World Hindu Congress 2018 opens to great expectations

WHC Developer
14.10.21 10:34 AM Comment(s)

Date: 06 September, 2018

By: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Abhaya Asthana (L), President of the World Hindu Council of America (VHP-A), with Saumitra Gokhale

CHICAGO: When Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of the World’s Religions here on September 11, 1893, ‘Pagan’ India was still viewed as a backward if ancient subcontinent shrouded in exotic mystery for Americans. Hindus are a diverse, expanding, thriving Diaspora and their temples are increasingly familiar landmarks across this relatively new nation. The second World Hindu Congress 2018 that is being held from September 7 to 9 at the Westin Hotel, Lombard, Illinois, aims to commemorate, consolidate and propagate Vivekananda’s spectacular implantation of a global Hindu vision.

WHC 2018 is completely sold out with over 2300 delegates, of whom 1300 are from North America, 600 from India, and others coming from over 53 nations. Among the dignitaries to address them are Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu; RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat; Union Minister Nitin Gadkari; Prime Minister of Mauritius; Vice President of Surinam; Governor of Bali; Bollywood star Anupam Kher; Lord Jitesh Gadhia, the youngest Briton of Indian origin in the House of Lords; Swati Dandekar, a former legislator from Iowa; Congressman (D) Raja Krishnmoorthi; and Columbia professor Arvind Panagariya, a former economic advisor to the Indian government.The WHC mission is to “provide a global platform for Hindus to connect, share ideas, inspire one another, and impact the common good” under the philosophical banner of “think collectively, achieve valiantly” (sumantritésuvikranté). The seven parallel three-day conferences will cover economy, education, media, politics, and include separate streams focused on women, youth and temple organization.

The business track has drawn more than 600 delegates, followed by the women and youth sessions in popularity. More than 250 volunteers from Chicago, from across the U.S. and the globe, including the next 2022 venue Thailand, are contributing toward the logistics.

The Economic Forum fosters transnational collaboration among Hindu businesses, ensures them global market access, and facilitates entrepreneurial capital and mentoring. High-level executives from Indian, U.S. and multinational companies are participating in its various sessions, especially to promote Indo-American partnerships. Education Forum aims to impact the policy framework of the Indian government, improve administration of institutions, train faculty, introduce latest curricula but from an indigenous perspective, and secure a healthy campus environment.

Leading academics and administrators from India and the Diaspora are to discuss access to high-quality but affordable values-based education that includes the study of Hindu dharma, history and society. Media Forum aims to establish a vigorous Hindu presence across all forms of media, traditional and emerging, to “influence stakeholders in entertainment industry to correct the misrepresentation of Hindu culture and civilization.” A medley of journalists, bloggers, artists, movie directors and media house executives are to evolve strategies to ensure accurate, honest and unbiased reporting of events across the Hindu world.

Democratic Forum seeks to translate higher education and financial success into effective political participation both in India and the Diasporas, crossing party lines to safeguard Hindu interests, to develop support systems for politicians, and get young people involved.

Dis-emphasis on spirituality

Notwithstanding the dis-emphasis on spirituality, an entire track hosted, by the Hindu Organizations, Temples and Associations (HOTA) Forum, addresses the chronic disorganization of Hindu society by providing a unified institutional platform to facilitate collaboration, with the aim of subsuming regional, linguistic and denominational differences within an overarching Hindu identity. HOTA takes the temples as nuclei serving the needs of the wider community. A key concern is human rights violations around the world. Women and Youth Forums aim to harness underutilized talents through greater participation towards a Hindu renaissance, by fostering feminine and youth perspectives on contemporary challenges. Accomplished women from education, media, science and arts, will speak their mind. Hindu student and youth leaders from U.S., Europe, Australia, will confer on best practices, mentorship, pathways to leadership and community service to complement the other conference tracks.

Conference convener Abhaya Asthana, a scientist at the Nokia Bell Labs in Boston, who works on artificial intelligence and neural networks, noted that though Hindus have done well individually in North America, they do not have collective clout, a deficiency that the conference will deliberate on. “We are almost there in the social media, but we need more impact in politics, commerce and technology,” he said. The event is being keenly followed by many among the 1.2 billon Hindus worldwide, including 35-million strong Diaspora.

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