The Yogi And The Fanatic: Would Gorakhpur be the next Gujarat?
21 January 2007
Gorakhpur, a district in UP bordering Nepal, 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 imaginary of the nascent Indian nation had caught the imagination of the masses; gone are the days when the region was reverberating with anti-feudal and anti-British slogans. Today, all that is passe. Today the slogans have achieved a majoritarian slant which talk of building a Hindu Rashtra, or talk of making the whole area a 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 in this city was once again evident to the outside world when this “firebrand” local MP, Yogi Adityanath, organised a three-day international conclave named “Virat Hindu Mahasammelan” (22-24th December 2006), which 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 five hundred delegates from Nepal. Ranging from Shankaracharya of Goverdhan Peeth, Puri Swami, Nishchalanand Saraswati, to the International President of VHP, Ashok Singhal, or an ex-General of the Nepalese army, Keshar Singh, to the ex-Union minister, Chinmayanand, it had a brought together a motley combination of religious sadhus, politicos or activists of the Hindutva brigade together to discuss the “challenges present before Hinduism.”
The congregation not only called for declaration of Nepal as “Hindu State” and restoration of monarchy there, but also resolved for the construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya, and “liberation” of the Kashi and Mathura shrines, and ban on cow slaughter. It also criticised the Indian Government stand on Nepal, and said no political party was taking Maoists’ 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 conference was that the Mahasammelan 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 seemed to waver initially on the agenda of construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya in its executive meeting, the Mahasammelan, which was in a sense a show of defiance by its own party 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” in raising this issue and go whole-hog riding on a rabid Hindutva agenda.
A question naturally 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 in a time of declining fortunes of the Hindutva, the experiment unfolded in this part of Eastern UP 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 terrorizing the minorities, razing their houses to ground, all under the leadership of this “firebrand” leader, had come to light. Loud proclamation of turning Gorakhpur into Godhra-Gujarat were also heard. In the post-Godhra bandh, a leader of Hindu Mahasabha, considered to be the right-hand man of Yogi, had declared in his speech, "If only Yogiji permits us, we will repay a hundred per each. "The local MLA, Dr. Radha Mohan Das Agarwal, in his speech which was reported in papers, had defiantly declared ,"Gorakhpur is a Hindu Rashtra. Yogijee is both its President and Prime Minister."
The weekly, Outlook (Hindi) in its issue of the 24th February 2003 (Yogi : Danger to BJP-Yogesh Mishra) unambiguously stated ".. [t]he similarity of Gorakhpur and Gujarat does not stop at the identity of their initials. On a closer look, yet more similarities have begun to appear... If there is Modi there , here is an upcoming hero 'Yogi'."
In fact, the said writeup had focussed on a similar international gathering of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh which was held at Gorakhpur itself (February 2003). It would be opportune to add that this is the same Mahasangh which had organised the latest Mahasammelan as well. A point worth noting about the Feb 2003 Mahasammelan was that all the top RSS leaders had hastened to reach there. Despite his ill-health, the ex-supremo of RSS, Rajjubhaiyya, as well as International working president of VHP, Ashok Singhal, had made it a point to participate in the programme. Ashok Singhal of the VHP was so overwhelmed by the success of the meeting that he declared Yogi as the new symbol of the Hindu youth.
The power, which Yogi wields over the top brass of the BJP, was evident once again a few months later when the then Deputy Prime Minister, L K Advani, accepted Yogi's invitation to Gorakhpur in a move that upset the state BJP leaders. These leader were miffed when Adityanath opposed a BJP candidate in the 2002 assembly elections. In this swift move, the Mahant, thus, forced other BJP leaders to attend his durbar for their obeisance.
Afterall what is so significant about Yogi which has helped make him connoiseur of all eyes in the Hindutva brigade:
Adityanath, who became the youngest legislator in the 12 th Lok Sabha at the age of 26 (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 through raising their economic demands and, on the other, emerging as a “Hindutva Robinhood” who only could redeem the Hindus of their sufferings, has made it possible for him to widen base. In this process, he has been greatly helped by his long association with the Gorakhnath 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 Hindutva politics may be given to Yogi, it need be noted at the same time that the process of the gradual Hindutvaisation of this peetham started in post-independence times only, which gained momentum in the 1980s with the beginning of the Ramjanambhoomi movement. It is a marker of the changed ambience that the City witnessed a communal flare up in 2003. Today, the city and the adjoining areas have come under what is known in the lexicon of the statecraft as “communal sensitive zones”.
Gorakhpur is one of the few areas that could be counted on the fingertips where BJP escaped the ignominy of being disrobed in public.The 34-year 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 for four consecutive terms before that, his guru and the earlier Mahant to the Gorakshnath Peetham Mahant Avaidyanath, had occupied this seat. Could we surmise from it that, at least here, the BJP organisation is strong and it saved 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 senior leader, Rajnath Singh, had proved a disastrous flop. The reason is that Yogi Adityanath had kept himself away from the meeting on the excuse of going to Delhi for medical treatment for one of his relatives.This is not all.
During the election campaign, Yogi had gone so far as to characterise BJP as a party speaking in two voices and appealed people to the oppose it. In spite of the fact that this official M.P. of the BJP has built a parallel network in the area, the party, swearing by its “discipline” not only did not expel this MP, but did not even issue a show-cause notice to him. On the other hand, Yogi kept enjoying the blessings of the seniors in RSS and BJP without any hassle.
Hindu Yuwa Vahini workers beat up for not picking up a quarrel with neighbourers. Nautanwa, Maharajganj: Ram Bharat, a Dalit living at Kadjahiya Tola, Chandanpur, has alleged that just because he would not quarrel with his Muslim neighbour, workers of the Hindu Yuwa Wahini instigated somebody to pick up a quarrel and had manhandled him. (Hindustan, 5 October 2003)
A key feature of the Hindutva experiment, engaged in by Yogi, is to always keep Muslims in focus and win over the Dalits and backwards to his side. In order to organise the Dalits against the 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 Yogi has succeeded in instigating anti-Muslim feelings in Gorakhpur, Deoria, Siddharthnagar 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 bogey of ISI training camps on Indo-Nepal border is also raised by Yogi. Everyday there is a plethora of propaganda in papers about increase in the ISI activities through the madarsas on the Indo-Nepal border, or about the clandestine relations between the ISI and Maoists, which is all based on figments of their feverish imagination.
The Uttar Pradesh PUCL, as well as another organisation — Insaaf — in their Enquiry Report, "UP Ab Gujarat ki Rah Par" (UP on way to Gujarat) had given a long list of deeds of Yogi, out to become a mini-Mody. On the basis of this Report, based on spot investigations into the incidents at Mohan Mundera, Nathua and Turkmanpur, a representation was also made to the NHRC (5th July 2002), inter alia clarifying how 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, resulting into engulfng the Muslim population in terror and insecurity. The unfortunate fatal attacks on Muslims at Mohan Mundera district Kushinagar on 19th June 2002, at Nathua (PS-Pipraich ) on 23rd June, and again on the 25th June 2002 at Pande Hata (Gorakhpur) are links in the same chain. It may be mentioned that under the provocation of alleged rape of a backward class girl by an ant-isocial element who happened to be a Muslim, a mob of thousands of people had attacked the Muslim locality setting their houses on fire. Hindutva terrorist had a hand in it. There are reports that after heaping destruction on the Muslims at Mohan Mundera, the mob descended on Nathua (PS Piparaich, district Gorakhpur) where, following the harassment of a Dalit Hindu girl, there were some incidents of stabbing. The mob set fire to three Muslim houses there. This was preceded by a public meeting, and when sufficient strength was gathered, the locality was challenged and the attack mounted. However, in this case a complaint has been filed against the members of Hindu Mahasabha and the rowdy Deepak Agarwal, a right hand man of Yogi.
October 2005 witnessed a communal flareup in Mau, based in Eastern UP, on the eve of the Durga Pooja celebrations. It saw 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 while 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): "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 heir of Goraksha Peeth, and BJP MP, Yogi Adityanath, to organize Hindus was clearly reflected in the riot in Mau. During the last decade, Yogi has made this entire area, especially the area known as Gorakhpur during the times of Britishers, his laboratory...”
The maximum influence of the Yogi is in the 7 districts of Gorakhpur Division (Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar, Mahrajganj) and Basti Division (Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Siddharthanagar). Now he is spreading his wings in Azamgarh Division. Mau is a part of this division.
Yogi functions through different organizations which he calls cultural organizations. Included among these organizations are Hindu Yuva Vahini, Hindu Jagran Manch, Sri Ram Shakti Prakoshtha, Gorakhnath, Purvanchal Vikas Manch, Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Mahasabha. The main functionary of all these organizations is only Yogi Adityanath. The most vital of these organizations for Yogi is Hindu Yuva Vahini. This organization comprises mostly unemployed youth, small level criminals and the youth struggling for identity. For them, any small event involving Muslims becomes very important. As soon as they receive the information of any incident, the workers of Hindu Yuva Vahini reach there as the messengers of Yogi, and later Yogi himself reaches. Most of their acts are destructive like arson, destruction of property and beating. A lively example is Mohan Mundera episode in Kushinagar. Here, a Muslim boy raped a Hindu girl and the girl died during treatment. After three days, when Yogi came to know about this, he reached there with his Vahini workers. The property of all the 72 Muslims families was looted. Their houses were put to fire. Masjid was damaged. Police remained a neutral witness. There are several such examples.
The report also provided details about the manner in which Yogi tried to aggravate an already inflammable situation. It tells us:
When Yogi’s effort to go to Mau with his workers, after the riots started, did not succeed, then he held a meeting at Dohri Ghat itself where he was stopped. This polarized Hindus and it affected the elections of district panchayat membership also. Not only this, it also emboldened the supporter of Yogi in Mau and the wrong message of mass-scale massacre of Hindus was sent to the 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:
* This riot of Mau is the biggest and the most fearsome of all the riots, which took place here. For the first time, on such large scale, the rioters organized themselves and executed violence in a systematic manner. The loss has also been maximum.
* According to the public of Mau, it was also for the first time that during the riot, schools and hospitals belonging to minority community were vandalized, and large-scale attacks on mosques were made. 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 communal volcano. Anything may happen any time here — The riot in Mau and the violence in the neighbouring areas clearly tell this. Just after the riot in Mau, there were quick attempt to incite communal violence in Ballia, Ghazipur, Azamgarh, Devaria, Meerut and Agra.
It is really surprising that the “Yogi phenomenon” which represents a significant addition to the Hindutva arsenal, and which has helped further 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 themselves on particular events, one has yet to come across a serious appraisal of the changes wrought in by the growing assertion of the forces of Hindutva in the area. If RSS-BJP can be construed as the first way in which Hindutva has unfolded itself or, for that matter Shiv Sena's experiments in Maharashtra which have won a section of 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 the Hindutva politics.
It combines in itself many a significant feature of this “L'experiment Hindutva” which have larger ramifications for the country as a whole. One can clearly see that not only it has been successful in winning over a section of Dalits and backwards to its side by demonizing the Muslims, but has also cleverly helped the gradual Hindutvaisation/ Brahminisation 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 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 are able to shed our old straightjacketed understanding of fascism, and see for oneself how a Yogi can double up as a fanatic and vice versa.
It is important to look at this fact with utmost urgency because the recent National Convention of BJP has demonstrated the growing fascination for Narendra Modi within the Sangh Parivar itself. And, it is logical that such elements would rather prefer similar faces elsewhere as well. And, despite his public infractions, Yogi is the best bet for them in the Eastern Part of UP.
Source: The Milli Gazette, 16-31 January 2007, p. 11