A week after it floated a website exclusively for West Bengal, the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) claims it had received over 1,200 membership requests. Earlier this month, communal clashes had rocked Basirhat and adjoining areas over an “objectional” Facebook post.
At present, the VHP has around 11,000 members in West Bengal, including its offshoots Bajrang Dal (youth outfit) and Durga Bahini (women’s outfit). The numbers, according to VHP leaders are low but the atmosphere in Bengal is ripe for spreading its base.
http://www.vhpbengal.org was launched on July 19, as part of the group’s drive to promote “Hindu unity” in the state, which has seen a series of communal clashes since October last year.
The application process has been kept simple. Interested persons need to fill up five columns online, including name, contact number, email id, the district they belong to and optionally, their occupation.
Next, VHP cadres either visits the applicant’s home or arranges for a meeting outside, following which membership is granted. There is an annual membership fee of Rs 20.
The website gives out information regarding VHP, its programmes and ideology, in English and Bengali. It is also linked to the group’s Twitter handle and Facebook page.
Explaining the interest in the group, its organisational secretary (Bengal) Sachidranath Sinha, said, “Firstly, there is a sense of insecurity among Hindus who are looking to hold hands with any organisation which will hear them and give them a platform. VHP and Sangh Parivar are such platforms. We are trying to reach out to the masses and this is just one of the initiatives where people can connect with us. Secondly, through the website we aim to make people aware about VHP and its real work. Some sections try and portray a negative image of our organisation as Hindu hardliners.”
The year-round online membership drive is also a shift from tradition when such campaigns, known as “Hotichintak”, were an annual affair in November.
“It is for the first time that we have launched an online membership portal in Bengal. It is the quickest and easiest way to recruit members. Our aim is to reach out to especially the youth. So far the response is good. We have received over 1,200 membership requests in the first seven days. In nine days, we have received 1,349 requests,” said Sourish Mukherjee, spokesperson for VHP in Bengal.
But there is also another reason for going online.
“The ruling party and police have a clear Muslim appeasement policy. Our members are under constant watch. We can now recruit members without even visiting their homes thereby drawing less attention and no trouble for the new member,” said a senior VHP leader.
On July 13, VHP held a ‘Sant Sammelan’ in Kolkata and three resolutions were adopted. Firstly, irrespective of caste, creed and political affiliation, all Hindus should unite to protect their own interest and for their security during unrests. Secondly, a non-Hindu person cannot be made the head of any committee of a Hindu place of worship and thirdly, there should be a control over cow slaughtering in Bengal by shuttingdown illegal abattoirs in the state.