People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 11, 2007
The Yogi And The Fanatic
Will Eastern UP Be The Next Gujarat?
GORAKHPUR, a district in UP bordering Nepal and one which had reached national headlines during the anti-colonial struggle for its various militant interventions, is today making news altogether for different reasons. Gone are the days when the imagery of the nascent Indian nation had caught the imagination of the masses, and gone are the days when the region was reverberating with anti-feudal and anti-British slogans; all that is passé today. Today the slogans have achieved a majoritarian slant and talk of building a Hindu Rashtra or of making the whole area the citadel of a particular brand of Hindutva where the writ of only the local MP, who also happens to be the mahant of a famous mutt belonging to the Nath tradition, runs.
The unfolding scenario was once again evident to the outside world when this 'firebrand' MP, Yogi Adityanath, organised a three day international conclave named 'Virat Hindu Mahasammelan' on December 22-24, 2006, here. It was attended by thousands of people which not only included many leaders of the Sangh Parivar, but had enough presence of local sadhus as well as more than 500 delegates from Nepal. Ranging from Swami Nishchalanand Saraswati (the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth, Puri) to Ashok Singhal (international president, VHP) or Keshar Singh (an ex-general of the Nepalese army) to Chinmayanand (a former union minister), it had brought together a motley combination of sadhus, politicos and activists of the Hindutva brigade together to discuss the “challenges present before Hinduism.”
The congregation not only called for declaration of Nepal as a “Hindu state” and restoration of monarchy there but also resolved for the construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya, “liberation” of the Kashi and Mathura shrines, and ban on cow slaughter. It also criticised the Indian government’s stand on Nepal and said no political party was taking the Maoist activities seriously. The Mahasammelan also deliberated on the 'pathetic' condition of the Hindus in Nepal and the alleged activities of ISI of Pakistan there, which was supposedly spreading its network to create disturbance in India.
Another 'highlight' of the Mahasammelan was that it was organised parallel to the three day national executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party which was billed as the “party's grandest show of unity and strength in recent times.” And while the BJP, in its executive meeting, seemed to waver initially on the agenda of Ram temple construction at Ayodhya, the Mahasammelan --- which was in a sense a show of defiance by its own MP --- seemed to focus itself on these very agendas over which the BJP seemed to be going soft because of political exigencies. It is a different matter that at the end of its meeting the party itself discovered the “merits” of raising this issue and riding whole hog on a rabid Hindutva agenda.
PARALLELS WITH GUJARAT
The question arises: whether the ‘party with a difference,’ which wears ‘discipline’ on its sleeves, has decided to tail its own ‘defiant’ MP or it is part of a wider gameplan of the Hindutva brigade which has seen for itself the ‘success’ of this model in this part of UP --- a model which has the potential of making it another Hindutva laboratory? It is for everyone to see that the experiment unfolded in this part of Eastern UP in a time of declining fortunes of the Hindutva brigade, and has brightened its prospects in a miraculous manner.
It was a marker of things to come that when Gujarat was burning in the aftermath of Godhra, with the fire directed at minorities, Gorakhpur was not far behind. Many parallel instances of terrorising the minorities and razing their houses to ground, all under the leadership of this 'firebrand' Yogi, had then come to light. Loud proclamations of turning Gorakhpur into Godhra-Gujarat were also heard. In the post-Godhra bandh, a Hindu Mahasabha leader considered as the right hand man of the Yogi had in his speech declared: “If only yogiji permits us we will repay a hundred for each.” The local MLA, Dr Radha Mohan Das Agarwal, had defiantly declared: “Gorakhpur is a Hindu Rashtra. Yogiji is both its president and prime minister.” His speech was widely reported in papers.
In an article “Yogi: Danger to BJP” by Yogesh Mishra, in its issue of February 24, 2003, the weekly Outlook (Hindi) had unambiguously stated: "...the similarity of Gorakhpur and Gujarat does not stop at the identity of their initials. On a closer look, still more similarities have begun to appear... If there is a Modi there, we have an upcoming hero, the 'Yogi' here."
The said write-up also focussed on a similar international gathering of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh, which was held at Gorakhpur itself in February 2003. (It would be opportune to add that this was the same Mahasangh that organised the latest Mahasammelan also.) A point worth noting about the February 2003 Mahasammelan was that all the top RSS leaders had hastened to reach there. Despite his ill-health, RSS ex-supremo Rajju Bhaiyya as well as the VHP’s Ashok Singhal had made it a point to participate in the programme. Singhal was so overwhelmed by the success of the meeting that he declared the Yogi as the new symbol of the Hindu youth.
THE YOGI’S TACTICS
The power the Yogi wields over the top brass of BJP as well, was evident once again a few months later when the then deputy prime minister, L K Advani, accepted his invitation to Gorakhpur, a move that upset the state BJP leaders. These leaders were miffed when Adityanath opposed a BJP candidate in the 2002 assembly elections. By this swift move, the mahant thus forced other BJP leaders to attend his durbar tp pay their obeisance.
After all, what is so significant about the Yogi to have helped make him cynosure of all eyes in the Hindutva brigade?
Adityanath, who at 26 became the youngest legislator in the 12th Lok Sabha (1998) and got re-elected twice after that, has helped change the situation in and around Gorakhpur in a qualitative manner. It is the unique nature of his intervention which has on the one hand tried to carve out alliances, cutting across castes lines, by raising their economic demands and has on the other hand made him a ‘Hindutva Robinhood’ who only could redeem the Hindus of their sufferings. This is what has made it possible for him to widen his base. In this process he has been greatly helped by his long association with the Gorakshanath Peetham. His anointment to the mahant's post to this Nath Peeth, which has been very popular in this region for centuries and enjoys respect among mainly the subaltern classes, has definitely helped him in this ‘mission.’
While the ‘credit’ for transforming this area into a different sort of bastion of the Hindutva politics may be given to the Yogi, it needs to be noted at the same time that the process of gradual Hindutvisation of this peetham started only in the post-independence times and gained momentum in the 1980s with the beginning of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. It is a marker of the changed ambience that the city witnessed a communal flare-up in 2003 and today the city and adjoining areas have come under what is known in the lexicon of the statecraft as “communally sensitive zones.”
Gorakhpur is one of the few could-be-counted-on-fingertips areas where the BJP escaped the ignominy of being disrobed in public. The 34 years old mahant, Yogi Adityanath, won the seat for the third time in succession during the 2004 elections to the parliament. It is also noteworthy that his guru and the earlier mahant of the same Peetham, Mahant Avaidyanath, had occupied this seat for four consecutive terms before him. May we surmise from it that at least here the BJP organisation is so strong as to which save the BJP from the ignominy of defeat? The reply is: NO. A BJP public meeting at Gorakhpur on the eve of the elections, with such eminent personalities as Kalyan Singh (the prodigal son who had returned) and Rajnath Singh had proved a disastrous flop.
The reason is that Yogi Adityanath had kept himself away from the meeting on the specious excuse of going to Delhi for medical treatment of one of his relatives.
This is not all. During the election campaign the Yogi had also gone so far as to characterise the BJP as a party speaking in two voices and appealed to the people to oppose it. In spite of the fact that this BJP MP has built a parallel network in the area, the party, swearing by its discipline day in and day out, not only did not expel this MP; it did not even issue him a show-cause notice. On the other hand, theYogi kept enjoying the blessings of the seniors in RSS and BJP without any hassle.
The daily Hindustan (Hindi) ran the following caption on October 5, 2003:
Hindu Yuwa Vahini workers beat up for not picking up a quarrel with neighbours.
And the story was:
“Nautanwa, Maharajganj: Rambharat, a dalit living at Kadjahiya Tola, Chandanpur has alleged that just because he would not quarrel with his Muslim neighbour workers of the Hindu Yuva Vahini instigated somebody to pick up a quarrel and had manhandled him.”
A key feature of the Yogi’s Hindutva experiment is to always keep Muslims in focus and win over the dalits and backwards to his side. In order to organise the dalits against Muslims, he has made it a policy to interfere in all small or big quarrels between them and endeavour to paint it in communal black. There are no two opinions that the Yogi has succeeded in instigating anti-Muslim feelings from Gorakhpur, Deoria or Siddharthanagar to Baharaich. The geographical layout of Gorakhpur has also helped him in this. At one end it abuts on Ayodhya and on the other on Nepal. Like the RSS, the Yogi also keeps raising the bogey of ISI training camps on Indo-Nepal border. Everyday there is a plethora of propaganda in papers about an increase in the ISI activities through the madarsas on the Indo-Nepal border or about the “clandestine relations” between the ISI and the Maoists. Needless to say, all this is based on figments of their feverish imagination.
In their enquiry report titled "UP Ab Gujarat ki Raah Par" (UP On Way To Gujarat Now), the Uttar Pradesh chapter of the PUCL as well as another organisation called Insaaf had given a long list of the deeds of the Yogi who is out to become a mini-Modi. On the basis of this report based on on-the-spot investigations into the incidents at Mohan Mundera, Nathua and Turkmanpur, a representation was also made to the NHRC on July 5, 2002. This, inter alia, clarified how the Yogi gives lurid communal colours to what is after all just a criminal misdeed; the police and administration adopts a purely defensive posture before the attack and the result is that it engulfs the Muslim population in terror and insecurity.
The unfortunate fatal attacks on Muslims at Mohan Mundera in district Kushinagar on June 19, 2002, at Nathua (police station Pipraich, district Gorakhpur) on June 23 and at Pande Hata (Gorakhpur) on June 25, 2002 are links in the same chain. It may be mentioned that under the provocation of alleged rape of a backward class girl by an anti-social element who happened to be a Muslim, a mob of thousands of people attacked a Muslim locality at Mohan Mundera, setting the Muslim houses on fire, with Hindutva terrorists having a hand in it. There were also reports that after heaping destruction on the Muslims at Mohan Mundera, the mob descended on Nathua where there were some incidents of stabbing following the harassment of a dalit girl, and set fire to three Muslim houses here. This was preceded by a public meeting, and the locality was challenged and the attack mounted when sufficient strength was gathered. In this case a complaint was filed against some Hindu Mahasabha members and the rowdy Deepak Agarwal, a right hand man of the Yogi.
YOGI’S ROLE IN FLARE-UP
October 2005 witnessed a communal flare-up in Mau town on the eve of Durgapuja celebrations. It saw the killing of nine innocents apart from the hundreds of wounded people. While the rest of the world came to know of the controversial role played by the local MLA, Mukhtar Ansari, during the riots or the lethargy exhibited by the law and order machinery in controlling the situation, the aggressive role played by Yogi Adityanath was not much talked about.
In their report on the Mau situation after the riots, Saajhi Duniya, a group of intellectual and social activists, rightly noted (www.sabrang.com) the following:
“Whatever is happening in Purvanchal is occasionally discussed but there is no serious initiative to analyse the same. For the last one decade the aggressive activities of the heir of Gorakshanath Peeth and BJP MP, Yogi Adityanath, to organise the Hindus was clearly reflected in the riot in Mau. During the last decade the Yogi has made this entire area, specially the area known as Gorakhpur during the times of the British, his laboratory…...
“The maximum influence of the Yogi is in the 4 districts of Gorakhpur division (Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Maharajganj) and 3 of Basti division (Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Siddharthanagar). Now he is spreading his wings in Azamgarh division. Mau is a part of this division.
“The Yogi functions through different organisations which he calls cultural organisations. Included among these organisations are Hindu Yuva Vahini, Hindu Jagaran Manch, Sri Ram Shakti Prakoshtha, Gorakhnath, Purvanchal Vikas Manch, Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Mahasabha. The main functionary of all these organisations is only Yogi Adityanath…. the most vital organisation for the Yogi is Hindu Yuva Vahini. This organisation comprises mostly unemployed youth, small-time criminals and the youth struggling for an identity. For them any small event involving Muslims becomes very important. As soon as they receive the information of such an event, the workers of Hindu Yuva Vahini reach there as the messengers of the Yogi and later the Yogi himself reaches there. Most of their acts are destructive, like arson, destruction of property and beating. A lively example is the Mohan Mundera episode in Kushinagar. Here a Muslim boy raped a Hindu girl who died during treatment. When the Yogi came to know about this after 3 days, he reached there with his Vahini workers. The property of all the 72 Muslims families was looted, their houses put to fire, and a masjid damaged. The police remained a neutral witness. There are several such examples."
THE MAU EPISODE
The report also provided details about the manner the Yogi tried to aggravate an already inflammable situation. It tells us:
“When the Yogi’s effort to go to Mau with his workers, after the riots started, did not succeed, he held a meeting at Dohri Ghat itself where he was stopped. This polarised the Hindus and it affected the elections of district panchayat membership also. Not only this, it also emboldened the Yogi’s supporter in Mau and a wrong message of the mass-scale massacre of Hindus was sent to places outside the district. When Yogi Adityanath came to Lucknow in connection with a programme recently, he not only repeated the falsehood that Hindus were being massacred in Mau but also gave a warning of revenge.”
Delineating the inferences from the riot, it said:
--- The riot of Mau was the biggest and the most fearsome of all the riots, which took place here. For the first time the rioters organised themselves on such a large scale and executed violence in a systematic manner. The loss was also maximum so far.
--- According to the public at Mau, it was also for the first time that schools and hospitals belonging to the minority community were vandalised and large-scale attacks on mosques were made during the riot. This is a great cause of worry.
--- What was limited to discourses only is now a naked truth before us. Eastern UP is sitting on the mouth of a communal volcano and anything may happen any time here. The riot in Mau and the violence in the neighbouring areas clearly tell so. Just after the riot in Mau there were quick attempts to incite communal violence in Ballia, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Deoria, Meerut and Agra.
NEED FOR VIGILANCE
It is surprising that the 'Yogi phenomenon' which represents a significant addition to the Hindutva arsenal and which has furthered its hate agenda in a ‘creative’ manner has not received the proper attention it deserves. Apart from stray newspaper reports or articles in the mainstream magazines focussing on particular events, one has yet to come across a serious appraisal of the changes wrought in by the growing assertion of the Hindutva forces in the area. If the RSS-BJP can be construed as the first way in which Hindutva has unfolded itself, if the Shiv Sena's experiments in Maharashtra where it won a section of the OBCs to its side can be considered to be the second way of Hindutva, the Gorakhpur experiment can definitely be considered as the third way for Hindutva politics. It combines in itself many significant features of the Hindutva experiment and has larger ramifications for the country as a whole. One can clearly see that not only has it been successful in winning over a section of dalits and backwards to its side by demonising the Muslims, it also has cleverly helped the gradual Hindutvisation of a mainly 'subaltern' peetham.
Of course it is nobody's contention that it rests only on fear, a la the marauders of the Hindutva brigade that is active elsewhere.
The most puzzling as well as the most dangerous aspect of this phenomenon is that it has been able to achieve (to quote Gramsci) a “hegemony” of sorts among a large section of the Hindus.
It is time one wakes up to this strange situation where we have ‘little’ fascists who are popular also. It is time we see for oneself how a yogi can double up as a fanatic and vice versa.