After getting to know about its roots in politics of Hindutva and hatred, several politicians of the United States withdrew themselves from the much talked about ‘World Hindu Congress’ (WHC) organised in Chicago from September 7 to 9. Despite their repeated clarifications that they were not participating in the three-day event, the organisers allegedly went ahead using their names and pictures in their promotional video.
Tulsi Gabbard, member of the US House of Representatives, had said on September 4 that she was withdrawing “due to ethical reasons arising from participating in partisan politics of India in America”.
“Due to ethical concerns and problems that surround my participating in any partisan political event in America, I respectfully withdraw myself from serving as an honorary chair of the World Hindu Congress,” the US Congresswoman said in a press statement.
The Congress, as stated, was organised as “a global platform for Hindus to connect, share ideas, inspire one another and impact the common good” by the Sangh Parivar’s overseas affiliates such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), World Hindu Council of America, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Hindu Volunteer Corps and others. It was publicised also as a commemoration of Vivekananda’s speech at the Parliament of World Religions 125 years ago.
Ameya Pawar, member of the Chicago City Council, tweeted, “I’m a proud Hindu and the first Indian American elected to Chicago City Council. I’m extremely disappointed and ashamed the @WHCongress would invite speakers and organizations that promote discrimination, Islamaphobia, and Hindu nationalism. This is not who we are.”
Even the lawmaker who attended the event despite a campaign urging him to disassociate from the event suggested the participants to adhere to Hinduism as interpreted by Swami Vivekananda and reject all forms of hate.
“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith — including all my constituents. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teachings of Swami Vivekananda,” Raja Krishnamoorthi, the U.S. Congressman from Chicago, has been quoted by The Hindu as saying.
‘Stop Hindu Fascism’
The three-day event had to face huge protests and criticism, with the protesters with fake badges raising slogans such as “RSS turn around”, “we do not want you in town”. It happened minutes before Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat was to take questions on the theme “Collective efforts for Hindu resurgence”.
A group of participants allegedly attempted to assault the protesters, while another group tried to prevent them.
The Coalition for the Defense of the Constitution and Democracy (CDCD) — a rights group spearheading the campaign against the organisation of the event — condemned the “brazen attempt by the Hindutva groups to provide a platform in the United States of America for individuals and organizations engaged in fomenting and carrying out acts of genocidal violence against minorities, intellectuals and human rights and civil liberties activists in India”.
They alleged that the “speakers — who have taken public positions — made statements, and/or engaged in actions that are fascistic, misogynist, Islamophobic, anti-Dalit, pro-casteist and homophobic”.
They said the theme “Hindu resurgence” is a term that hides behind a “benign multicultural mask for celebrating Hindu culture but which conveniently seeks to mask the violent politics of the RSS and its affiliates”. “...the WHC was shaped by the fascistic and supremacist vision of the RSS, an organization modeled along fascist Italian organizations such as the Ballila and Avanguardisti and centered on the total abrogation of all democratic rights and norms of governance,” they said.
Over the last four years of the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi government, they alleged, there has been a sharp spike in violence against minorities, with many atrocities directly committed by the members of the RSS family of organisations including the ruling BJP, with full impunity.
“The victims of the violence of this ‘Hindu resurgence’ — known by its more popular name in India and abroad as ‘Hindutva’ — are Muslims, Dalits, Hindus from oppressed caste groups, Christians, secularists, rationalists , human rights and civil liberty activists, and any opponents or critics of the current political regime,” they added.
Another prominent inspiration for Hindutva and the World Hindu Congress, Ajay Singh Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath, who is the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was initially invited to speak at the WHC, but for unknown reasons, his name was removed from the list of speakers.