indica News Bureau
Calling the Hindu community from 60 countries to come together and work as a society despite the differences, the second World Hindu Congress (WHC) here saw participation from stalwarts like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Hindu leaders from the world amid sporadic protests.
The mega initiative — a brainchild of Swami Vigyananand – that coincided with the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893 in Chicago, assessed ways to raise the visibility of Hindus on the world stage and work on challenges facing the community globally.
On the opening first day, RSS chief Bhagwat in his keynote address to 2,500-strong audience said collaboration and “oneness” is the most urgent need for Hindu society to progress.
He framed “our values” as “universal values, now being called Hindu values,” adding that the Hindu society is home to more “meritorious people” but “we don’t work together”.
“We want to make the world better. We have no aspiration of dominance. Our influence is not a result of conquest or colonization,” he noted.
Bhagwat in his 40-minute speech touched directly on politics, saying that “politics must be fought like politics, but do it without changing yourself”.
He elaborated on the theme drawn from the Mahabharat, “Think collectively, Act Valiantly.”
Reiterating his call for the team effort, the RSS chief said the Hindu society will progress and prosper only when it works as a society, and that some organizations or parties working alone will not suffice.
Others who spoke on Day One at the WHC were Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti; SP Kothari, the chairperson, organizing committee of the World Hindu Congress; Ashwin Adhin, vice president of Suriname and Raju Reddy, vice-chair of the WHC.
Messages by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, Art of Living Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shanker and BAPS Spiritual Guru Mahant Swami Maharaj were played via video link at the event.
Swami Poornatmananda of Bharat Seva Ashram said all Hindus should unite to achieve resurgence.
Emphasising that Hindu religious teachings are for humanity, he said, schools and colleges in India should be opened to impart Hindu teachings.
Swami Paramatmananda, secretary general of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, said Hindus should think collectively not only for its own resurgence but for the resurgence of the whole world.
Sadhguru Dalip Singh of Namdari Panth told the Congress that Hindus and Sikhs can never be separated. The Guru Granth Saheb says that Sikhs should remain Hindus, he added.
The event saw seven conferences and three plenary sessions. Parallel sessions were organized on youth, media, economy, women and education.
In a surprise, the delegates received a sweet box in their welcome packet containing two ladoos — one hard and one soft.
The sweet packets were distributed to convey the common perception that Hindu society is not united, according to the organizers.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) said some of his friends and constituents were concerned about his presence at the event.
“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I’ve ever known and been taught…namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people,” he said.
On a concluding day, Vice-President Naidu focused on Hinduism’s respect for all people and religions.
“Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava. We respect all religions and does not mean condemning any religion for the sake of votes. That is the spirit of this land. We should ensure that this behavior is enforced,” Naidu told the gathering.
He listed out several essential elements of the Hinduism “way of life”, drawing heavily from Vivekananda’s teachings.
“True nationalism is in the preservation of India’s invaluable heritage,” said Naidu.
Sushil Pandit, who coordinated the discussions on media, at the valedictory plenary, said fake news is one problem that we have to deal with.
“More than fake news, we discovered that we have to deal with fake narratives because they are seemingly based on facts. We need to create another narrative to counter the fake narrative. Narratives sustain while news perish. So we need rigorous journalists who create narratives,” he noted.
The three-day conference, however, had its share of controversies.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that there was a “conspiracy” to cancel her trip to the Congress at Chicago.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied any role in the incident, saying Banerjee herself canceled the trip.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) who was initially announced by the organizers as the chairwoman of the Congress withdrew from the event.
A small group of people raising anti-RSS and anti-VHP slogans also tried to disrupt the Congress.
The third World Hindu Conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from November 4 to 6 in 2022 with the theme “Victory of dharma, not dharma”.