Monday, September 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘India Day’ in New York
Vajpayee shares platform with VHP
From Hari Jaisingh

NEW YORK, Sept 10 — It was unofficially “India Day” for all practical purposes in New York, the commercial capital of the new world, yesterday.

First, it was the Prime Minister’s date with Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and its “Vande Mataram” show. There was a touch of colour, with dance numbers by children followed by A.R. Rahman’s audio-visual called “Vande Mataram”.

Then ancient India’s Ayurvedic wisdom came alive for a short while during his second engagement — a conference on Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is the in-thing in the USA today. Its importance is recognised even by President Clinton, thanks to an Indian Swami who is said to have provided him a healing touch.

The Ayurveda conference was a simple show. It was not so well attended. With a few “experts” drawn from Delhi and elsewhere, the occasion did not call for a high-profile projection of Ayurveda as an effective system of medicine. The star attraction at the venue of the conference — Amphitheatre of the Fashion Institute of Technology — was Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The Prime Minister spoke glowingly about the virtues of Ayurveda. “It is not an alternative system of medicine; it is a full-fledged system which can work wonders”, he said.

The third glittering show was organised by the Indian-American community at South Beach, Staten Island.

Any guess about the organisers? Well, it turned out to be the BJP’s America face, courtesy Dr Mukund Modi, Mahesh Mehta and Baba Jain, who recently organised the Millennium Peace Summit at the UN.

Present on the occasion were the leading lights of many Hindu organisations — from the VHP’s Dr Ashok Singhal to Chinmayananda Saraswati (MP from Hardwar), Acharya Dharmendra Darji Maharaj, Jagadguru Jitatnanda, Swami Vlurgenanda and an array of spiritual and religious leaders who had last week attended the Millennium Peace Summit.

With the Prime Minister came External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Ambassador Naresh Chandra, Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh and other VIPs. The security ring was very tight and unprecedented for a visiting dignitary.

A handful of sponsored disgruntled elements staged a demonstration at an earmarked corner in the name of Kashmir’s liberation.

A large number of American-Indians were present to hear Mr Vajpayee. The sponsors of this spiritual-cum-political show were the Overseas Friendship of the BJP, the Federation of Indian Associations, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the Forum for Political Education.

Also present on the occasion was Dr Ashok Singhal.

In all these shows “India Day” could be easily dubbed as “VHP Day”. The VHP hand was very much there, and those present knew it. They did not miss the opportunity to applaud India for its glorious achievements. The religious leaders present on the occasion helped to create that atmosphere.

Perhaps, it was the first time that the Prime Minister had shared the platform with the VHP.

Rising to the occasion, Mr Vajpayee talked feelingly about the destiny of India and unfolded his dream of building a new India.

“India is on the threshold of change. If the people give us a two-thirds majority in Parliament, we will build an India of our dreams”, he declared.

Mr Vajpayee presented himself as the first servant of the people, and not as Prime Minister. “I am here to serve, and with the blessings of the great souls present here, we will do our best”, he stated.

The Prime Minister also told the assembled gathering that the Pokhran blast had ceased to be an issue. “Those who criticised India earlier no longer talk about it. They understand our position and hence do not doubt our intentions”, he remarked.

At times Mr Vajpayee talked philosophically and stressed the need for preserving “the good of the past” and not allowing ourselves to be blinded by the glitter of today’s materialistic world.

Earlier, the Prime Minister sought the blessings of the assembled sadhus. From all accounts, it was a pointer to the changing time, of the BJP’s, nay, the VHP’s, growing influence in America as well. It has attracted professionals and other successful American-Indians who do not hesitate to identify themselves with those facets of Hindu culture which are based on tolerance, compassion, understanding and love. The Hindu, nay, Indian, identity has arrived in the USA.

Interestingly, the swamis who spoke eulogised the virtues of Hinduism, especially its tolerance.

Swami Satyamitranand sought the BJP help in building a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Some of the swamis, including Dada Vaswani, praised the Prime Minister profusely and hailed him as the “star of hope, the man of courage and compassion”. The day indeed belonged to Mr Vajpayee.


PM spends day with adopted daughter

NEW YORK, Sept 10 (PTI) — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today spent the day with his adopted daughter Nandita travelling to Connecticut, three hours drive from here.

He has a relatively light schedule without any public engagement prior to his appointment with an orthopaedic specialist here on Tuesday for his knee problem.

No other public engagement has been announced for him till Wednesday when he flies to Washington. Dr Chittaranjan Ranawat, who will examine the Prime Minister’s knees, is away to China and, therefore, his opinion could not be sought earlier.

The knee trouble has forced Mr Vajpayee to speak while seated during all his public engagements since his arrival here three days back, the only exception being his five-minute address to the UN Millennium Summit.


Protest planned against PM

WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (PTI) — Some Christian organisations here plan a protest in front of Capitol Hill to highlight the recent attacks on missionaries in India while Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addresses the US Congress on September 14.

Stating that the Indian Christian Coalition of North America supported the unity and integrity of India, its representative P.D. John said in a statement that the demonstrations would denounce the alleged “religious extremism” and “anti-minorities policies” of the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

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