Like every year we again will witness two major Hindu events soon : the Global Dharma Conference in Edison, New Jersey, and the World Hindu Economic Forum conference in London. It is commendable that events to highlight Hindu Dharma are being organised. Hindus are often seen as ineffectual and apathetic.
These events provide a much needed opportunity for exchanging ideas and finding the relevance in the modern world with ancient concepts.
The popularity of yoga, the health benefits of meditation, the spread of vegetarianism and the increasing awareness of Ayurveda demonstrate the validity of this. So on the surface at least we can admire the hard work put in at arranging such events, the planning, the logistics and above all the selfless graft of volunteers that allow such events to happen.
But we also need to ask some hard questions. To what extent, if any, do these conferences examine the problem of Hindus being persecuted round the world? Do we ever hear about the Hindu communities being oppressed in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, or even in India itself? Are there any speakers from the grass roots NGOs that work in such places at the risk of their very lives?While other communities have at least some aspect of this in which to highlight their respective treatment, the issue of human rights seems like the elephant in the china room at Hindu events such as the ones mentioned. Conferences of the aforementioned type treat human rights as a taboo subject, one best left alone.Instead we have to be content with nebulous topics of scant relevance outside a few ivory towers and utopian dreamers. At the same time Hindu temples get demolished in Malaysia. Hindu girls in Pakistan are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted.The same fate befalls Hindu females in West Bengal, Kashmir and Kerala: that is in India itself. Again we have to ask why are such topics regularly avoided? We constantly hear about the corrupting influence and anti-Hindu animus of Bollywood movies. Yet these events incorporate that very behemoth into their program to make it look more appealing. In that case why not just ditch the carbon copy and got for the real thing?
Do these high profile and lavish events ever touch upon the inconvenient truth of Hindu communities being oppressed in Pakistan where daily Hindus are forcibly converted, raped and killed, or in Bangladesh where during 1971 Hindus were slaughtered in their millions and are even suffering to this day? Hundreds of thousands of Tamil Hindus were killed and many massacred and wounded with Hindu temples deliberately destroyed by the Sri Lankan army.In Malaysia Hindu temples are destroyed regularly and Hindus are discriminated against by official government policy, something only known because of the hard work of lawyer Moorthy and his Malaysian human rights organisation HINDRAF.In India itself, Kashmiri Hindus are have been incarcerated in refugee camps for over 20 years after being killed and ethnically cleansed out of their ancestral homeland.Even now Hindu pilgrims on their way to Amaranth get attacked or killed yet this rarely gets mentioned. Hindus are also under attack in West Bengal where Hindu leaders like Tapan Gosh fight a lonely battle against persecution of Hindus in that state.
Are these conferences going to bring these issues at the forefront which unfortunately most Hindus themselves are not aware of because of their lack of any cogent strategy in dealing with these very real acts of persecution, oppression and violence?
With early registration fees for members of the public starting at $100, the Dharma Conference looks to be a lucrative money spinner on the lines of ticket only events for politicians. Not to be left behind, the London event is selling tickets at a whopping £200 a shot.Aside from being a nice source of revenue for the organisers what do such events actually achieve? Harsh but necessary questions which Hindus must ask. Aside from a few dances and uninspiring monologues, are these anything other than badly camouflaged Ponzi schemes?Instead of looking at the real issues such as Hindus being persecuted around the world, and that includes India itself, these organisers seem be on another planet. That would not be so bad if it involved elevating oneself to higher level of consciousness.However it involves the diametric opposite, with inflated prices to listen to useless small talk and feel warm and fluffy inside for a few hours. If that is spiritual awakening then perhaps we are better off without it.
Why is this? With such sizzling topics as “Contribution of Hindus to World Civilisation” one would expect something riveting, ground breaking and awe inspiring. Yet how many times have these badly produced amateur performed with the same recycled titles been used? At an endless number of conferences going back many years we hear the same lamentable and pathetic stuff.Now one of the major accusations has been that media, politics and academia has inherent anti-Hindu bias. Why have all these lavish events with their glossy brochures and utopian promises made not one impact?A case in point would be the Aryan Invasion Myth. All that is needed is one event with reputable scholars to debunk such an outdated and racist colonialist idea. But this again is scrupulously avoided, thus giving anti-Hindu polemicists an essentially free hand in the one-sided debate which they dominate. Yet just one event would make them sit up and take note.That is exactly how racism and eugenics, once the mainstream of the humanities and social sciences just a century ago, were tackled and neutralised. Not by avoiding the topic but actually dissecting it through meticulous scholarly effort.
So have these conferences and their organisers even thought of having workshops to examine these harsh facts? Have they made any concrete attempts to raise funds so that these initiatives in Hindu activism can be financed, as happens with other communities and lobby groups?
The sad fact is that the motivating factor is not Dharma itself but raising money. These people are on the whole astute commercial agents with an eye for cash. It is a no brainer as far as they are concerned. Call them exploiters but they can only operate in a climate that allows it.On this they rely on mindless sheep to buy their inflated tickets to what will prove to be just another road to nowhere. What will be the result of these conferences? Judging by precedent absolutely nothing. People will complain that they have wasted their money.But next time it will be repeated. Solemn promises will be made that this year things will be different. The only thing different will be the amount of money raised, and indeed perhaps on what that will be spent (which is anyone’s guess).
Crowd funding, web based commerce, news channel apps and a plethora of other innovations have changed the free market of ideas. If media is biased, set up your own. That is how alternative media has worked: from the person on the street filing with their phone to RT and Press TV using independent film makers to challenge western hegemony over news reporting and documentaries.Yet other than buying expensive tickets to useless dead end events have Hindus done anything similar? When they complain about lack of funds, there seem plenty when it comes to these mind numbing events. When they complain about academic bias have they bothered to set up their own institutions? When they complain about political bias, how many Hindu think tanks can you count?Instead they go an about how great zero was, how it came from moksha and how it changed the world. Yes, but zero is exactly the number of think tanks that exist. While being obsessed on symbolic issues such as yoga to the point of it developing into an unhealthy fetish, they put all of zero effort into areas such as religious persecution, poverty alleviation and highlighting human trafficking.Even if they do it is once again just symbolic or has a lucrative financial edge in an age when charity is itself big business on the template of that pioneer multinational, the British East India Company.
The sad fact is that organisers of such events are not interested in issues such as human rights, slavery and gender based violence because these areas are simply not lucrative enough. They cannot prove their financial viability. If you operate on the premise that greed is good, selfishness is a virtue, and that the truth is linked to the highest bidder then these issues regarding the socially marginalised will simply not be on the agenda.
So if you want to do something useful for Dharma please think again before wasting your hard-earned cash by throwing it into a bottomless pit known as the ‘conference’.