Vishva Hindu Parishad
Logo of the V.H.P
|Motto||Dharmo Rakṣati Rakṣitaḥ|
|Formation||29 August 1964|
|Purpose||Hindu nationalism and Hindutva|
|Headquarters||New Delhi, India|
|Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje|
The VHP was founded in 1964 by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with Swami Chinmayananda. Its stated its objective is "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma".
The VHP is considered as a member of the Sangh Parivar group, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations led by the RSS. It has been involved in construction and renovation of Hindu temples, issues of cow slaughter, religious conversion, the Ayodhya dispute and its role in the Babri Masjid demolition. In 2018 the CIA classified the VHP as a militant religious organisation.
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 Sir 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 organisation 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 organisation 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, and 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 organisations. 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 Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje, while its international working president is Alok Kumar Advocate.
- Medical training – 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, Odisha 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 – The organisation runs 45 orphanages, marriage bureaux, help centres, rescue centres, temples, hostels and working women's 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 the 2014 Jammu and Kashmir floods, Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised medical and relief camps. These services provided relief via medical camps to 1400 patients.
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". 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.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad has presence in 29 countries outside of India. 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. The press release from city council of Holroyd states that Vishva Hindu Parishad is active in supporting multiculturalism in the same region.
Hindu Students Council (also known as HSC) is an organization of Hindu students in the United States of America and Canada. The HSC was set up in 1990 with support from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America; its current association with that body is a matter of some debate, though it says that it became fully independent in 2003. Prior to its separation from its parent organization, it was considered to be the student-wing of the VHP. In 2011, Hindu Students Council was awarded a Readers' Choice Award for Best Hindu Organization in an online vote held by About.com.
VHP organises programmes to promote return or reconversion of Hindus who were 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.
From 1982 to 1985, over 66,000 people were reconverted to Hinduism following the efforts of VHP.
The VHP had been aggressively involved in the Ayodhya dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi, or Babri Mosque 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. 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.
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.
According to the Human Rights Watch, VHP and Bajrang Dal had been involved in 2002 Gujarat riots. 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."
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. 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.
On 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.
In 2005, after the protests organised by VHP, the Jharkhand Assembly passed a Cow Protection Commission Bill that made the killing of, cruelty to and illegal trading of cows a crime.
In 2007, VHP had launched nationwide protest against demolition of the Rama Setu. 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.
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".
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