A large number of tents have sprung up on the outskirts of London for a three-day event from Friday to celebrate 50 years of the British version of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose chief Mohan Bhagwat arrived here on Wednesday, July 27.
The event, called “Sanskriti: MahaShibir 2016”, marks 50 years since the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) was established in 1966. Registered as a charity with regulator Charity Commission, it is headed by Dhiraj D Shah, based in Birmingham.
Bhagwat, who arrived with senior RSS functionary Dattatreya Hosabale, will live in a tent at the sprawling Hertfordshire County Showground near Luton, and address a gathering of HSS members and invitees on Sunday, July 31. He will then move to London for several engagements during his week-long stay here.
Shah said: “From a very humble beginning in 1966, HSS has grown into a national organisation with over 110 shakhas. During this period, we have ventured into diverse areas across the length and breadth of society, including religious, cultural, social, educational, intellectual, student, legal and of course sewa.”
HSS says it expects “over 2,200 Hindus from across the UK and Europe” to participate in the event, and they will have a busy schedule for three days. Organisers say “Sanskriti presents the very best of Sangh, from ‘khel’ and yoga to ‘baudhik’ and ‘charcha’”.
Topics for discussion during the event include “Geopolitical situation and how Hindutva is the solution”, “How can we shape the next 50 years”, “Yoga: beyond the mat”, “Spirituality beyond religion” and “Dharmic capital”.
The organisers say the open air venue in the countryside has been transformed into a fully tended township, with more than 400 tents, infrastructure built from scratch and amenities required during the three days.
According to Shah, the theme of the gathering is ‘sanskar’ (value of life), ‘sewa’ (selfless service) and ‘sangathan’ (community spirit). Every effort was made to use recyclable materials to generate awareness of environmental sustainability, the organisers said. The Hertfordshire County Showground said it was “delighted” to welcome HSS, but added: “Please note this is a private event.”
With an average weekly attendance of 2,000 at more than 110 shakhas, HSS has a presence in most parts of Britain. MPs with large Hindu populations in their constituencies – such as Bob Blackman (Conservative, Harrow East) and Barry Gardiner (Labour, Brent North) – support its activities.
HSS functionaries were involved in organising the diaspora event at Wembley Stadium addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his November 2015 visit. Several RSS ‘pracharaks’ and functionaries have travelled from India over the years to work in Britain for certain periods and some organisations of the Sangh Parivar have branches in Britain, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
According to the latest annual statement filed with the Charity Commission, HSS’s main objective is to advance Hinduism and “educate the public in the Hindu ideals and way of life”.
Its activities include setting up branches “where Hindus of the UK could congregate, provide facilities for training of body and mind and develop good character”, organise leadership courses and arrange lectures and discussions.
In February 2015, the Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry after an undercover investigation showed a teacher at a camp organised by HSS for children in Herefordshire making strong remarks against Christians and Muslims.
HSS launched its own inquiry, extended full cooperation to the investigation and said it will in future take “even greater care that no views are expressed from its platform that could directly or indirectly promote interfaith discord”.
In the financial year ending March 2015, HSS said its income was £201,381 and expenditure £201,332. One of its largest expenditures mentioned was for “Shakha – hall hiring”. HSS said in the annual return it rented part of its property in Birmingham to Sewa International, another registered charity organisation, of which HSS is the sole member.
British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Wednesday, one day after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against her plan to divorce Britain from the European Union.
Surviving the vote enables May to refocus on getting a Brexit deal through parliament. She has until Monday to offer a new proposal to the House of Commons, but it isn’t clear what she will propose.
Shortly after the 325 to 306 vote allowing May to remain in office, she invited party leaders for Brexit talks Wednesday night.
May said before the vote Wednesday that Britain would leave the EU on the March 29 target date, and that the bloc would only consider extending the negotiating period if there were a realistic exit plan.
Aides to the prime minister said she will try to buy more time and return to Brussels to try to cajole EU leaders into a renegotiation.
EU leaders have repeatedly rejected the possibility of renegotiations since the deal was concluded in November, but British officials hope Brussels now may offer enough concessions to secure parliamentary backing on a replayed vote on an amended deal.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, filed a motion of no confidence in the government immediately after the result Tuesday.
Britain would have held a general election had May lost the vote. Most analysts said they expected her to survive the vote, and the minority Northern Ireland party she relies on to keep her minority government in office had said it would back the government.
Tuesday’s vote was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers — including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative Party — refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.
The government’s defeat plunged into greater disarray Britain’s scheduled March 29 exit from the EU. Major questions remain about how and whether it will happen.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that after the British parliament’s rejection of a draft agreement detailing the country’s divorce from the EU, the risk of reaching the deadline with no deal in place is higher than ever.
The vote against the agreement was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers, including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative party, refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.
Just 202 lawmakers backed May’s deal with 432 voting against it. The defeat dwarfed the previous 1924 record when then-Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald lost a vote by 166, triggering the collapse of his government and a general election, which he lost.
After the vote, May said, “The vote tells us nothing” about what the House of Commons would agree to regarding Brexit.
The defeat of May’s plan will give further momentum to a burgeoning campaign in the House of Commons, and among Remainers in the country, for a second referendum, according to analysts. Remainers hope a replayed referendum would reverse the Brexit plebiscite of 2016, which Leavers narrowly won.
The vote on the deal — which originally was due in December but was delayed by the government when it became clear there was insufficient backing for it to pass — also leaves hanging in the balance May’s future as prime minister. Her aides maintained at the end of a day of high political drama that she wouldn’t resign.
“She is the person who has to deliver Brexit,” said British Business Minister Claire Perry, who said May didn’t need to resign.
“There will be other attempts at this. There will be strenuous efforts to improve on the deal,” Perry said.
The sheer scale of the defeat throws into doubt whether even a reshaped Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would secure parliamentary approval in the future, even if the EU is prepared to reopen negotiations.
“Her Plan B, more of the same, is hopelessly optimistic,” said commentator Isabel Oakeshott.
EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted when news of the historic vote broke: “I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening. I urge the UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”
EU President Donald Tusk reflected the frustration of many in Brussels, tweeting: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” (VOA)