Margaret Thatcher at the HSS function in UK
|Source: VSK Date: 4/12/2013 2:23:39 PM|
- Shankar Tatwawadi
Shrimati Margaret Thatcher, the First and the only Lady Prime Minister of UK (1979 to 1990) passed away in Ritz Hospital, London on Monday, 8th April 2013. Her last rites will be performed at St Paul's Cathedral in London on 17th April at which Queen Elizabeth will be present. The function will be held with State Honor. Very few persons have been thus honored. They include Princess Diana, Queen Mother and the legendary hero Sir Winston Churchill.
Mrs Thatcher was the longest serving Prime Minister of UK for a little short of three terms.She came from the Conservative Party and evoked mixed reactions for some of her policies and actions while she was the Prime Minister. The total crushing of the Trade Unions and the war with Argentina on the issue of control of Falkland Islands were some of her landmark decisions during her regime. She has been both praised and criticised for these actions. She is known as the Iron Lady of UK.
The Hindus and particularly those in UK have a special reason to remember Shrimati Thatcher because of her presence at the Sangh Function in UK in the year 1990 while she was the Prime Minister.
The occasion was the Makar Sankranti Utsav of the Finchley Shakha of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh in UK. Finchley is the northern part of greater London with a sizeable Indian population and was also the constituency of Margaret Thatcher. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) has a good network of Shakhas in London and Finchley Shakha was regularly meeting in a local school. Shri Ghanshyam Master was the karyavah of the shakha which has a regular attendance of about 20 to 25 swayamsevaks including youngsters and the youth. Shri Ghanshyam Master was a friend of the political representative of Shrimati Thatcher of that area. Ghanshyam ji had told his friend about the Sangh Shakha and its activities and had requested him to bring Shrimati Thatcher to see the shakha. The friend and through him Shrimati Thatcher knew about the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh as a non political cultural group imparting discipline and character building training. Because of her extremely busy schedule of political and administrative engagements, for quite some time she did not get the opportune time to visit the shakha.
In the year 1989, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh of UK had planned a very big gathering of the UK Hindus at a place called Milton Keynes, which is located about 70 miles north of London. The gathering was held on 26th and 27th August with almost 100,000 (one lakh) Hindus assembling for two days. About 30 religious leaders representing all the major Hindu religious sampradayas were present at this occasion which was inaguarated by Swami Chinmayanand of the Chinmaya Mission. Swami Satyamitranand ji Giri was the conveyor of this event. The speakers included Muni Susheelkumar, Doctor Swami of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, Shri Morari Bapu, Shri Rameshbhai Ojha, Sardar Samsher Singh. Swami Bhavyanand, Shri Chitrabhanu ji , Shri Maheshanand Giri ji and a host of others. Man Sudarshan ji, the then Sah sar karyavah also addressed the gathering. It was also the centenary year of Poojaneeya Dr Hedgewar.
The event was initiated with the chaupais and Geeta Chanting by Lata Mangeshkar and in the evening Shri Sudheer Phadke, Shri Anoop Jalota and other famous artists entertained the audience.
This was so far the biggest gathering of Hindus outside Bharat and the whole programme was a talk of UK during that time because of the discipline and the satwik nature of the programme. The mayor of Milton Keynes was the chief guest at the event and he had publicly spoken very highly about the function. It is a guess that the good comments about this Hindu gathering might have reached the Government and the Prime Minister because a few Members of the Parliament had also participated in the event.
We have reason to believe that this probably prompted the Prime Minister to visit the Sangh Shakha in her constituency.
It was decided that she would attend the Makar Sankranti Utsav of the Finchley Shakha. It was 19th January 1990.With a short notice of only a few days the arrangements were made. Sanghchalak Man Satyanarayan ji, and Karyavah Shri Dhirubhai Desai along with a few other karyakartas were on the dias. About 50 swayamsevaks and sevikas were present in full Sangh uniform consisting of black trousers, black shoes and sox and a white top.
There was not much of a protocol with the arrival of the prime minister because it was a semi private and non official function. At around six o'clock she arrived and was given a Swagat Pranam. She was escorted at the dias by the adhikaries. Bhagwa flag was hoisted. All did pranam (in UK they have pranam like a simple namaskar) and so the prime minister. The Sangh Prarthana was sung with lead and follow style. The prime Minister also stood in the attention position along with the other swayamsevaks during the whole prarthana time.
The Sanghchalak them welcomed the prime minister and presented her with a bouquet and then requested her to garland the picture (the bust) of Dr Hedgewar and she quickly adhered to the request. Could anyone have thought that a day would be there when the prime minister of UK would garland the bust of Doctor ji who was sentenced in India a few decades back because he was not loyal to the Empire?
A small demonstration of Vyayam Yoga by the swayamsevaks and Yogchap by a group of Sevikas was then presented.
After a chorus by all the sangh swayamsevaks Man Sanghchalak spoke about the importance of the Makar Sankranti among the Hindus and requested the prime minister to give her blessings to the swayamsevaks.
Shrimati Thatcher then spoke for about ten minutes. In the beginning she mentioned as to how lucky we all are who can enjoy this change of season.
She then spoke about the Hindu contribution to the world. She first mentioned about the concept of Zero (counting on her fingers, one to nine and then saying "naught" i.e. zero). She also spoke highly about the Hindu Family system and said that "we christians also have similar family bondage". She congratulated the young swayamsevaks and the sevikas for the good physical demonstration. She made an interesing jovial reference to Yogchap (the wooden musical item). A set of Sangh books was then presented to her along with a piece of Yogchap to practice. She was offered TILGUD and she obliged without any hesitation.
Then there was the lowering of the flag after the conventional Dhwaj Pranam and VIKIR, i.e. the dispersal.
The prime Minister then took a round in the hall meeting informally with the swayamsevaks and also the others present in the hall. She was very casual, informal and in a pleasant mood. The young 6-7 years old grand daughter of Man Bhaskar rao Gadre was among the audience standing along with her mother. The prime minister after approaching her, kneeled down and fondled her lovingly. The function thus came to an end. The adhikaries escorted the dignitaries up to the gate of the school.
It was thus a historical moment for the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, UK that a person no less than a stature of the Prime Minister of UK was present at one of the national festivals of the Sangh and gave her blessings to the Hindu youths.
The whole function lasted for about an hour. Fortunately a video of the whole event has been taken and is available at the sangh archives. An audio of the speech of Shrimati Thatcher is also preserved at the archives.
Finchley shakha is regularly held even now and is known as Pratap Shakha. It has however been shifted now to another nearby location.