Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Saturday accused the Opposition of dividing the society along caste and community lines, PTI reported. Adityanath’s comment came amid intense criticism of his government’s handling of the Hathras gangrape case.

The chief minister claimed that the Opposition’s intentions were dangerous. “Division is in their DNA,” he told Bharatiya Janata Party office-bearers at a virtual meeting. “It was due to this thought process that they first divided the country, and are now attempting to divide the society on the basis of caste, community and region.”

Adityanath also told BJP workers that Opposition parties were “frustrated” because of the developmental activities undertaken by the state government and using “every trick” to defame his government. “The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which have ruled the state for 15 years, have only corruption and anarchy to count as their achievement,” he said. “For them [the Opposition], the interest of their clan is of utmost importance, while everything else is secondary.”

He added that the Opposition has “throttled democracy and the Constitution”, alleging that their development work was confined to speeches and slogans.

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The BJP leader claimed that the “actual development” started six years ago when the saffron party came to power. “Owing to all-round development, the popularity of BJP is continuously rising, and there is a feeling of positivity in the public,” he added.

Earlier this week, Adityanath had alleged that the Opposition was spreading propaganda to destabilise the government over the Hathras gangrape. He had added that his political rivals were using the rape to whip up animosity and create division in the society.

The UP Police also claimed that an “international plot” was hatched to provoke riots along caste lines and defame the state government. Their main first information report in the case, filed against unidentified people on Sunday, invoked 19 charges, including sedition. The police filed 19 FIRs in total across the state.

Bhim Army chief hits out at Adityanath over funding allegations

Meanwhile, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad on Friday criticised Adityanath for alleging that Rs 100 crore in foreign funds had been pumped into instigating violence in Hathras. Azad challenged Adityanath to investigate him.

“Leave Rs 100 crore,” he tweeted. “Even if Rs 1 lakh is found in my possession, I will quit politics. Else, you [Adityanath] resign from the chief minister’s post. My life is dedicated to the society and the society looks after my expenses.”

The Enforcement Directorate had also refuted any talk about the foreign funds. It had also clarified that there were no links between the Popular Front of India and Bhim Army.

The Popular Front of India, or PFI, is a Kerala-based Muslim organisation that is seen as radical and has been accused of terror activities. The Adityanath-led state government repeatedly sought to establish connections between PFI, the protests against Citizenship Amendment Law that erupted last year and the subsequent vandalism.

On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Police arrested a Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan and three others who were on their way to Hathras, alleging that they were members of PFI. All four have been booked for sedition.

The Hathras case

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested.

In the events that followed, the Uttar Pradesh government forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police, with the aim to stop the incident from becoming a focus of protests.

The case has become emblematic of the caste-based sexual violence faced by Dalit women in the state. As per the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, nearly ten Dalit women are raped every day in the country, with Uttar Pradesh topping the figures.

Despite initial medical reports pointing to sexual assault, the Uttar Pradesh government has repeatedly denied a rape had taken place at all. Some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders even alleged that the woman and one of accused were in a relationship.