Two great Hindu Hridaysamrats, Balasaheb Thackeray and Ashok Singhal passed away on the same day i.e. on 17th November. The speculations on both deaths were spread before it was officially declared. Hindus will always be thankful to these great combatants who fought for causes and respect of Hinduism.
Singhal was an international working president of the Hindu organisation called as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for over 20 years until, following a long bout of diminishing physical health. He was replaced by Praveen Togadia in December 2011. Singhal was ailing but was working till a month before his death. He was born in Agra. His father was a government official. He has Bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Benaras Hindu University’s Institute of Technology in 1950. Having been in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since 1942, he became a full-time pracharak after graduation. He worked in various locations around Uttar Pradesh, becoming a prant pracharak for Delhi and Haryana. In 1980, he was deputed to the VHP, becoming its joint general secretary. In 1984, he became its general secretary and, later, the working president, a role in which he continued till 2011.
VHP is an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist organization based on the ideology of Hindutva. It was founded in 1964 by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte in collaboration with Swami Chinmayananda. Its main objective is “to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve, protect the Hindu Dharma. The VHP belongs to the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It has been involved in social service projects in India such as construction and renovation of Hindu temples, issues of cow slaughter, religious conversion, the Ayodhya dispute and its role in the Babri Masjid demolition.
The VHP, which considers Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as well as native tribal religions as part of the greater Hindu fraternity, officially mentions that it was founded by the “Saint Shakti of Bharat”. The VHP was first mooted at a conference in Pawai, Sandipani Sadhanalaya, Bombay on 29 August 1964. The conference was hosted by RSS chief M. S. Golwalkar. The date was chosen to coincide with the festival of Janmashtami. Several representatives from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain faiths were present in the meeting, as well as the Dalai Lama. Golwalkar explained that “all faiths of Indian origins need to unite”, saying that the word “Hindu” (people of “Hindustan”) applied to adherents of all the above religions. They believed that the world has been divided into Christian, Islam and communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. It is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organise the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three. Defending Hindus around the world and Hindu rights has been one of its stated objectives.
The organisation acts under the guidance from Dharma Sansad, a religious parliament of Gurus. Its slogan is Dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ, which means “Dharma protects its protector” and its symbol is the banyan tree. The current international president of VHP is Raghava Reddy. While its executive president Praveen Togadia, who is known for his aggressive attack on Muslims and Christians.
Singhal was not only an activist but also a visionary with academics; hardly anyone knows that he was a trained vocalist in Hindustani music. He studied under Pandit Omkarnath Thakur. Singhal’s death is loss to Right wing and Hindutva.
After the Meenakshipuram conversions, Singhal moved to the VHP as the joint general secretary. After noting the main grievance of the Dalit communities in the area of their inaccessibility to temples, VHP built 200 temples specifically for Dalits. He says that the conversions stopped afterwards. Singhal was a key organiser of the first VHP Dharma Sansad in 1984 held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, attracting hundreds of sadhus and Hindu notables to discuss the issues of rejuvenating Hinduism. The movement for reclaiming the Ramjanmabhoomi temple was born here. Singhal soon became the chief architect of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.
It was under his stewardship that the international branding of VHP was conceptualised for which he recruited supporters and established offices abroad. The VHP got immense contribution from outside India for its campaign. Singhal was instrumental in the “kar sewak” campaign that led to the bringing down of the 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. VHP leaders considered him their “mentor and visionary” as he led many a movement during his lifetime. He was instrumental in playing a key role in launching an Andolan in Uttar Pradesh against the Emergency and also the ‘Gau-Raksha Andolan’ for the protection of cows. Singhal continued to play an active role in VHP and remained its patron till the end.
Incidentally, a few days prior to being admitted to the hospital, Singhal undertook a 30-day tour of various countries to oversee the VHP activities. The VHP opened branches in 40 nations from east to west, including countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to Indonesia and Japan among other countries under Singhal’s leadership. Let’s hope the dreams of Singhal would be fulfilled as tribute to him by his right wing followers and politicians.