Thursday, November 8, 2012

VHP will celebrate year-long 50th anniversary, says Ashok Chowgule


 

VHP will celebrate year-long 50th anniversary, says Ashok Chowgule





By J.V.  Lakshmana Rao

Chicago: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a popular social, Dharmic and cultural organization of Hindus living in India and abroad, has planned a grand year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary after the celebration of 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, which will be held on January 12, 2013. The VHP's celebra- tion will culminate into a grand event of World Hindu Conference on the Janmashtami day, which falls on August 16, 2014.

This was announced by Ashok Chowgule, working president (external) of VHP, at a press conference here on October 31.  He was on a two-week-long tour of the US. He attended VHP-USA's Governing Council meeting in Cincinnati on October 27 and 28. He would also visit, Washington DC, Houston, New Jersey and New York, and  meet officials of VHP-USA to discuss various projects and concretize plans for the celebration of 50th anniversary.

He said that the August 16, 2014 celebration would be re-creation of the inaugural function of VHP held on the Janmashtami day, August 29, 1964, under the stewardship of Swami Chinmayananda, S.S. Apte, Lalchand Hira-chand, M.N. Ghatate and others.  All Hindu organiza- tions, including organizations like, Art of Living, and Swaminarayan Samsthas, would participate in the conference that would mark VHP's 50th anniversary.

As part of year-long celebration, seven major conferences would take place in various cities in India and abroad.  The conference themes would include women's issues, youth issues, education, political personalities and media.

He said that the main motto of VHP, which was founded with the blessings of acharyas, masters and saints of various Sampradayas of Hindus and well-known philosophers, thinkers and visionaries, was Seva or service.  It considered education was the key for prosperity of all. "VHP encourages Hindu organizations to run schools.  In fact there are many schools run by Hindu organizations with the support of vibrant private sector companies.  VHP is composed of 70,000 committees looking after various Seva projects, including 37,000 one-teacher schools in remote villages and tribal areas. Among them 10,000 one-teacher schools are supported by NRIs living in the USA," he said.

VHP runs 92 hospitals, 54 mobile dispensaries, 24 ambulances and 1,303 health-related projects. It manages 3,266 educational institutions and 45 orphanages in India.

He said that VHP aimed at protecting Dharmic identity of Hindus, which was the base on which Indian culture was built. He quoted Swami Vivek- ananda, who said: "Your forefathers underwent everything boldly, even death itself, but preserved their religion.  Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conquerors, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of Southern India, and those like Somnath of Gujarat, will teach you volumes of wisdom and give you insight into the history of the race than any amounts of books."

Ashok Chowgule said that there was a proposal for erecting a pillar for Islam in the area where the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple stood, and also construct an Islamic center near the site. It should be understood that the structure that stood at the site prior to December 6, 1992 was a monument of slavery of the Hindus and was reminder that Islam ruled even over holy Hindu sites. It was the area where the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple stood at the time of its destruction in 1528.  In this context, any sign of Islam at the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi would convey the same meaning and would suggest that there was some right of Islam over the site.  That would mean that the insult for the Hindus would be carried forward.

Regarding the proposed Islamic center, he said that the idea of such a center had come about only because of the Babri structure that stood at the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi site. It was not as if there was a huge Muslim population in the area that needed the service of such a center. Secondly in places like Vatican and Mecca, construction of places of worship for other religions was not even to be considered.  Those religious leaders would like to have these places exclusively for themselves, while they would demand that they be given rights, which they would never give to others. Vote-bank politicians, with their selfish motive, would favor such a demand. It should be recognized that the construction of a temple at Shri Ram Janmabhoomi was not a negotiable one.  The Hindus had a right over it and it should be respected, he added.

With regard to VHP-USA activities, Ashok Chowgule spoke highly about the success of  the recently held national level seventh conference of Hindu Mandir executives in the USA. He said that now it was proposed to hold three or four regional conferences annually and one national level conference every alternative year.  It was also proposed to have annual conferences for priests, where they could meet and discuss their issues.

Asked how VHP proposed to arrest conversions, he said that it would invite people of all religions to participate in bhajan programs and encourage people of other religions to participate in Hindu festivities. Those non-Hindus, who want to reconvert to Hinduism should be encouraged and welcomed "since Hinduism is a living civilization," he averred.

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