Celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson will reportedly attend an RSS-affiliated event in Britain next month, in what the group could flaunt as global endorsement of its strident brand of Hinduism that many in India oppose.
Oscar-winner DiCaprio and airline magnate Branson, both passionate advocates of meat-free diets, are among several invitees to a two-day meeting of the Hindu Swamaysevak Sangh (HSS), to be attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, a report in the opinion website DailyO said.
RSS sources confirmed that Bhagwat will attend the two-day ‘maha shivir’ (grand camp) being organised by the affiliate on July 30-31, but HT could not independently verify the guest list, which also includes Sir David Attenborough, a celebrated British broadcaster. DiCaprio is yet to respond to an email sent by HT seeking confirmation of his participation in the event.
“Bhagwat ji was invited by the HSS, which has been working there for years. It will be the largest gathering of Hindus in the UK that he will address,” a Sangh leader said.
This is the golden jubilee year of the HSS, UK. Yearlong celebrations, planned to mark the event, include a residential gathering of over 2200 Hindus from across the UK and Europe at Hertfordshire County Show Ground.
The RSS – considered the ruling BJP’s ideological mentor – has been pushing for a country-wide ban on beef eating and slaughter of cow, as well as backing a socio-cultural way of life that many consider intolerant of freedom of choice, speech and other faiths.
DiCaprio, one of Hollywood’s most famous stars who won the Oscar this year for role as a bear hunter in the epic survival film Revenant, had earlier produced ‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret’, a documentary chronicling the animal agriculture industry’s allegedly cruel practices.
Branson, on the other hand, last year announced plans to start a ‘vegan airline’.
The report, however, did not say whether they have agreed to attend the conclave.
During his UK visit, Bhagwat will also meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the symbolic head of the world’s Anglican Christians, the report added.
The HSS has been working in Britain since 1968 to propagate the right-wing organisation’s views among the diaspora.
It was under the scanner last year when the British government launched a probe into its activities after a “disturbing” footage showed a teacher on camera making anti-Muslim and Christian remarks at a camp organised by it.
In 2004, Awaaz: South Asia Watch Limited—a London-based watchgroup -- submitted a report to the British Parliament alleging that millions of pounds collected as charity for victims of the 2001 Gujarat quake and the 1999 Odisha super-cyclone were used to fund Sangh organisations in India.
The allegations were dismissed by Sangh functionaries, who clarified that the HSS only works with the diaspora on cultural issues, allowing people to retain ties with India through social programmes.
“The venue will be transformed into a fully tented (over 400 tents) township, building all facilities and amenities. The theme of this historic gathering is Sanskaar (values of life), Sewa (selfless service) and Sangathan (community spirit). Every effort is made to use recyclable materials in the construction of site and activities (avoiding plastic materials),” says the HSS on its website about the event.