The Chicago Story: How CPWR was Exposed

A controversy was triggered in September 2013, when a group that called itself the 'Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions" (CPWR) decided to withdraw from the event that VHP-America was organizing in Chicago to honor Swami Vivekananda as part of his 150th birthday celebrations. This post summarizes the incident in three parts:

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, 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)
Coalition Against Genocide (CAG - ), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 (sic), and for continued violations of human rights in Gujarat (sigh), today welcomed the resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR), ....

In a letter to CPWR Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson, CAG spokesperson Dr. Raja Swamy congratulated the CPWR on advancing the cause of interfaith harmony...."
".....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.

"1.  Who is the Coalition Against Genocide?  -  this is a notorious nexus of Indian Communists/ Islamists / Christian Missionaries - with a clear mission to demonize Hinduism and Hindus around the world.  People like Raja Swamy are prominent members of FOIL and its sister groups like the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (the same group that attacked the IDRF and the Hindu Students Council). On this blog, I have written extensively about FOIL and its network, building on Mr. Malhotra's Breaking India as well as some other works out there.

2.  CAG, CSFH, FOIL, IAMC (Indian American Muslim Council) are partners in this...  They were also behind the 2005 campaign to block Narendra Modi's visa to the US.  Angana Chatterjee is one of the key players in this nexus also.

3.  Recently, Raja Swamy, Biju Mathew, Shabnam Hashmi, Ram Puniyani, Harsh Mander, etc. Have started a website against Narendra Modi, called  This site purports to expose Modi's "lies" and discredit his model of development.  I have recently written about this on my blog as well.  It is interesting to note that this site is registered in Texas, which gives away its interconnections with foreign groups like FOIL that are attempting to "break India".  They also sympathize with and also hold terrorist Ishrat Jahan in high respect.

5.  Initially, when the CPWR issued a statement of withdrawal, there were two signatures - one of Mary Nelson, the Exec Director and the other one of Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  Now, if you go to their site, you only see Mary Nelson's signature!  Mr. Mujahid's signature has been "whitened out", but one can clearly see a small black dot of a spot missed by the web artist next to Nelson's signature!  Why did CPWR remove his signature?"

Rajiv comment: Good 'forensic' work. I wonder why our eminent "Hindu representatives" have been sleeping through all this and woke up only after we gave them a jolt?

Karthik adds:
"...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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.... 
  3. 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....
  4. 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...
We hope to hear from you very soon on these requests which we feel are fair....In case you find our request unacceptable, then please consider this as our letter of resignation from your organization.
My closing remarks: I would like us to pressure all Hindu representatives to put out such a letter. Let their loyalties become clear. We must get past goody-goody PR behavior. We have had enough nonsense from self serving leaders.

Sheshadri notes:
"...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:
"Ubaid Shaikh, co-founder of CAG, IAMC (Indian American Muslim Council, formerly known as Indian Muslim Council USA) and founder of Indian Muslim Advocacy Network (Imannet, whose site, has been "under construction" for who knows how long) is friends with Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  Mujahid is the founder of Muslim Peace Coalition USA, another advocacy group that is very popular in advancing the image of Islam and Peace.  See the two links below:

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!
Check out this second link -

In here, these two orgs squarely blame the Norway killings as being inspired by "Hindu Nationalist Ideology"!"
Rajiv shares a response from Anju only briefly summarized here, stating her position:
"I want you to know that both Anant and I have fought really hard and supported VHPA in this matter as you know from the joint statement we sent out. However we are outvoted. There are people who have their own agendas.  Since I found out I have spent most of the time on this. Negative attacks on me which incite people will not help the Hindu cause..."

Rajiv's response:

".... 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 [1893] 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"

In another thread, Arvind [mentioned in Rajiv's response above to Anju] posts some startling findings on CPWR that totally exposes their membership, agenda, and modus operandi. We only briefly summarize his post. Read it in its original form to grasp the full impact of what CPWR was up to.

" ...This group was formed only in 1988 (Document from Sec of State office is below).
The attempt to claim the legacy of Vivekananda by a group calling itself the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions is a FALSE PORTRAYAL of the truth. The page on their website purportedly containing the history of the organization contains a timeline that starts in 1893.
...had nothing to do with organizing the event in 1893 at which Vivekananda spoke! To learn about the real organizers of the event in 1893, click here and here (original news items from 1893). ..
Mary Nelson is a "progressive" ... For evidence that she belongs to a "progressive" group, click here.

Mary Nelson has also been associated with Rod Blagojevich ... ...If their values are like those of Rod Blagojevich's,

 Status ACTIVE
 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

Rajiv comment:
" I am glad Arvind brought this to our attention. Does it mean our "Hindu reps" did not do any due diligence all this while - just joined it and started serving its interests? It turns out the woman Ms. Nelson who signed the letter against this weekend's Vivekananda event is the same person who formed this organization 25 years ago. Falsely advertised to be formed in 1893 to promote the spirit of Vivekananda, it was actually formed recently just to capitalize on that event's prestige. Moreover, it is NOT operating in the spirit of Vivekananda. In fact just the opposite by insulting him. Nelson is a Christian, linked to World Council of Churches, various Muslim activists like Eboo Patel among other "religious activists"... It is dangerous to "network" in this field esp if one is lazy and not doing one's homework."

Ravi notes:
"It appears that Rajiv's email (especially point #6) has had its impact. Both Bhargava and Rambachan appear to have resigned from CPWR, per this news report.

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." 

Another post from Rajiv sharing more details.
"This thread seems to have had some impact. I am glad.

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.

Sant comments:
" ...he entire episode at CPWR is a wake-up call for the followers of our Hindu faith. ....

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. ......" 
Rajiv's Notes after the CPWR victory: The Way Ahead
"In light of the recent victory in the CPWR saga, it is  a time to think how the Hindus should proceed going forward.

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."
Kaajal responds:
"... I'd like to volunteer to take the lead on coming up with our list of expectations for Hindu leaders..."

Rajiv comment: 
"This is a good idea..

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." 

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