part 1) the discussion this triggered in the forum, the research done by Hindus in finding out who supported the boycott, who CPWR really was, the impact the debate in this forum had on the subsequent trajectory of events post-withdrawal. Particularly shocking is that CPWR turned out to be not what it appears on the surface. Some fact-checking indicated that this organization was incorporated in 1988 and had nothing to do with 1893 World parliament of religions that Vivekananda graced! Stunning how and disturbing why the Hindu representatives signed up for this without doing any background check!
part 2) the positive outcome (resounding win) for Hinduism with its figurehead Hindu representatives resigning, and finally,
part 3) A manifesto for Hindu representation in Interfaith bodies, going forward and being more proactive.
The thread was initiated by a post by NS that posted a news article carried by HinduismToday.com, that is summarized below:
"... a respectable interfaith organization the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR) decided to withdraw from the event that VHPA was organizing in Chicago.
VHP (America) is holding event marking 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanda which will feature Baba Ramdev as the chief guest (see here). It is "co-hosted" by many Hindu organizations based in the USA. Air India is also listed as one of the co-host.
120-year old CPWR is the organization that invited Swami Vivekanda to Chicago in1893. In a statement issued today [see here, issued by Mary Nelson, CPWR's Executive Director] CPWR said:
"We honor Swami Vivekananda and that legacy he left creating interfaith cooperation to build a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Our organization was not informed that an event we were asked to co-sponsor was also co-sponsored by organizations promoting controversial political positions. While we do honor and promote the ideals of Swami Vivekananda, we respectfully withdraw our name from any co-hosting or co-sponsorship of the 'World Without Borders' event and any connection to this event or its other co-sponsors."
....Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) [see here for a list of members--it is mostly comprised of Muslim, leftist and Christian groups] welcomed the move by the CPWR to disassociate itself VHPA's event...
(another post records CAG's cheerleading press release, summarized here)
".....This incident exemplifies attempts by Hindutva organizations to legitimize their virulent politics by appropriating the legacies of important historical personalities such as Swami Vivekananda," said Dr. Raja Swamy, ...."
Prasad's response (the text is a bit garbled in the yahoo forum, but I have provided the gist) was to respectfully request that two Hindu members associated with CPRW resign their posts in protest:
" Anju Bhargavji and Anant Rambachanji,
whatever be the outcome of your efforts to reinstate cpwr's sponsorship, I request you both resign as directors of this organization. When they cancelled the commitment they made without consulting you, your presence there does not matter, ..."
Arun also had the same opinion:
"... shows that how artbitrarily [CPWR] is run and their decision process is biased and undemocratic. It also shows that how intolerant the leadership of CPWR has become over the years to promote their own agenda and politics. I believe that all board members of CPWR, who were not consulted for this decision should resign..."
Vishal disagreed and favors an alternative approach:
"..Non-cooperation is less ineffective than fighting from within."
Rajiv's response: What "fighting from within?" I dont see them having done that. In fact, in one case I was explicitly told that the person WILL NOT FIGHT to risk sticking her neck out...
To fight from within the representative must first spell out the positions being represented, and the policy for fighting for each of these. Otherwise its not even clear as to WHAT they might fight for, assuming they decide to fight at all?
The only fighting going on is positioning personal careers, prestige, glamor, PR, etc...
Furthermore, there is also the issue of COMPETENCE beyond intentions. Even if the intentions could be turned around, there remains the question whether a given person is cut out for the job. Our community must learn to hold Hindu leaders accountable for performance just like political leaders are hired/fired in elections if they do not perform. Lets end this idolatry based on personalities."
Next, there is a very interesting (but tangential) post by AJ and a response by Rajiv about the forum responding by circulating emails.
A professor (VR) from Bangalore was upset by the actions of CPWR:
"The [CPWR] under the influence of Christian and Islamic fundamentalists and anti-Hindu leaders has already ditched the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and buried them."
Abhimanyu posts the findings from his investigative work on CPWR. This appears to be the first of a few crucial posts that began to open people's eyes to what this CPWR really is, and we carry this report almost fully. Also important to note, that he also looks at possible links to the 2014 General elections in India.
"...the question of "Secularism" has entered the public discourse in a big way. Specifically, it is being suggested that a person who is otherwise suitable to run the country in terms of governance record, should be disqualified on the strength of an alleged lack of commitment to "secularism", which is a threat to the "Idea of India."
I have written a blog post about this here: As you can see, the post makes reference to many of Rajiv ji's ideas.."
Vishal clarifies: "Let me clarify. Resigning from posts does not achieve much. I am not privy to private information on whether these two members will fight it out or not. However, if they resign, if opens the possibility of some rabid leftist (who is Hindu in name only) to replace them and then and work positively against our Dharma in the future..."
Rajiv comment: Let me clarify. Defending incompetence does not help much. It lowers the standard and makes incompetence the new normal. Someone could also say, "let the corrupt, incompetent government in India remain, because if they leave we could get someone worse". Let us stop operating in fear...
The point is that Hindus never appointed these individuals in the first place. Secondly, they have not produced any resistance from our side by way of offering criticism of the organization's positions. Only now they are running around doing PR and press releases because we have exposed this scandal. ...
...There is a prominent man  who tried to pressure me to not critique Anju Bhargava in my book, but that failed. He even went to Swami Dayananda Saraswati along with Anju and they camped there for a few days asking swamiji to withdraw his invitation for me to speak at the ashram's annual day; but swamiji refused to do so. I am also aware that other organizations have pressure points. Such "networking" notwithstanding, we must be objective and not get influenced by linkages. Otherwise we are no better than the dominant nexuses that operate this way except that they have been winning. We must hold ourselves to an objective standard in evaluating leadership."
Rajiv further comments:
"People have asked me to suggest what "our" Hindu representatives on CPWR must go at this point. I feel they ought to write an open letter to CPWR that gets posted widely by them. It should make the following points. I am not suggesting exact language, merely the main points they should cover:
Letter to CPWR:
- We as practicing Hindus, and as individuals representing the interests of Hinduism in CWPR, are very upset at the decision that was made to boycott Swami Vivekananda's anniversary celebrations, and we would like that decision reversed immediately.
- We are troubled that we were never consulted or involved in such a major decision being made, which makes our Hindu community doubt whether we speak for them in this forum at all. It would be unimaginable, hypothetically, for you to make a similar decision against Islam without even bothering to tell in advance and consult the Muslim representatives in your organization....
- It is clear that the process leading to your decision was opaque rather than transparent. Individuals with personal agendas and political pressure acted secretly rather than through a process carried out in an above board manner....
- We are sending each of the trustees and each member of all committees at CPWR a copy of an important book, titled, "Breaking India", which exposes the kinds of nefarious activities by many persons who acted in making this recent decision. In the interest of transparency and allowing all sides of an issue to be heard, we seek the right to articulate the point of view of many Hindus. After your review of this book, we would like CPWR to host a public debate on the charges and allegations being made in this book - concerning the nexus that is operating to undermine Hinduism. Let both sides speak and debate each other in an amicable manner. This is the true spirit of open intellectual discourse that CPWR claims to represent...
"...FOIL is dead against Infinity Foundation. I know for a fact how FOIL fanatics try -by hook or crook - to foil university programs sponsored by Infinity Foundation. They are more aware of the power of genius of Hindu Thought than most of our own people. When "Sarve janaH sushi no bhavantu" catches up there can be no room for "workers of the world unite" or "only my god is god" creeds. No wonder we will face in future more virulent as well as subtle forms of opposition. They will leave no stone unturned - literally"
Abhimanyu uncovers more details:
In the above link, these guys, especially Ubaid, while condemning the attack on thw Wisconsin Gurudwara, nefariously weaves in connection to "hate-filled" Americans and "Hindu Extremists" (READ RSS, VHP, etc.), saying how these Hindus inspire hate amongst Americans!
".... troubling items in your statement.
1) Earlier you had said that this decision by CWPR was made without your knowledge and you and Anant were taken by surprise. Only afterwards you reacted (once the community started pressuring you). Now you saying that you and Anant were outvoted (and hence knew of the decision being considered). Which version is true?
2) Secondly, if there was a vote in CPWR, when was it held ? Who voted for the resolution and who voted against it? Also, who drafted and proposed the resolution for vote? These names must be made public as per the norms of any public foundation. The community must know this, and its YOUR JOB to keep us informed.
3) Thirdly, I disagree with your view that the Hindus you claim to represent should have no right to criticize you regardless of your performance. You did not consult any of us prior to the resolution against Swami Vivekananda's anniversary event being put out as a press release. Now you expect us to support you even though you have not shown competence in representing us. ...Please note that the same pattern occurred in another organization where you represented Hindus for one year. I documented that fiasco in my book, BREAKING INDIA, and it bothered you. ....
4) You write that the "smart and strategic" thing would be for us to focus on those who do such negative things against us. But how can we put our focus on such persons unless and until YOU disclose their names in detail - I mean EVERY ONE OF THEM.
5) You seem only concerned about "negative attacks" on you. You did not say a word about how the conduct of CPWR that you serve has attacked Hinduism, which is larger than any one individual like you or me....
6) Finally, now that you and Anant have acknowledged that CPWR has hoodwinked the Hindus, should you not resign in protest - thereby sending the message that you are not pets sitting there to legitimize their actions in exchange for being given some "importance"? Please consider that such a bold action by you and Anant would boost your standing, because it would show that Hindus cannot be taken for granted as a bunch of morons led by morons. I hope you are now aware (as per Arvind Kumar's post) that Ms. Nelson who runs CPWR is falsely advertising that CPWR was somehow linked to the  Chicago event named the World Parliament of Religions. She has cleverly used the name of the original organization and you did not know this earlier"
|Entity Name||COUNCIL FOR A PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS||File Number||55101108|
|Entity Type||CORPORATION||Type of Corp||NOT-FOR-PROFIT|
|Incorporation Date (Domestic)||05/27/1988||State||ILLINOIS|
|Agent Name||MARY K NELSON||Agent Change Date||09/26/2012|
|Agent Street Address||70 EAST LAKE ST #205||President Name & Address|
|Agent City||CHICAGO||Secretary Name & Address|
|Agent Zip||60601||Duration Date||PERPETUAL|
|Annual Report Filing Date||04/15/2013||For Year||2013|
|Old Corp Name||09/22/1988 - COUNCIL FOR A PARLIAMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS|
Rajiv comment:"Indeed. But let us see this as a positive watershed event where Hindus came together to say "enough, we wont accept bias against us any more from any organization that is claiming to be neutral."
Let us consider this as a loss for CPWR. Not having Hindus represented voids their claim to pluralism. Hinduism is the most pluralistic faith of all major ones, and this absence of Hindus should be positioned as something that discredits them. We must engage such inter faith bodies from a position of strength rather than going as beggars to let us in on their terms and treat us as third class."
Some members here sent it to the Hindus who had got themselves appointed on the Council for a Parliament of World Religions, thereby putting pressure on them. Two of them have issued the following statement a short while back:
Joint statement from Anju Bhargava and Anant Rambachan regarding the Chicago event with CPWR
"We, Anju Bhargava and Anant Rambachan, found out on September 14th, through media reports, that the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR) had withdrawn its participation in a Chicago event "World Without Borders," celebrating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. We were not consulted about this decision. Once we found out, we requested an explanation for the Parliament's decision. We have also formally requested the Parliament to reverse its decision to withdraw from co-hosting/co-sponsoring the Chicago event. We are working with Parliament to get this issue resolved harmoniously.".
Rajiv comment: Its a good start for them to take such a stand against CPWR, but this must have teeth in it. If such a boycott by CPWR had happened against an Islamic icon's anniversary celebration, the Muslim representatives would not have been caught off guard...As a group claiming to foster harmony this behavior by CPWR is unacceptable. Certainly, many of us disagree strongly with beliefs of some religious organizations but the CPWR would not reject those organizations' legitimacy just because we found them offensive.
We must keep up the pressure on every Hindu who makes a career out of "representing Hinduism"in various bodies; we must demand that he or she must speak up for us assertively even if that is not in their personal vested interest.
May I suggest that we form a group consisting of individuals from leading Hindu organizations in the US. , We (who will be 'we' here) will need to define the qualifications of the persons to serve in such a group along with all so many other details will need to be worked out. ....One of tasks for this organization would be make recommendations to various Inter-Faith organizations on the individual being considered for serving in a significant role, claiming to represent our community.
I was convinced from the outset that CPWR will not reverse their decision once made. In fact, the overwhelming no-votes shows the enormous challenges we face. This could not have been a one-time issues. Majority of their trusteeship's anti-Hindu feeling had to have been present (and visible) all along. ......"
There will be many opportunities and offers that various individuals and organizations will have to join such movements. So let us formulate a list of principles that any Hindu representative should adopt openly and publicly as part of his or her participation. For instance, I would propose the following kinds of principles that could be turned into a sort of manifesto that our leaders are asked to accept. This is just off the top of my head thinking and we have to sort these out in more detail:
1) We as Hindu leaders oppose various common positions that are biased and lack authenticity, such as the following examples:
- Aryan Invasion/Migration Theories
- Allegations that Hinduism causes caste abuses, women's abuses, minority abuses, etc. Such allegations must bear the burden of proof and Hindus must be given a chance to fair representation in such due processes. Such claims must be put on par with the facts concerning other religions and Hinduism should not get treated more harshly than other in such evaluations.
- Digestion attempts, sameness positions, mapping of Sanskrit non-translatables, mapping of our categories and framework on to others in ways that compromise our distinctiveness and authenticity.
- Theories that Hinduism did not exist until British influence caused Vivekananda and others to manufacture it. Again, we must be given opportunities to debate such nonsensical positions.
- Inaccurate history of various ideas that actually originated in Indian civilization but are taught as originating elsewhere.
2) Major books, reports and speakers who represent the Hindu position on important matters must be given equal pace on forums as the representatives of other major faiths are. These individuals must not be selected in a way to avoid "controversy", as long as the subject matter being presented is of scholarly merit. Changing minds often requires controversy. In other words, Hinduism should no longer be represented by benign, goody-goody types who wont rock the boat for whatever reason. ...
3) Our representatives must fight instances where a Hindu thinker, guru, political leader, organization, etc. gets targeted without due process and without fair and reasonable proof. This is what happened in this latest saga at CPWR. I have personally faced this bias for 20 years because the Hinduphobic side cannot respond to what I write, and its easy to badmouth me just to try and muzzle me..."
4) "Breaking India" type of forces must be called out, exposed and we must go on the offensive. Just like some forces xyz torpedoed the Vivekananda event, our reps must be able to do such things to others when we have fair and reasonable grounds. For instance, I see lots of "breaking India" individuals and groups enjoying the limelight with no organized resistance from our Hindu representatives.
... If we take this step we will have matured a lot."
My recommended step 1 is to develop a draft on the core Hinduism positions that any future representative must get educated on and must uphold. My initial input is in the post I did yesterday to start another thread on such a "manifesto". Such a draft needs to be debated and then we can lobby for people to adopt it at least as a starting point."