By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) One of the most interesting bodies of the RSS is Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Global in its approach and rooted in Indic values, this RSS off shoot was born in 1964 after years of deliberation on ‘how to unite Hindus across the globe.
The image of VHP is often of protestors with saffron headgears. It has been at the vanguard of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and is already getting activated for a reinvigorated temple movement in Ayodhya.
If Ashok Singhal became a cult figure during the Ram Janambhoomi movement, Pravin Togadia took the organisatioin truly global by reaching out to the Hindu communities in the US, Toronto, Trinidad, South Africa, London etc.
With the Modi government in power, VHP had become comparable more subdued compared to its role in the initial years of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The present chief Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje is a mild mannered, soft spoken man unlike his predecessor who was known for his fiery speeches and high decibel voice. But, he says, "Sobriety in behaviour should not be taken as someone's weakness".
Kokje is right for the simple reason, it is the same old VHP when they are operating in states like West Bengal and Kerala where the BJP is not in power.
"The success of BJP today in Bengal has a lot to do with the work done by VHP here," says Sourish Mukherjee, VHP's media head in Bengal. The sense of victimhood that has been injected among the electorate in Bengal or the sudden spurt of events like Ram Navami that are not typical of West Bengal are the result of VHP activities in the state.
The report of the Niyogi Committee -- Christian Missionaries Activities Inquiry Committee by retired judge Bhawani Shankar Niyogi in 1956 -- had a role to play in its creation.
Its findings referred to large-scale religious conversion in Madhya Pradesh. The act of missionaries came under scanner. SS Apte, better known as Dadasaheb Apte became so concerned he met RSS founder MS Golwakar. Years later, on Aug 29, 1964 forty delegates including the RSS founder met for the first time and VHP came into being.
From that evening in 1964 to 2019, VHP has come a long way. But among the many RSS offshoots, it still remains the most powerful and significant one, under the direct supervision of the Sangh.
The goal of the organization has always been constant - to unify Hindus. BE it in India or abroad where a large diaspora lives, the goal has always been to inject Indic values and unify Hindus through contemporary issues that plague them. In 1964, there were three goals mentioned. But the top goal was "To remain in the vanguard for organizing and strengthening the Hindu society".
Vishwa Hindu Parishad took the role that RSS aspired to but had limitations to fulfill. The vision was clear during the Ram Janambhoomi movement.
VHP, by the 1980s, became so influential that governments had to yield to its pressure. It had received permission to perform a shilanyas (stone-laying ceremony) at the disputed site in Ayodhya before the national election in November 1989.
Senior BJP leaders like L.K. Advani took out rath for the cause spearheaded by a VHP offshoot. The reason for its legitimacy came from the fact that the sangh actively backed it through the years. By the Nineties it had close to 7 million members.