Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha: Piece on a global chess-board - 1
by Radha Rajan on 15 Jan 2010 12 Comments

The Background

The fourth conference of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha (HDAS) concluded in Hyderabad on 11 January 2010. The three press-notes giving a day by day account of the conference circulated on email groups, and the resolutions passed by the HDAS on the last day, raise important questions about the motives and objectives of the group micro-managing this important Hindu body.


The writer has good cause to believe that HDAS is either being derailed or led by the nose by a Chennai-based clique and its overseas non-Hindutva Hindu partners, which see in hitching their wagon to the HDAS engine a renewed opportunity to resurrect their moribund public life.


The stigma of their role in the arrest of Pujya Kanchi Acharyas, their horrific role in silencing important Hindu organizations and throttling them from acting to put pressure on Jayalalithaa, their failed attempts to forcibly remove the revered Acharyas from the peetham and take over the matham, and the electoral defeat of the BJP in 2004 and again in 2009, perforce sent them into hibernation. But the congenital Hindu disease to forget old humiliations and old sins has enabled this clique to resurface in public life. Only now, the Chennai clique has expanded the national frontiers of its manic ambitions to control power centers and has embarked on a journey with global partners.     


The HDAS is therefore being brazenly transformed by this clique into a vehicle for misadventures in international religio-diplomatic claptrap. The HDAS came into being in 2003 as a consequence of the great success of the first public meeting of the Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samiti (HDRS) in July 2000, which brought together on a common dais in Chennai around 30 important Hindu religious leaders of different sampradayas from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The writer too was instrumental in the conception and launching of HDRS, and therefore knows the goals and objectives which had been set for the HDRS.


The HDRS was launched in the immediate aftermath of Pope John Paul II declaring in November 1999, on Indian soil, his intention to plant the cross in Asia and harvest Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina and Sikh souls for Christ. The HDRS was launched as a beginning of a process to bring together Hindu religious leaders on a public platform as a visible signal of the Hindu community coming together to combat a menacing threat. The HDRS was intended as a high institution speaking in one voice in Hindu interest on Hindu bhumi. It was intended to look inwards.


The HDRS was soon taken over by the Chennai clique with the full backing of RSS Chennai; there was no follow-up to the first HDRS convention in 2000, to the bitter disappointment of some of the religious leaders who had entertained great expectations from this momentous gathering. One fine day in December 2003, the Chennai clique removed the veil off the well-hidden HDAS, and a new Hindu body came into being with Swami Dayananda Saraswati as Convener.


When the HDAS was created in December 2003, it was assumed that because it now brought into its fold Hindu religious leaders not just from the South, but also mahamandaleswars, mathathipathis and other leaders belonging to mathams and adeenams from across the country that were at least a 150 years old or older, the HDAS was an expanded version of HDRS with the same goals and objectives. The HDAS, it was believed by persons like the writer, would serve Hindu interests on Hindu bhumi and would be inward looking too.


The Grand Heist


This was 2003, a year before the arrest and incarceration of the Kanchi Acharyas. We do not know what lemon this clique, some of whose members flaunted their identity as bhaktas of the Kanchi matham as their USP, sold some of the acharyas to get Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a sanyasi from a non-traditional institution, to be appointed Convener of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha; but the lemon was sold successfully and Swami Dayananda Saraswati was made Convener of the HDAS.


Such was the influence of one member of the Chennai clique on a section of the RSS leadership that no questions were asked and no explanations demanded about the purpose or structure of this edifice. Members of the Chennai clique were individuals in their own right and prominent personalities in diverse areas. This group, in 2003, ’04, controlled the resurrected HDRS, the HDAS, the Thinkers’ Meet (a body of persons who the Convener of the HDAS and a former spokesperson of the RSS attested to as being intellectuals worthy of their attention and patronage) and influenced business houses, some mathathipathis, the RSS leadership in Nagpur and Chennai, the BJP leadership in Delhi, at least one declining English daily in the South, and a small but important section of public opinion. Their reach was formidable and their control over Hindu organizations, total.


It was but inevitable that this manic desire to influence and eventually control individuals, institutions, and important power centers would soon run amok. This clique was like an intoxicated Bakasura. Its conduct in the wake of Jayalalithaa’s asuric assault on the Kanchi matham and the arrest of the senior Acharya in November 2004 exposed this clique as nothing else could have done.


The Convener of the HDAS who enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the Chennai clique and already had his mind made up for him by the clique, brusquely refused the anguished demand to mobilize the HDAS against Jayalalithaa when the writer sought his darshan within three days of Pujya Acharya’s arrest; the RSS leadership and the Chennai RSS in particular was pressured by this clique into silence and complete inaction. Days passed and weeks and months crawled second after excruciating second, as the two Acharyas languished in jail even as all Hindu organizations went unconcerned about their routine chores and simply watched the mind-numbing tragedy that struck the hoary Kanchi matham.


The HDAS convened for the second time in Mumbai in October 2005, but without the Kanchi Acharya, one of the moving spirits behind its creation. The Convener of the HDAS, as if to make amends for not mobilizing the HDAS against the Tamil Nadu government, agreed to pass a resolution –


After a discussion of the sad episode of arrest and bad treatment of Kanchi Shankaracharya, a revered member of the Acharya Sabha, it is resolved that –


-        The arrest and the ill treatment of Kanchi Shankaracharya, the Head of the ancient and sacred Kanchi Kamakoti Matha is a matter of great pain to all the members of the Acharya Sabha present in the Conference. It has also deeply hurt millions of Hindu devotees in the country and overseas. The Acharya Sabha prays that the criminal court cases come to an early end with complete vindication of the Kanchi Acharya and his junior Acharya. The Sabha also prays for their good health and wishes them well.


-        A suitable law to be enacted to ensure that highly respected spiritual and religious Heads receive due respect and protection against any hurtful treatment 


The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha through no fault of its own, but because of the decision made by the Convener and the Chennai clique, was thus coerced into reneging on its promise to protect dharma and the dharmi. Hindus must pause to think what Christians and Muslims in the country and around the world would have done to Jayalalithaa had she done the same to a Tamil Nadu Archbishop or a revered Muslim cleric in Tamil Nadu.


The Chennai clique must accept a large part of the blame for exposing us as a cowardly and self-absorbed lot, long on words and short in action. While some of the Acharyas in the HDAS, particularly Pujya Swamiji of the Pejawara Matha, insisted on raising the issue in the second conference of the HDAS in Mumbai, and even succeeded in getting a resolution passed, however vacuous and useless, the organizers of the Thinkers’ Meet which included the Convener of the HDAS, refused to allow any mention, leave alone discussion on the issue, either in 2005 or 2006. The Thinkers’ Meet is today a jaw-me-dead forum where a happy time is had by all. 


The cataclysmic assault on the Kanchi matham halted this clique for a brief while. It could no longer strut around the country with its habitual self-satisfied smirk. But power is addictive, especially if this is power derived from controlling centers of power. The BJP’s electoral defeat in 2004 added to this clique’s woes and as more and more doors within the country began to shut, this clique, including the HDAS, had to go into forced hibernation; or so we believed.


Undaunted by the feisty resistance put up against the clique by a small group of determined Hindus, the Chennai clique, like Advani, refused to go away. The RSS leadership did not outlaw the clique but continued to back it to the hilt; the clique continued to enjoy the benevolent patronage of the Convener of the HDAS who also facilitated its efforts to stay on the right side of Advani.


As part of the pre-electoral exercise to promote Advani as Prime Minister in the 2009 general elections, the Convener of the HDAS participated as Chief Guest in a garish public meeting organized by the Chennai clique to promote the Tamil translation of Advani’s best-ignored autobiography. While one member of the clique embodying gender equality was happy to be seen beaming on the dais, the mastermind, as is his wont, stayed coyly behind the screens pulling the strings.


HDAS goes global


In retrospect, it would seem that the Chennai clique had begun intensive and prolonged interaction with Americans and overseas Hindus with diverse affiliations – Overseas Friends of the BJP, Indian-American disciples of globe-trotting sanyasis, non-Indian Hindus living abroad, friends of non-Indian Hindus who are becoming increasingly visible and vocal in some Indian ashrams, individuals in the American establishment especially the US State Department and US Congress, and a section calling itself non-Hindutva Hindu intellectuals.


Between 2004 and 2007 when the domestic climate was hostile to the Chennai clique, it scripted its come-back plot. In January 2006, summoning all its overseas contacts and reserves, the clique organized a jamboree in Gujarat to push for the creation of a “global” organization which would be the vehicle for its global ambitions. The January 2006 Gujarat jamboree led to the creation of that wondrous creature called Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony (GFCH); this happened exactly two years later – on 22 January 2008. The forced hibernation of the Chennai clique had ended with a flourish and also ended the hibernation of the HDAS. Within ten days of launching the GFCH, the Convener of the HDAS presided over the third conference of the HDAS in Chunchungiri, Karnataka, between 9 and 11 February 2008.


The Convener of the HDAS, as pointed out earlier, shares a symbiotic relationship with the Chennai clique. The Chennai clique pulls several organizations from out of its hat to serve its different ambitions. These forums also serve as parking place and positions for the clique’s sycophants and loyalists. Besides controlling some of the RSS parivar organizations, this clique created the the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, influenced the creation of the Thinkers’ Meet, has now created the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony, and continues to control the more or less moribund Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samiti.


Swami Dayananda Saraswati is a patron of the HDRS, Convener of the HDAS, financier of the Thinkers’ Meet, and the Hindu Founder of the GFCH. The problem for the traditional mathathipathis of the HDAS, for the Hindu bhaktas of these religious leaders, and for the Hindus of Hindu bhumi, lies in the Convener’s multiple roles and the global ambitions of the Chennai clique which comes with the Convener as a package deal.


The moral authority of our traditional mathathipathis, adeenams and mahamandaleswars lies in their unswerving commitment to the religious tenets and accompanying rituals of their sampradayas; they are the custodians of our religious traditions and heritage and they demand that their bhaktas live their lives as responsible inheritors of this heritage. The only dharma of Hinduism’s traditional religious leaders is to care for and protect their sampradaya and their bhaktas. They have to be and are inward looking. Our traditional leaders from various sampradayas are caste-specific, language-specific or region-specific. They are not global because they have no reason to leave the shores of Hindu bhumi. If the world has reason to seek their darshan, the world has to come to their door-step. This has been the way of our dharma traditionally and there is no reason to change this. Certainly, our traditional religious leaders will not cross the borders of Hindu bhumi to seek darshan of their bhaktas living abroad.


Perverting the very nature of the HDAS to make it global is the effort by this clique. The writer was compelled to go on the warpath against this clique to rubbish some of the resolutions that were passed at the end of the fourth conference which concluded on 11 January 2010. One of the resolutions reads –


5. It was brought to the notice of the Acharya Sabha, based on interactions with agencies inside and outside the country, that the Sabha has come to be looked upon as a welcome apex voice on behalf of Hindus all over the world. It was therefore necessary for the Sabha to plan its policies and activities accordingly. Ageing leadership of the Heads of Mathas and Peethas should ensure continuity and smooth succession by young disciples well-rooted in our culture and heritage and also well educated and trained to face the modern world, engage in scholarly debates and to participate in international conferences.


Agencies inside and outside the country, Apex voice on behalf of Hindus all over the world, ageing leadership, well educated, trained to face the modern world, international conferences, these ideas must make every Hindu sit up and rub his ears in disbelief. In an earlier column the writer had expressed a fear that there was a move afoot to create a Hindu Papacy and this resolution has proved the fear to be well-founded.


The Chennai clique and the Convener of the HDAS not only want young disciples as peethathipathis and mathathipathis (so much easier to manipulate and bend to their will), but claim for the HDAS the status of Apex Voice recognized as such by foreign busybodies. To prove the fear of converting HDAS into a Hindu Papacy with the Chennai clique as Cardinals-in-waiting, is the press-note issued by HDAS prior to the conference. Its opening paragraph inter alia states –


-        The decisions arrived at by the Acharya Sabha are therefore binding on Hindu Society


If the press-note struck an unrealistic note, the resolutions left a bad taste in the mouth. The unmitigated impertinence of diminishing the extraordinary and solemn process of choosing and anointing the next peethathipathi or mathathipathi to some kind of employment advertisement should send ring alarm bells in the ears of every Hindu nationalist. Hindu dharma, its bhaktas and structures, have to be protected first on Hindu bhumi. Ignoring and refusing to deal with the threats at home, but passing resolutions about irritations abroad, is to subvert the purpose for which the HDRS and HDAS were created.


Our traditional acharyas do not need to travel abroad to participate in international conferences. Intellectually invigorating discussions and debates on aspects of our religion and dharma have been a part of Hindu religious tradition and our leaders did not have to go abroad to do this. A member of the Secretariat of the HDAS some years ago shook his head despairingly at the inability of our acharyas to hold forth in English. Jawaharlal Nehru is alleged to have shaken his head just as despairingly when Babu Rajendra Prasad was proposed as first President of independent India. “How will he receive international leaders,” Nehru was supposed to have asked.


As one indignant Hindu thinker put it, it is the prerogative of free Indians to choose a mongoose to sit in Rashtrapati Bhavan. If the world wants to engage the Indian Rashtrapati, it has to engage with the mongoose. Another friend was not quite so elegant in her anger. “Hindus who know how to protect their dharma don’t need to speak in English”, she said. They only have to know how to throw a shoe unerringly at the enemy’s head.   


Our acharyas must act now to put the HDAS back on track to serve Hindu interests on Hindu bhumi.


(To be concluded…

(Next: International meetings and declarations by HDAS: What’s in it for Hindus?)

The author is Editor, www.vigilonline.com

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