“Trishul sends a message that we should stand and fight,” says Swami Vigyananand
CHICAGO, IL: September 3, 2018 — Swami Vigyananand, founder of the World Hindu Congress (WHC), called for arming “the masses” with trishuls — short-handled tridents — saying, “You can’t kill with the trishul but symbols and ideas are interconnected by the law of association.”
Vigyananand, a Joint General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is described by The New Indian Express as “the brain behind” the WHC. After organizing the first WHC in New Delhi in 2014, he will attend the September 7-9, 2018 WHC in Chicago, where he will speak at a plenary session. According to The Financial Express, Vigyananand is “VHP’s in-charge of the event in Chicago.”
The swami, who elsewhere calls for establishing “a Hindu State,” made his comments in a May 2003 interview with India’s Outlook magazine. Responding to questions about the VHP’s trishul distribution program, he stated, “Who will protect the masses? Not the police or the army, they are unfit for it. The trishul sends a message that we should stand and fight. You can’t kill with the trishul but symbols and ideas are interconnected by the law of association. When the mind gets ready, everything is possible.”
He additionally praised the VHP’s adoption of a new trishul design — one made of stainless steel, with a black plastic handle, and less than nine inches in length so as to circumvent India’s Arms Act. According to the swami, “This is a handier model…. It slips conveniently into a pocket we have tailored in the plastic sash that Bajrang Dal workers wear…. It attracts more of the youth to enroll in the Bajrang Dal, and it’s a great morale-booster.”
The Bajrang Dal (VHP’s youth wing) and the VHP were both declared by the CIA’s World Factbook 2018 as “militant religious organizations.” For decades, the groups have jointly organized “trishul distribution” ceremonies. In April 2003, immediate past VHP chief Pravin Togadia (who served from 2003 to 2018) was arrested for “distribut[ing] the tridents among a gathering of 3,000 Dal activists” in Rajasthan in violation of a State ban. At the event, Togadia urged activists to “raise your trishuls and pledge that… you will destroy Pakistan and make India a Hindu Rashtra [nation].” After Togadia’s arrest, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) such as Venkaiah Naidu (currently India’s Vice-President and a reported guest at WHC 2018) warned that anyone seeking to ban trishul distribution would “face the anger of Hindus.”
According to reports by human rights groups, survivors, and even perpetrators, trishuls were widely used during pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and against Christians in Odisha in 2008.
For instance, after approximately 2,000 Muslims were killed in a multi-day slaughter in Gujarat, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, “The groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.” They further described how “attackers descended with militia-like precision” and “came armed with swords, trishuls (three-pronged spears associated with Hindu mythology), sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders.”
Subsequently, in January 2003, Togadia stated, “Gujarat has turned out to be a graveyard for secular forces.” Years later, in 2017, he demanded the word “secular” be stripped from the Indian Constitution as the first step to establishing a “Hindu nation,” stating, “This will ensure that only Hindus become prime ministers, chief ministers, judges, and police chiefs.”
The VHP continues its “trishul distribution” program. After one distribution drive in Gujarat in 2017, VHP leader Mahadev Desai stated, “The trishuls are not to be showcased at home. We have given clear direction to the youths to carry the trishuls with them.” Desai explained that the trishuls are intended to be used as weapons for “the Hindu youth to come forward to fight” against cow slaughter. He added, “We are also working towards controlling the menace of Love Jihad [an alleged conspiracy by Muslims to seduce Hindu women] and are setting up Anti-Romeo squads [groups which break-up romantic couples found in public spaces].” Over the past year, the VHP has also made headlines for attacking Christmas and Valentine’s Day celebrations in India.
“Swami Vigyananand embraces the goal of turning India into a theocratic nation where non-Hindus are unwelcome, at best, and murdered, at worst,” remarks Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “That’s why OFMI is joining other pro-humanity groups across the United States in calling for a boycott of Chicago’s WHC 2018. It’s billed as a benign religious event, but its founder and its keynote speakers — such as Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS — belong to militant religious nationalist outfits which sponsor pogroms against minorities in their mission to establish a Hindu theocracy.”
Valmuci adds, “Lest we have any doubts about the goals of the WHC’s organizers, we have only to examine Vigyananand’s stated mission.” He points to a 2014 presentation prepared by Vigyananand and published by WorldHinduNews.com (an outlet launched by Vigyananand and co-inaugurated by VHP-America co-founder Mahesh Mehta). Describing his “national goal,” the swami says, “We shall set up in Bharat [India] a Hindu State, which will be our nation-state. It will be a State which would be founded on Hindu ideals; which will conduct [its] affairs in accordance with Hindu values; which would work for the all-round resurgence of the Hindus.”