Uttar Pradesh

Hindutva unmasked: Yogi Adityanath, BJP's most strident face, will be its chief minister in UP

The Gorakhpur MP has a well-documented history of provocative anti-Muslim rhetoric and serious criminal cases.

The newly elected MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party have chosen Yogi Adityanath as their leader of legislature party in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

Born in a Kshatriya family in Garhwal, Uttarakhand in 1972, the 44-year-old Adityanath has been the mahant of Gorakhnath temple since 1994 and represents Gorakhapur in the Lok Sabha. He contested and won the 1998 Lok Sabha election from Gorakhpur at the age of 26. Since then, he has continuously won from the seat, all the way upto the 2014 election.

Adityanath’s profile page as a Lok Sabha MP lists his special interests as “yoga and spirituality, campaigning for cow-protection and promotion”. His favourite pastimes are “gardening, religious discourses, bhajans and touring religious spots”.

A profile in the Business Standard in 2014 reported that Adityanath had sponsored five Bills as an MP. In 2009, he asked the Centre to pass a national law banning cow slaughter. A second Bill asked for the country’s name to be changed from “India that is Bharat” to “Bharat that is Hindustan”, and a third demanded ban on forced religious conversions. Asking for an Allahabad High Court bench in Gorakhpur and a uniform civil code were the other two bills.

Strident Hindutva

In a state with nearly four crore Muslims, where the BJP decided to field not even a single candidate from the minority community in the election, the chief minister-designate could be seen as adding insult to injury, because, more than anything else, he is known for his strident anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Over the years, Adityanath has established himself as the foremost firebrand Hindutva leader. His most recent anti-Muslim statement was an endorsement of the United States President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Two years ago, he wanted Muslim places of worship to feature Hindu deities. “If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque,” he was quoted as saying at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Virat Hindu Sammelan in Varanasi, by the Deccan Chronicle in February 2015.

He added: “Everyone, irrespective of religion, can come to Kashi but only Muslims are allowed in Mecca and Medina. This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world.”

In June 2015, responding to protests over the mandatory participation of government employees in the International Yoga Day, he said:

“Lord Shankar was the biggest Yogi who started Yoga. Mahadev (another name of Lord Shankar) lives in every particle of this country. So, those who want to avoid Yoga and Lord Shankar can leave Hindustan.” 

He added that those opposing the surya namaskar sequence of yogic exercises should “drown themselves in the sea”.

In August 2015, he asked Hindu parents to caution their daughters about “love jihad” by young Muslim men, playing to the notion that Muslim men were attempting to seduce Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam. He also expressed fears that “high Muslim fertility rates” could lead to a demographic imbalance.

In November 2015, he compared actor Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed and said the actor should go to that country if he did not like the atmosphere in India.

In January 2017, he said the family of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri by a mob that suspected he had kept beef at home, should face charges for cow slaughter and be stripped of the assistance they had been given after his killing.

This is not all. The chief minister-designate has repeatedly articulated his lack of faith in the law and order machinery. In an undated video, he is heard saying, “If one Hindu is killed, we won’t go to the police, we’ll kill 10 Muslims.”

In another undated video, he says: “If they take one Hindu girl, we’ll take 100 Muslim girls.”

Adityanath has had a running tussle with the state police and administration that he will now be presiding over, which has had to step in time and again to prevent him from visiting communally sensitive areas.

He has been called a “Bal Thackeray clone” and accused of instigating communal violence and riots in the past.

The details from Myneta.info, summarising cases against him as per his own affidavit at the time of contesting election, include charges of attempt to murder, criminal intimidation, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, defiling place of worship.

A long tradition

Adityanath’s predecessor as mahant of Gorakhnath temple was Mahant Avaidyanath, one of the key figures in the Ayodhya movement that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

Avaidyanath was the disciple of Digvijay Nath, the mahant of Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, who became the general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1950. He declared that if his party “attains power, it would deprive the Muslims of the right to vote for five to 10 years, the time that it would take for them to convince the government that their interests and sentiments are pro-Indian”, The Statesman reported on June 23, 1950.

Avaidyanath played a key role in the passing the 1989 resolution which asked for the construction of a Ram temple on the site of Babri Masjid. The Statesman reported in its edition of February 1, 1989, Mahant Avaidyanath of Gorakhpur pointed that the Quran prohibited Muslims from constructing mosques on the holy places of other religions. “And telling us to construct the temple in another place to avoid conflict is like telling Lord Rama to wed another Sita to avoid war with Ravana.”

Avaidyanath contested most of his elections till 1989 on a Hindu Mahasabha ticket. Only after the two saffron traditions merged that he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and fought the Lok Sabha elections of 1991 and 1996 from Gorakhpur on saffron party ticket.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.