°20′N 77°06′E / 28.33°N 77.10°E / 28.33; 77.10
Region served
India
Membership
6.8 million[2]
Official language
Hindi
International President
Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje
International Working President
Alok Kumar Advocate
Subsidiaries
AffiliationsSangh Parivar
Websitevhp.org

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) (transl.Universal Hindu Council) is an Indian right-wing Hindu organization based on Hindu nationalism.[3] The VHP was founded in 1964 by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with Swami Chinmayananda. Its stated objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma".[1] It was established to construct and renovate Hindu temples, and deal with matters of cow slaughter and religious conversion.

The VHP has been criticized for contributing to violence against Muslims in India, most notably for its role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 over the Ayodhya dispute.[4][5] The VHP is considered a member of the Sangh Parivar group,[6][7] an umbrella term for Hindu nationalist organisations led by the RSS.[8]

History

The VHP was founded in 1964 by RSS leaders M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with the Hindu spiritual leader Chinmayananda Saraswati.[9][10] According to Chinmayananda, the objective of the VHP was to awaken Hindus to their place in the comity of nations.[11]

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 the Kumbh Mela of 1966 for its launch. It was further decided that it would be a non-political organisation and that no office bearer of any political party shall be simultaneously an office bearer in the Parishad.[12] The delegation of the founders also included Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan founder K. M. Munshi, Gujarati scholar Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, Sikh leader Tara Singh, Namdhari Sikh leader Satguru Jagjit Singh and eminent politicians such as C. P. Ramaswami Iyer.[13][12]

In the mid 1990s, VHP had 1.6 million members worldwide.[14] According to a 2008 estimate, VHP claimed 6.8 million members.[2]

Ideology

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[16]

Its main objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma".[1] It has been involved in social service projects and in encouraging the construction and renovation of Hindu temples. It is against the caste system, and opposes cow slaughter. Defending Hindus around the world and Hindu rights has been one of its stated objectives.[17] The VHP considers Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs[15] as well as native tribal religions[citation needed] as part of the greater Hindu fraternity.

The VHP promotes the education and involvement of members of Hindu diaspora in their "cultural duties and spiritual values." This view was first promoted by Chinmayananda,[11]: 42  and is reflected in the promulgation of VHP organizations in Indo-Caribbean countries Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname.[18]

The organisation acts under the guidance from Dharma Sansad, a religious parliament of Gurus.[13]

Religious conversion

The VHP is against religious conversion, and uses trained members known as Dharma Prasaar Vibhag (Dharma Propagation Unit) to meet their ends. The VHP also provides means for reconversion back to Hinduism. From 1982 to 1985, over 66,000 people were reconverted to Hinduism following the efforts of VHP.[19]

VHP claimed to have converted 5,000 people to Hinduism in 2002.[20] In 2004, VHP claimed to have converted 12,857 people to Hinduism. 3,727 of these were Muslims and 9,130 were Christians.[21]

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.[22]

VHP engaged in "re-conversion" program in the state of Orissa. In June 2002, VHP converted 143 tribal Christians into Hinduism in Tainser village of Sundergarh district.[20] In 2005, VHP in Bargarh carried out reconversion ceremony for 567 Christians. The new converts had signed affidavits, confirming their intention to change their religion. Another 600 Dalit tribal Christians were converted to Hinduism in Bijepur, Orissa.[23]

In April 2005, in West Bengal members of 45 tribal families converted to Hinduism from Christianity in a ceremony organised by Akhil Bhartiya Sanatan Santhal, allied to VHP.[23]

In March 2021, a Freedom to Religion Bill was passed in Madhya Pradesh, and the VHP plans to organize for action in other states.[24]

Litigation

In 2005, after the protests organised by VHP, the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly passed a Cow Protection Commission Bill that made the killing of, cruelty to and illegal trading of cows a crime.[25]

In 2007, VHP had launched nationwide protest against demolition of the Rama Setu.[26] On 12 September 2007, the VHP, with the aid of BJP and the Rameswaram Sreeramsetu Surakshaya Manch, had blocked road and rail traffic in Orissa. Thousands of activists participated in these protests in Bhubaneswar, Jatani, Rourkela, and Sambalpur.[27][28]

Social services

Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in social welfare work:[29][30]

Youth organisations

Main article: Bajrang Dal

Local office of Vishva Hindu Parishad, at Haridwar
Local office of Vishva Hindu Parishad, at Haridwar

The Bajrang Dal founded in 1984, is organised in many states in major training camps called shakhas, where thousands of youths simultaneously train in various activities, receive sports, education in Hindutva and cultural indoctrination. 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".[36] 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.[37]

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.[38]

International presence

Vishwa Hindu Parishad has presence in 29 countries outside of India.[18] The Australia wing of Vishva Hindu Parishad conducts activities such as conducting weekend schools, language classes, cultural workshops, festivals. The festivals are also organised for open to all communities promoting Unity in Diversity.[39] The press release from city council of Holroyd states that Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in supporting multiculturalism in the same region.[40]

Logo
Logo

Hindu Students Council (also known as HSC) is an organization of Hindu students in the US and Canada. The HSC was set up in 1990 with support from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America.[41] Although the HSC says that it became fully independent in 2003,[42] its association with that body was a matter of some debate.[43] Prior to its separation from its parent organization, it was considered to be the student-wing of the VHP.[44][45][46][47]

Violence

The VHP has been associated with violence on a number of occasions.

The VHP had been aggressively involved in the Ayodhya dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi, or Babri Masjid before its demolition, since March 1984, after getting encouraged by the strong response it had got from ekatmata yatra programme, it organised in 1983, which was aimed at Hindu unity and self-protection against Islam and Christianity. This activity in the Ayodhya issue involved demonstrations, petitions and litigation, along with militant processions, forceful conversion ceremonies and incidents of violence and vandalism, particularly targeting Muslims.[48] The VHP is also said to have sought the destruction of the Babri mosque. 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.[49][50][51][52]

According to the Human Rights Watch, the VHP and Bajrang Dal, in collaboration with BJP had been involved in 2002 Gujarat riots.[53] Though VHP has denied these claims, VHP spokesman Kaushikbahi Mehta said, "We in the VHP had nothing to do with the violence except to take care of widows and victims of the Godhra mayhem."[54]

In 2015, VHP defended the demolition of a church in Haryana, although it has denied involvement in the incident. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain alleged that the church was built "for the purpose of aggressive conversion" and likened its destruction to the violence of the 1857 war which he claimed "was fought for the cause of religion".[55]

On 4 June 2018, the VHP was classified as a militant religious organization by the CIA in its World Factbook's entry for India,[56] under the category of political pressure groups, along with Bajrang Dal.[57][58] The VHP reportedly explored legal options to have this tag removed.[59] The World Factbook removed the mentions of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal from the entry by 25 June 2018.[60]

References

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Bibliography