Anointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state has raised many eye brows. A peep into media’s reactions on Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as the 21st Chief Minister of UP.
According to American Newspaper THE NEW YORK TIMES the new regime in Uttar Pradesh “will resort to deadly Muslim-baiting to stay in power, turning Mr. Modi’s dreamland into a nightmare for India’s minorities”. The paper’s article also warns that “the appointment of a rabble-rousing Hindu cleric…sends an alarming message both to Indians and the world.”
How can readers forget hate crimes in United States of America are rising against Indians since Donald Trump assumed office? The Southern Poverty Law Centre, the leading monitor of hate crime in the US, recorded a surge in hate crimes across the USA in the 10 days after Trump was elected. Normally the daily hate crime tally is in single digits. It surged to over 200 the day after new President’s election and a total of 867 occurred in the nine days that followed. Many of the attackers in these incidents actually invoked Trump’s name. The New York Police Department also recorded a similar spike. Its Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said there was 115% increase in bias crimes right after Trump’s election victory.
There is no doubt that US President Donald Trump has denounced such attacks, calling for such attackers to “stop it”. But there is little doubt these are being given legitimacy thanks to a president who both during his campaign and in office has associated Muslim migration with terror attacks in the US, has railed against immigrants of all varieties and, worse, appointed people in his administration associated with white supremacist views.
Do we want to lean anything from the violence against Indians in United States, Australia and Europe or do we want the same in India? The writing is on the wall.
The FINANCIAL TIMES of London says, “Mr. Modi has served a worrying reminder of his dark past and raised legitimate concerns among secularists and Muslims that the BJP will now use its increasing dominance to drive a more muscular Hindu nationalist agenda ahead of the general elections in 2019.” THE GUARDIAN newspaper’s editorial cited above poignantly ends: “This is a nation that once was said to succeed in spite of the gods. Now it is going backwards because of them”.
To many, Adityanath’s swearing-in on March 19 may have seemed like a carefully worked-out plan, a return to the BJP’s hardline Hindutva agenda after a campaign promising development. However, party sources reveal that the yogi’s appointment was not a given. His selection had less to do with his Hindutva leanings and more to do with electoral calculation and the BJP’s promise of corruption-free government. Else, party insiders say, it would not have taken them a week to announce his name.
In the aftermath of their thunderous victory in UP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah were unlikely to have missed a worrying trend. The total votes polled by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party exceeded the BJP’s vote share by four percentage points. This meant that had UP’s two largest parties joined hands, they could have stopped the BJP’s victory march as Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar did in Bihar. Modi and Shah believe the entire Opposition will be ranged against them in 2019. A Bihar-style mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), which brought the saffron party to its knees in the 2015 Bihar state assembly elections, could well become a national reality in 2019. In UP, where the BJP scored its largest block of 71 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, this could be an insurmountable obstacle between Modi and victory. Hence, winning UP for the party in 2019 was one of the key pre-requisites for the candidates the duo scanned. The names included those of Maurya, Sinha and Rajnath Singh. All three leaders, including Rajnath Singh, were keen on the job, driven perhaps by the BJP’s brute majority in the UP assembly, which assured them a stable tenure.
Their names, however, were crossed out for various reasons. Rajnath Singh, 65, was seen as past his prime. Maurya was seen as too soft to be able to deal with the harsh political realities of India’s largest state. Sinha, 55, was perceived as intelligent but laidback. BJP president Shah was the most vocal proponent of Adityanath’s candidature. The prime minister was initially uncomfortable with the yogi’s name for two reasons. One, his polarising speeches clashed with Modi’s new ‘pluralist’ image and, two, Adityanath had stridently opposed him before 2014, when he felt Modi had gone soft on Hindutva. This was the time when Adityanath identified himself more with the VHP than the BJP. The PM gave his assent only after Shah brokered an agreement whereby the yogi would not only eschew ‘VHP-type Hindutva’ but also rein in his saffron followers. His primary task, however, would be to end corruption and nepotism. Modi and Shah believe that if Adityanath pulls the state out of its legacy of maladministration, the political message from India’s largest state could reverberate across the country.
On NDTV website, Chandan Mitra Editor of The Pioneer Group of Publications wrote, “ elevation to this position augurs well for the BJP. If Narendra Modi is to repeat his 2014 performance of winning 73 of UP’s 80 seats barely two years down the line, he would need an efficient, authoritative leader who can help the consolidation of Hindu votes. The no-nonsense Yogi has promised to ensure the return of law and order, the Achilles’ Heel of the previous regime. Although he is a Rajput by birth, caste labels don’t attach to a man of religion. As the Hindi saying exhorts: “jaat na poochho sadhu ki” (Ask not the caste of a holy man). A leader who is seen to be above caste biases will be able to push forward the BJP’s agenda of winning over non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits. This was largely successful in the party’s electoral mobilization in 2014, and the Yogi can be expected to widen his party’s outreach to these communities. His image as head of a Math which has always stood by the underprivileged will go a long way in firming up the pro-poor image Prime Minister Modi is building up for the BJP. Since the Yogi carries little political baggage, he can also be seen as being above internal factionalism.
All things said and done, this was undoubtedly the best and most unorthodox choice the BJP could have made in UP. In Narendra Modi’s long-term scheme of things, he needs someone who can retain UP for the BJP for many years to come. Although the Ram Mandir issue may have lost some traction, it is important to try and build a “Hindu vote” – something that has eluded the BJP all these years. Yogi’s task will be to ensure that Hindu consolidation does not take on an anti-Muslim complexion, for any communal conflagration will detract from the promise of good governance. But the level-headed man he is, Adityanath can be trusted to deliver promises made to the voters through a plethora of popular schemes so that both the BJP’s and Narendra Modi’s sky-rocketing credibility remains intact.
On NDTV website, Chandan Mitra Editor of The Pioneer Group of Publications was criticized by Mani Shankar Iyer of the Congress Party. He wrote, “Among the “solid reasons” adduced by Mitra for the Yogi being so “anointed” – (I thought kings, not sadhus, were “anointed”) – is that “the no-nonsense Yogi has promised to ensure the return of law and order”. I would applaud this decision if Mitra were to accept the principle of “setting a thief to catch a thief” as the determining parameter of “good governance” and “achche din”. For this “skillful organizer” who has “phenomenal control” over east UP is, according to the affidavit the Yogi signed before the Returning Officer on the eve of contesting the Lok Sabha election in 2014, currently booked or charged with the following criminal offences: “injuring or defiling places of worship”; “trespassing on burial spaces”; “mischief by fire and negligent conduct with respect to combustible matter”; “rioting with deadly weapons”; and even “attempt to murder”. What a suitable personality to restore “law and order”!
The “Yogi” has a personal army called the Hindu Yuva Vahini, notorious for its advocacy and practice of violence, and considered responsible for the arson that consumed the Godan Express when Adityanath was arrested in 2007. Earlier, in 1999, it was the same Yogi’s gangs that were implicated in the firing at a rally being addressed by a Samajwadi Muslim lady leader, Begum Talat Aziz. It is the Yogi’s excessive reliance on such vigilante squads that has endowed him with the notoriety of having launched “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi” and goonda-gardi in the name of “cow protection”. The Yogi further consolidated his doubtful reputation when he emerged as the fiery defender of those who had murdered poor Mohammad Akhlaq on suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. He has ever been the inspiration for goons taking the law into their own hands.
He is also an impassioned supporter of BJP MLA Sangeet Som who succeeded through a fake video in turning between 70,000 and 1,00,000 centuries-long Muslim residents of villages in the Muzaffarnagar area into refugees in their own country. And in a village near Varanasi, social activist Harsh Mander spotted and photographed a notice, below which was appended Adityanath’s name and designation as “sanrakshak” (protector or patron) and “MP, Gorakhpur”, apparently without any denial on the Yogi’s part, ordering all Muslims to vacate the village by the end of the year or face the consequences if the BJP came to power. Not only has the BJP come to power, the Yogi himself has been “anointed” Chief Minister. The Muslims of the village have been warned.
The Yogi is also the progenitor of “Vrihad Hindu” that is inspired by his calculated rhetoric: “Every time a Hindu visits the Vishwanath temple, the Gyan Vapi mosque taunts us”. (As the grand old historian, the late BN Pandey, conclusively established, Aurangzeb wreaked his fury on the Vishwanath Mandir because the pandas at the temple molested, and perhaps even raped, the Nepali Hindu princess who had been charged to the Emperor’s care. Alas, the Yogi’s “anti-Romeo” squads were not at hand in the 17th century!) Nothing withstanding, the Yogi’s clear agenda, in his own sweet words, is to “install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque” – subject to the proviso, “if given a chance”. As Chief Minister of UP, he now has his chance. Not just the Hindu Yuva Vahini, but the entire security forces of the state are there to enforce his threat: “When they could not stop the karsevaks from demolishing the Babri Masjid, how will they stop us from carrying out the construction of the mandir?”
Nevertheless, Chandan Mitra visited the Yogi’s Math, and finding some Muslim women among those waiting to present their petitions to the head of the Peeth concluded that this was proof positive that the Yogi really meant “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. Now, Mitra is too much part of the “English-speaking elite” (that he apparently loathes) to have not heard of the “Stockholm Syndrome”. The syndrome is defined by Wikipedia as “a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity”, marked by “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other”. Adityanath and his Vahini do all this and more. Mitra himself acknowledges – indeed points with pride – to the “phenomenal control” that the Yogi exercises over east UP, and how “without his support no candidate can hope to win from at least five seats in and around Gorakhpur”. And what are these minorities to do but surrender to the Yogi’s army of supporters who ominously chant: “Gorakhpur mein rehna ho to/Yogi, Yogi kehna hai”? They have doubtless heard Yogi Adityanath ordering Muslims who do not perform the Suryanamaskar to either “drown themselves in the sea” or go to Pakistan. Pakistan was also the destination he recommended to youth icon and Bollywood’s favourite star, Shah Rukh Khan, after comparing him to Hafiz Saeed. They have also doubtless heard his ominous threat: “If [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men”. (But, interestingly, not the other way around! Mohammad Akhlaq can be left to be lynched.)
As The Guardian (UK), in its editorial of 19 March observed: “Mr. Adityanath, now a powerful figure, is signaling that in India minorities exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood.” It then goes on to paraphrase the Stockholm Syndrome as applied to the women petitioners Mitra found huddled in the Yogi’s ante-room: “For some of India’s 140 million (sic) Muslims the threat is enough to see them debating to withdraw from public life to avoid further polarization.” No minority dares oppose the Yogi and his Vahini except at extreme threat to life and limb. Pressed into subordination and submission to the Yogi’s pledge that “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu Rashtra”, the Muslim women clutching their petitions are victims for the most part of the Stockholm Syndrome, not, as Mitra imagines, living testimony to the Yogi’s secular credentials.
As for the “long political tradition” of the Math that Mitra invokes, he forgets to tell his readers that the tradition goes back to the Math inciting the mob that burned down the police chowki at Chauri Chara (a village in Gorakhpur district) that caused Gandhi-ji to withdraw his first non-violent non-cooperation struggle in 1922. The Math and its Mahants have always celebrated violence and vigilantism and, therefore, were among the foremost Gandhi-baiters during the Freedom Movement. It was back in 1934 that Mahant Digvijaynath joined politics, took up a series of key appointments in the Hindu Mahasabha and launched a campaign to disenfranchise Muslims. It was the same Mahant who undertook a long religious ceremony at Ayodhya in 1949, at the end of which idols of Ram and Sita suddenly and mysteriously appeared (“swayamabhu”) inside the Babri Masjid, sparking the defining dispute between those who are the votaries of a “Hindu India” and those who believe in a secular, inclusive republic. Ever since Advani embarked on his infamous Rath Yatra, young Adityanath has been the voice of “Hindu assertiveness”. The Peeth “has long believed in militant involvement in politics as a means to achieving its religious and ideological ends”.
That last is a quote from a very distinguished Nepali correspondent for The Indian Express, Yubraj Ghimre (21 March 2017). I have deliberately quoted him because the Gorakhpur Peeth is an ardent supporter of the erstwhile royal family of Nepal, who have returned the compliment by being among the most generous patrons of the Peeth. Two months ago, the unceremoniously overthrown monarch of Nepal was “anointed” by Yogi Adityanath as “Vishwa Hindu Samrat”. Adityanath’s principal foreign policy objective (Sushma, watch out!) is the restoration of Nepal as a “Hindu kingdom”.
While we debate with the help of various columnists is still on we got the shocking news through disturbing video about a rash of racist attack on Africans in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh, a man is kicked, punched and beaten with steel dustbins by a large group at a mall.
The footage, apparently filmed on a mobile phone at the Ansal Plaza in Greater Noida, has been posted on Facebook by the Association of African Students in India.
“We kept crying for help, but no one came, not even the security marshals. I was running but they followed me and attacked me,” Enduranca Amalawa, 21, told various news channels. His brother Precious Amalawa, not seen in the video, locked himself inside a trial room but the attackers broke down the door and hit him with sharp objects. A third man, their friend named Chkwoma Igboamalo, was chased and beaten on the road.
In just 10 days after Yogi Adityanath anointment as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state has seen a lot of action. Meat traders, butchers feel the heat, shut slaughter houses in panic and go on strike. While the police was busy with anti Romeo squads, crime against women just notched a point further when some boys forced a girl to drink acid in a moving train.
It is too early and too premature to say anything about Yogi Adityanath’s firebrand politics and how the events are going to pan in the days to come. We leave it for the readers to judge what they think about Yogi Adityanath’s administrations jigsaw puzzle.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the authors. The facts and opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The Sikh News Express not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
28 Feb 2020
29 Feb 2020