VHP’s peace pretensions challenged in New York

    VHP’s peace pretensions challenged in New York

    Courtesy: millenniumpeacesummit.org


    The recently–concluded Millennium World Peace Summit (Aug 28–31, 2000) supposedly a spiritual summit bringing together 1,000 of the world’s religious and spiritual leaders, that concluded with exhortations for world peace and non–violence and organised by the United Nations, was infiltrated by the aggressively communal Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) despite previous assurances that the VHP would be kept out.

    However, thanks to the successful protests by NRI groups in the USA, prompted by a petition circulated by FOIL (Forum of Indian Leftists), the VHP presence was not left unchallenged. Protests were staged and conscientious objectors even entered the premises of the Waldorf Hotel where the plenary was being held and distributed flyers against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s presence and participation.

    Here is a report received by Communalism Combat from Biju Mathew in New York:

    The petition put out on the FOIL list was circulated widely. In the end, we had endorsements from more than 150 people and seven organisations. On Monday, August 28, the first day of the summit, the petition was faxed to the organisers with a request to distribute it among the participants. Of course, they did not do this. The petition was also faxed to the Indian–American press.

    On the evening of August 28, one of the press people for the summit told me that the VHP was not being allowed to speak at the summit itself, but is attempting to organise a reception.

    Out of the approx. 1,000 attendees at the summit, more than 300 were from India; and out of this, two thirds were from the VHP. In some of the sessions some of these folks spoke up. One particular instance was reported to us many times over by summit attendees where a VHP activist went on an anti–Christian missionary tirade. A representative from Kenya finally pulled the microphone away is what the rumour mill says.

    On the morning of August 30, Shabnam Hashmi of SAHMAT, arranged for a series of meetings with some of the Indian MPs attending the non–religious segment of the peace summit. We got six or seven Indian MPs to sign a petition, representatives of the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the CPI (M). Buta Singh took the petition in for a meeting with Kofi Annan to submit it. Whether he actually did or not we still don’t know.

    On August 31 we did some ‘flyering’ — initially intending to flyer outside the Waldorf Astoria, but finally managing to get in and actually attend the plenary and distribute flyers while the plenary was going on. By the end, more than 300 flyers and about 125 copies of the petition were distributed to the participants.

    Chandana Mathur managed to even give a copy of the petition to one of Ashok Singhal’s sidekicks!! But they could do nothing about it because that would have meant risking a fracas in the middle of the plenary. A copy of the MPs petition and a copy of our petition were faxed to Kofi Annan on the evening of August 31.

    The reason why the VHP could get into the summit in such large numbers is pretty clear. The secretary general of the religious summit was one Bawa Jain, believed to be a committed RSS man. This move of the VHP should serve as an eye–opener. The 200 delegates, many of them of the sadhu/sant variety were in UK for a Dharam Sansad and were flown in by Mukund Mody in a chartered flight. 

    The VHP has also announced a series of rath yatras in the US in the very near future. I am inclined to read this as a particular kind of stepping up of activity in the US by the VHP."

    The Outlook magazine dated September 4 carries an extensive report detailing the VHP’s plans to swamp the United States with a series of dharma prachar yatras (DPYs) that are slated to criss-cross 15 major cities and flood America with the "ideal of Hindutva", according to Amrit Sharma, co–ordinator of the VHP’s videsh vibhag. None less than the liberal mukhota, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will grace the grand finale, a public meeting in New York on September 9.

    According to Acharya Dharmendra, whose oratory is famed to be as incendiary as Sadhvi Rithambara’s, "Whenever I go abroad I always ask people: why should there be a mosque in the birthplace of Ram? Why should there be an Idgah adjacent to the birthplace of Krishna? And why should there be a mosque next to the Kashi temple? These are symbols of our humiliation which generate an inferiority complex. And as long as there is an inferiority complex, peace cannot be achieved."

    In July 2000, Communalism Combat, had launched an international campaign against the VHP’s bid to get status as a recognised NGO with the UN’s ECOSOC (claiming to be an organisation that was working for the welfare of all communities). The campaign received an overwhelming response from the mainstream media as well as local human rights and international organisations (see CC, August 2000).

    Archived from Communalism Combat, September 2000. Year 8, No. 62, Breaking Barriers 1