VHP has been popular in UK over the last two decades. However their recent rise in popularity has been nothing short of worry for the other parties representing the Indians. The image of parties like the CONGRESS has been tarnished in the media here. The lack of representation of Congress in UK has meant that Indians have been brain washed with information that is only given by the VHP and unsubstantiated criticism of Congress party and their policies.
VHP through their affiliation with SEWA International have raised millions of pounds in the name of charity. There has been various reports on how this so called charity funds have been utilized in India from recruiting young men and training them as terrorist fighters to cause conflict between Hindus and Muslims especially in Gujarat and to promo the activities of VHP in the UK.
The VHP(UK) has also organized events in UK in support of the Indian VHP’s agenda, including the 1989 Virat Hindu Sammelan in Milton Keynes, which included demanding that a Ram temple be built on the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
SEWA Internation UK (SI). The HSS’s fundraising wing. Its main fundraising activities are for RSS-led projects in India. It is not a registered charity, but uses the charity number of the HSS UK in its fundraising campaigns. It is a limited company (company number 04482628) incorporated in July 2002. It shares the same address as the HSS. The charity work of the HSS (and the Indian RSS) took off on a large scale from 1989, the year in which the RSS celebrated the birth of the founder of the Indian RSS, K.B. Hedgewar.
National Hindus Students Forum (NHSF) -- the largest body of Hindu students in the UK. The NHSF was created with HSS support and its UK offices shared the same address as the HSS.
In Britain, the offshoots of these groups present themselves as cultural and social organizations and downplay their political agenda. But hostility to Muslims is never far away. At a VHP meeting in Southall (London) held in response to the situation in Gujarat, speakers demanded that non-Hindus should be made to leave India.
As in India, the Hindutva movement in Britain operates through a number of linked organizations, each presenting a different face for different purposes. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), which is a registered charity, describes itself as a cultural organizations ‘right at the core of being British and Hindu’. Although they claim HSS has a ‘distinct identity in the UK’ from its Indian equivalent, the RSS.
The support for groups like HSS and VHP in UK rest a mixture of elements. For many economically successful Hindu, particularly enterpreneurs from East African Asian merchant communities, Hindu chauvinism aims at dissociation from less well-off Pakistani and Bangladesh communities which are seen as giving Asians a bad name. This snobbery feeds into wider fears of Islam as fundamentalist religion and is supported by the idea that Muslims have historically been ‘invaders’ of the Hindu homeland. The VHP has also been successful in mobilizing around anti-deformation issues. Another factor is the strong Hindu tradition of contributing ‘service’ to the welfare of one’s community. As Hindu nationalist groups are often the only voluntary sector groups doing welfare and educational work in the name of Hinduism, they attract support, in spite of the fact that their ideology is a distortion of the Hindu faith system.
Not only do we need to take more responsibility for the tacit support we give to people who claim to speak on behalf of a particular faith, we also need to develop strategies to give young people a grater sense of empowerment, to provide alternatives to the easy and simplistic sense of belonging offered by religious gangs and fanatics like the VHP.
It is high time that the Congress party recognize this and provide alternatives and make urgent changes and put in mechanism whereby policy is represented in the UK.
The congress party must build up a network of representatives in the UK and perhaps in the USA solely for the purpose of promoting the Congress party views and policies. VHP has committee in nearly all major cities in the UK. Similarly the Congress party too should have such groups, all working as volunteers thus keeping the cost of running such network to bare minimum. This would promote and enhance the image of Congress though out the UK. High profile Congress party members should visit these organizations lobbying and supporting the Congress party.