A statue of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya | Commons
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This is the first time that ICCR, India’s external cultural agency, is holding an event in the name of the leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, BJP’s predecessor.

New Delhi: The BJP-led central government, which celebrated Hindutva ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s birth centenary last year, is all set to showcase him as India’s cultural icon to the rest of the world.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) will organise an annual lecture — the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Memorial International Oration — from this year, a move aimed at showcasing India’s soft power, sources said.

This is the first time that ICCR, India’s external cultural agency, is holding an event in the name of the leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, BJP’s predecessor.

Each year on World Culture Day — 21 May — an eminent personality will be invited to deliver a lecture on a related topic.

“This would be our mark of tribute to the eminent thinker and leader of modern India,” ICCR chairman Vinay Sahasrabuddhe told ThePrint.

Sahasrabuddhe said that Deen Dayal Upadhyaya should have been introduced to the rest of the world long go, but it was not done deliberately.

“He was a thinker and a visionary. The relevance of integral humanism propounded by him is not only eternal but also is applicable to all nations,” he said.

The first lecture will be delivered by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

When asked if Upadhyaya would be showcased as India’s cultural icon, Sahasrabuddhe said, “Yes, this is a way to pay homage to him.”

“The UNESCO celebrates 21 May as International Culture Day. We will…celebrate India’s soft power and it will be identified with Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s philosophy,” the ICCR chief added.

On cultural relations with Pakistan

Sahasrabuddhe agreed that for many years there has been no cultural exchange with Pakistan for “obvious reasons”. He said that the government has a policy that says sports and terrorism cannot go together.

“And sports is a kind of cultural activity,” the BJP MP said.

Meanwhile, the NITI Aayog is working with various ministries to frame a coherent cultural policy, Sahasrabuddhe claimed.

Yoga

The ICCR will hold a seminar in New York on 20-21 June, which will focus on wellness, spirituality and yoga. Various American universities involved in cultural exchange programmes with India will also hold events on yoga, said Sahasrabuddhe.

Besides, ICCR is celebrating India’s cultural relations with African countries on 24-25 May.

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