Describing India as a Hindu rashtra (nation) and making a strong pitch for Hindu awakening, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday upped the ante on conversions by challenging opposition parties to bring a law for banning forcible conversions.
Addressing the first-ever public rally by Vishwa Hindu Parishad in West Bengal, Bhagwat said, “There is no need to fear. We are in our own country. We are not intruders or infiltrators. This is our own country, our Hindu ‘rashtra’ (nation). A Hindu will not leave his land. What we have lost in the past, we will try to bring it back. No one should be afraid of Hindus rising. Those who are raising their voice against the rise of Hindus are selfish and have vested interests. And if they oppose, there will be confrontation.”
“We must remember that the confrontation is for the ills done to our ancestors,” said Bhagwat, adding, “Hindus have been tolerating crimes by Bangladesh or Pakistan. Our God says after 100 crimes, you must not forgive any crime.”
“Till the Hindus are here in India, the country is there. If Hindus are not there, then everybody living here will be in distress,” Bhagwat said.
Speaking at a Hindu Sammelan as part of VHP’s golden jubilee celebrations, Bhagwat said Hindus do not convert, so nobody should try to convert Hindus to other religions.
“We are trying to create a strong Hindu society. Those who strayed, were lured away. They were looted from us. The world knows. Ab agar mera maal wapas aata hain, toh kaunsi badi baat hai? (If now we are taking back our property, then what’s the big deal?),” Bhagwat told the 20,000-strong crowd.
Targeting Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, VHP international working president Praveen Togadia said, “Mulayamji, you are known for taking an anti-national stand, but if you make an anti-conversion law we will support you.”
Senior VHP leader Ashok Singhal could not attend the rally due to ill-health.
These comments are significant at a time when political parties in the opposition have unitedly stalled Rajya Sabha following ‘ghar wapasi’ programmes by saffron outfits. The opposition has been demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on the conversion issue.
A profusion of saffron flags on Kolkata streets was a rare sight. Rallyists came from the city and neighbouring districts. Many of them like Surojit Mukherjee, a class XII student from Khardaha and Rahul Jaiswal, a 19-year-old who works in a garage, joined the Sangh Parivar about a year ago.
Earlier, senior VHP functionaries from Bengal had admitted their decision to hold the Hindu Sammelan was guided by the “changed political circumstances” in the state. Decoded, it translates into the increasing strength of BJP in Bengal.
Saffron outfits like the RSS and VHP are in an expansion mode in Bengal. From about 250shakhas in the state five years ago, the number of VHP’sshakhas has increased to more than 400, said VHP south Bengal unit vice-president, NandLalLohia. VHP aims to set up 543 units at the block level across Bengal by Janmashtami next year.
The sammelan kicked off with cow-worship at Shahid Minar in the heart of Kolkata, site of numerous political rallies since pre-independence days. At VHP’s rally, a large statue of a cow was placed near the dais.
Togadia said slaughter of a single cow was an insult to Hindus. He made a sales pitch for cosmetics manufactured from cowdung and urine of cows by the VHP. “We earned Rs 15 crore through sale of shampoo and face wash made from cow urine and face pack made from cow dung,” said Togadia. He then asked the crowd if the sale can be boosted to Rs 15,000 crore. He was not disappointed with affirmation from the crowd.
Togadia’s tirade against Bangladeshi infiltrators, who he called a security threat, found takers, especially, those coming from border districts. “You must pledge that you will not take in Bangladeshi Muslims as tenants or employ them even if they offer cheap labour,” he said after rattling off a nine-point action plan for being a “practising Hindu”.
Togadia accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of minority appeasement. “Mamataji is wooing minorities by calling for reservation and doling out honorarium to imams. Why is there no grant for Hindu priests or Hindus who are unemployed?” he asked.