It should be called World Hindutva Congress
The title, World Hindu Congress - the convention concluded in Chicago recently - is a bit of a misnomer. Given the nature of some of the utterances at the conclave that seeks to promote the exchange of ideas among 'Hindus', 'World Hindutva Congress' should have been the more appropriate choice. The vice-president of India, the holder of a constitutional office, was in attendance and, hearteningly, reiterated Hinduism's philosophy of tolerance and accommodation, choosing to speak of the religion's propensity to respect the views of all people and faiths. But Venkaiah Naidu's moderate voice was very much the exception at the event. Dissenting voices were muffled violently: a group of young demonstrators got roughed up, undermining the faith in tolerance that Mr Naidu had mentioned. Some of the delegates reportedly spoke of the need for Hindus to multiply their fold in order to protect their 'social and territorial integrity'. Another participant - a political thinker and journalist - called for the endorsement of aggression from the flock. Interfaith marriage, one of the manifestations of the secular bedrock of the Indian polity, was frowned upon, while the dwindling population of Hindus remained an underlying theme at the conference.
It goes without saying that these anxieties are the figment of the fecund imagination of the sangh parivar. Some of these conceptions, such as the existential threat confronting Hindus, can be easily discredited by examining the unprejudiced census data. But falsification of facts - the sangh parivar and the Bharatiya Janata Party are unrivalled in this matter - is not the only concern here. The objective of this propagation of untruths is to instil in the gullible mind a sense of persecution. This disaffection, even though it is imagined, is a potent seed of discord, imperilling the communities that are truly in the minority in the country. The resultant polarization, a capital that the BJP banks on as a poll strategy, has led to a dangerous fragmentation in a society that has, over the years, shared an uneasy relationship with the diversity that it inherited. A congress should ideally deliberate on the pluralism of religious thought and scholarship. The Parliament of World's Religions, where Swami Vivekananda made his rousing speech, was one such inclusive event that sought to kindle a global dialogue among different faiths. But then Hindutva, unlike Hinduism, prioritizes sectarianism and insularity over philosophical discussions that can pave the way for enlightenment. A change in the nomenclature - from 'World Hindu' to 'World Hindutva' Congress - is not uncalled for.