Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) is completing 50 years of its establishment on this Janmashtami that is 18th August 2014. RSS and its second Sarsanghachalak MS Golwalkar was the main guiding force behind the conception of this organisation. To understand the thinking behind VHP, its nature, various dimensions of work and its contribution in the last 50 years, Prafulla Ketkar, Editor, Organiser spoke to Bhaiyyaji Joshi, Sarkaryavah (General Secretary) of RSS.
RSS has been working for organising and strengthening Hindus from 1925. What was the need and idea behind forming another organisation like VHP?
Unless we understand the rationale behind starting the RSS, we cannot comprehend the evolution of other organisations emerging from that similar thought. When RSS was founded in 1925, attaining Independence was the only goal for all sections of society. But Dr Hedgewar was distinctive in his thinking because of his realisation that unless our society is enlightened enough to understand and sustain that Independence, mere change of guard at the helm of affairs would not suffice. He felt the need to eradicate the weakness inherent in the society. The RSS work has two fundamental dimensions; firstly, to create confidence within Hindu society that they can come together and live together; and secondly, to make members of the society realise that they should contribute their bit for the cause of this society and take responsibility to change a situation. Man Making for Social Cause was the prime objective with which RSS work started in 1925. As the RSS work expanded, Swayamsevaks started reflecting on various social issues, and this continued till 1947 when it was realised that unless there is systemic thinking about various sectors that influence national life, real change cannot take place. With this thinking, Swayamsevaks started working in various fields with the inspiration of RSS.
As Indian psyche is deeply rooted in religious customs and traditions without taking religious forces along, substantial change cannot be brought about in India. It was a difficult task as all seers have their own position and following. In this context, the then Sarsanghachalak of RSS, Shri Guruji took this task of organising various sects under one umbrella. The other important thinking behind the formation of VHP was to establish a system of liasoning with large number of Hindus abroad and keep them connected with national values and culture. Largely in this context and with this thinking VHP was established in 1964.
Agreed, it was a difficult task to bring all saints and seers on one forum. Can you share the message Shri Guruji shared with them that they agreed to come together under the banner of VHP?
I think this was precisely the reason why Shri Guruji personally took interest in this matter. He made seers realise the simple fact that though the external manifestations of various sects in India are different, the eternal spirit is the same. Shri Guruji explained them that the strengths and weaknesses are common in all sects, and asked them to come together for common good also assuring that walking together wouldn’t change their paths.
From inception, VHP took over many issues, led many movements. How do you see the impact of all these activities on Indian society and Hindu mindset at large?
When we think of social and national transformation, we have to think about different instruments and strategies because while some ways are awakening, the others happen to be agitational. For instance, Ganga Sagar and Ekatmata Yatras were awakening yatras.
Some issues were temporal- For example, mass conversion at Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu was disturbing for many people in India, including the prevailing ruling dispensation. So agitations against religious conversions (mostly, funded from abroad) started after that. Though apparently it looks aggressive, it was not against any other religion. It was a kind of national awakening.
Ramjanmabhoomi was another big moment of national resurgence and unity. It is unfortunately coloured anti-Islamic even when no other non-Hindu religious place was touched in this movement. Whether it’s Ayodhya, Mathura or Kashi, these places create pain in minds of people as only places of self-respect are matter of concern for masses. Instead of indulging in vote bank politics we should learn to respect this unified force.
Hence, though agitations and movements manifested in the form of frustration or resentment of the masses, there real intent was unification and transformation which they successfully achieved by changing our perceptions about ourselves.
There are misperceptions and misconceptions about VHP. Some sections consider it to be a militant or conservative organisation.
I think this is largely a media creation or a politically created opinion. Hindu thinking can never be militant or conservative. Welfare of all is inherent in Hindu thinking and VHP is working on that. Some actions of some elements cannot be the basis of assessing an organisation. Anything that is Hindu cannot be communal. Considering and propagating this misnomer of being militant or conservative is being dishonest to national cause.
VHP also took the cause of Samrasata (Social Cohesion)? How far the organisation has been successful in addressing it?
Unfortunately, we are divided for two reasons. On the one hand, we forgot that we are Hindus and on the other division occurred along caste identities, and caste based rights. Caste institution was never based on birth in India. But in the Middle Ages, deterioration and distortion took place and birth, profession and untouchability based on caste became the major faultline in India. It created a huge gap between theory and practice. We forgot the message of Atmavat sarva-bhutesu & parupakar punya and treated our own brethren heinously. Even worshipping Gods were denied and it was justified as religious. So our philosophy remained a mere lip service. To bring these eternal principles into practice VHP brought the issue of social equality and cohesion to the forefront.
Under the leadership of Shri Guruji, Dharma Sansad unanimously adopted the resolution “Hindavah Sodarah Savrve” and “Na Hindu Patito Bhavet”. This was a revolutionary moment in the Indian history for restoring religious and social dignity of the so called Dalits. Even laying of the foundation stone of Ram Temple was by one Rameshwar Chaupal also a Dalit was a clear message of transformation. All caste people are performing rituals, and appointed as priests and trustees in temples with the initiative of VHP.
VHP is also doing tremendous work in the areas of education and healthcare through religious institutions including employability training. How do you look at this area of work?
We look at it as an opportunity to generate sense of warmth and altruism among people in the society. VHP has done immense service by mobilising services of various sections of society in various forms, especially through religious institutions. There are many sections of society who are underprivileged and whose needs government cannot fulfill. Individuals, organisations, society at large and government should work together for providing minimum standard of living to all. VHP touched upon the emotive aspect of Hindu thinking and did exactly that. Ekal Vidyalayas, hostels, healthcare facilities, training camps etc is just a small part of this larger vision.
How would you assess the performance of VHP in the last 50 years? And what will be your resolution in the golden jubilee year?
Sincerely speaking, for an organisation commited to the cause of social transformation, a span of 50 years is not very big. So evaluation should be made about the direction of the organisation rather than the quantification of work done. The direction of VHP should be assed not only by society at large but by VHP itself. It should be assessed at this juncture if resources were fully utilised for achieving desired goals. And determine how ready VHP is to take everyone along today. Many known unknown names have worked day and night for the cause. Dadasaheb Apte, Rajabhau Degvekar, Acharya Giriraj Kishor and even till date Ashok Ji Singhal, all of them worked for the organisation.
If everyone associated with the VHP takes inspiration from the lives of these people, there’ll be no have no doubt about the direction to keep moving ahead