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Row erupts over RSS chief's 'lion vs dogs' comment

Last updated on: September 08, 2018 22:35 IST

Photograph: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters

A controversy erupted on Saturday over Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat's remarks at the World Hindu Congress in Chicago.

Speaking at the second WHC on Friday, Bhagwat had said that Hindus had no aspiration of dominance and the community would prosper only when it works as a society.

"If a lion is alone, wild dogs can invade and destroy the lion. We must not forget that," the RSS chief said.

Addressing a gathering of some 2,500 delegates attending the conference, Bhagwat said one of the key values to bring the whole world into a team is to have controlled ego and learn to accept the consensus.

The second World Hindu Congress marks the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's historic speech at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893 in Chicago.

"If a lion is alone, wild dogs can invade and destroy the lion. We must not forget that. We want to make the world better. We have no aspiration of dominance. Our influence is not a result of conquest or colonisation," he said.


Condemning Bhagwat's statement Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar claimed that the 'dog' reference was for the 'Opposition parties' in the country.

"I condemn this 'mansikta' (mentality) of Mohan Bhagwat that he has referred to Opposition parties in the country as dogs," Ambedkar said.

He said parties have come and gone out of power but this mentality indicated that the ruling dispensation thinks that the Opposition cannot fight them.

He claimed that it was this mentality that led to the imprisonment of RSS functionaries in 1949 by then deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel.

The RSS members were released subsequently but the organisation has, ever since, been misusing its freedom, alleged Ambedkar.

"I believe people should rethink before bringing them to power again," he said.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said, "They (the RSS) have their weird ideas to demean people by calling others dogs and assuming themselves as the tiger. This has been the language of RSS from last 90 years and I am not surprised."

"People of India will reject such crass and crude language," Owaisi said.

Speaking at the conference, Bhagwat said a sense of idealism is good and described himself not as 'anti-modern', but as 'pro-future'. He sought to describe Hindu dharma as 'ancient and post-modern'.

"Hindu society will prosper only when it works as a society," he said at the conference inspired by the Hindu principle 'Sumantrite Suvikrante' or 'Think Collectively, Achieve Valiantly'.

"One of the key values to bring the whole world into a team is to have controlled ego and learn to accept the consensus. For example, Lord Krishna and Yudhishtra never contradicted each other," Bhagwat said.

In this context, he alluded to the war and politics in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and said politics cannot be conducted like a meditation session, and it should be politics.

"To work together, we have to accept the consensus. We are in a position to work together," Bhagwat said.

He urged the conference attendees to discuss and evolve a methodology to implement the idea of working collectively.

He said the Hindu society has the largest number of meritorious persons.

"But they never come together. Coming together of Hindus in itself is a difficult thing," he said.

He noted that Hindus had been suffering for thousands of years because they forgot to practice its basic principles and spiritualism.

"We have to come together," Bhagwat said, noting that all the people need not to register under one umbrella.

He noted that Hindus had been suffering for thousands of years because they forgot to practice its basic principles and spiritualism.

Addressing the congress on the theme drawn from the Mahabharat, 'Think Collectively, Act Valiantly,' Bhagwat highlighted the need for such an action, and how Hindus should work together.

He said in Hindu dharma, even a pest is not killed, but controlled.

"Hindus don't live to oppose anybody. We even allow the pests to live. There are people who may oppose us. You have to tackle them without harming them," Bhagwat said.

S P Kothari, chair of WHC, said he and many speakers attending the conference received calls and petitions from organisations and individuals to withdraw from the Congress on the ground WHC or some of its organisers are 'socially and religiously divisive'.

"I categorically reject this supposition," Kothari said. "I urge them to listen to my talk and reflect on whether it is tainted with hate. I have chosen to disregard those petitions as originating from a lack of complete understanding of the Word Hindu Congress," Kothari said.

"The three goals of WHC are enlighten, reform and advance. WHC brings enlightenment throughout the world about Hindu community through spirituality, harmony and inclusiveness," he said.

"Hindus must reform and be in the forefront in eliminating social and economic inequality, fostering cooperation among those with ideas and resources, and view commerce as a means to furthering Hindu dharma for a better tomorrow," he said.

Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, Ashwin Adhin, in his address said, "We as Hindus never forsake our mission. Hindus have always been the missionaries of renunciation and service."

"Words like peace, harmony and spirituality do not appeal to ordinary people easily and they have to be framed in the right perspective terms so that they become established in people's mind," Adhin said.

Addressing the 'confluence of Hindu leadership who have come to connect, share ideas and inspire one another and impact the common good', WHC coordinator Abhaya Asthana stated we have gathered to reaffirm the same message of diversity, cooperation and universal acceptance uttered by Swami Vivekananda 125 years ago.

WHC, he stated, is not an event, but rather a community movement. It seeks to encourage Hindus around the world to ascend to the highest levels of excellence.

Speaking at the confrence, actor Anupam Kher said Hinduism is a way of life and one becomes a Hindu by living like one.

"Tolerance was the centerpiece of Vivekananda's message. Despite being refugees in their own country, Kashmiri Pandits have practiced tolerance for 28 years like nobody ever has," he said.

"As a Hindu, it pains me deeply to see how half knowledge and ignorance are trying to destroy one of the world's oldest, most peaceful religions," he said.


Protesters briefly disrupt World Hindu Congress

A group of protesters briefly disrupted the proceedings of the World Hindu Congress in Chicago when they started raising slogans demanding the religious leaders at the meet to oppose the Indian government's alleged 'actions against religious minorities'.

Two of the women protesters were arrested on Friday evening and local police charged them with disorderly conduct and trespassing. They were released later in the night.

Representing the Chicago South Asians for Justice, the two women speaking on condition of anonymity told PTI that they protested during the World Hindu Congress to urge the leaders attending it to oppose the 'current actions of the government against religious minorities'.

The event organisers alleged that the protesters sneaked into the venue through a 'fake identity card'.

The issue has been reported to the police and is being investigated.

Apart from Bhagwat and RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosbale, six other top Hindu religious leaders were participating in a panel discussion on collective efforts for Hindu resurgence when the protesters seated at two different places in the hall suddenly stood on their chairs and started raising slogans such as 'Stop Hindu Fascism' and 'RSS turn around, we do not want you in town'.

Taken by surprise, some of the attendees of the conference raised counter slogans, prevented them from raising the banner that they had brought in and in less than a minute were taken out of the plenary hall. The hotel security and local police immediately took the situation under control.

Following the incident, security in and around the hotel has been intensified. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu is slated to address the WHC on Sunday.

"About six of us were at the WHC today. We were there to protest the conference, the organiser, the speakers, and the attendees and their support for the current and historic violence that's been propagated by the RSS and other similar organisations," one of the woman protesters told PTI after being released.

"We sat through most of the plenary this evening. There were about six speakers. Two of us were on one side of the room and the rest sat on the other side of the room. We stood up with a banner. We chanted 'RSS turnaround, we do not want you in town'," she said and alleged that they were immediately swarmed and other conference attendees started screaming at them.

The two of these women were handcuffed as they came out of the hotel. The police arrested another individual for allegedly spitting on them.

"He did that in front of the police," she said.

"We mounted our disruption towards the end of the evening plenary session," the second woman protestor said, alleging that some of the attendees in the room snatched the banner from them.

Earlier in the day, Avaaz Foundation took out a full-page advertisement in The Chicago Tribune against the WHC.

The advertisement cost them around $26,000. The foundation on Friday also hired a mobile advertisement van which moved in the vicinity of the hotel.

More protests are planned for Saturday.

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