Launching his usual venomous campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed a small rally of enthusiastic supporters in Bisada village of Gautam Buddh Nagar (Greater Noida) on the fringes of Delhi. The choice of this village was significant – it was here that the barbaric lynching of Mohd. Akhlaq took place on September 28, 2015, a sort of curtain raiser for what turned out to be a series of such attacks across the country, all in the name of “cow protection”.
Yogi, known for his communally charged and hate-inciting speeches, revived the memories of the incident himself – and went on to practically justify the lynching by saying that the sentiments of the majority community were suppressed by the then government.
"Who doesn't remember what happened in Bisada? Everybody knows it. How shamefully the Samajwadi Party government tried to suppress the sentiments then. I can say as soon as our government was formed we got all illegal slaughter houses stopped in one go and ensured its strict implementation," he reportedly said at the meeting.
Media persons covering the event were shocked to find four of the accused in the lynching case sitting in the front row and lustily cheering Yogi’s speech. Video footage of this is available. The main accused, Vishal Rana, can be seen leading the cheers.
What Yogi was saying was this: Hindu sentiments are supreme, even if they lead to lynchings or violence.
The village became known around the country after the attack on the home of 55-year old Mohd. Akhlaq by a 200-strong mob, fuelled by rumours that the family had slaughtered a cow and stored beef in their fridge. Akhlaq was beaten to death while his mother and two children were injured. The family pleaded for mercy and repeatedly told the attackers that the meat was not beef, but the mob was fired by bloodlust. Later investigations revealed that the meat was indeed goat meat, not beef.
Lynchings under Modi & Yogi
Since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, there has been a dramatic rise in cases of mob lynchings of people transporting cattle or on wild allegations of cow slaughter. According to a database prepared by IndiaSpend (in association with Newsclick), 123 such incidents have taken place between 2014 and 2019, leading to deaths of 46 persons in 21 states of the country.
Yogi, in his speech, claimed that since he took over as Chief Minister of UP in March 2017, no such incident had occurred in the state. However, this appears to be a clear falsehood because at least 13 incidents of violence by so called “gau rakshaks” (cow protectors) have taken place in the state in his tenure, in which six persons were killed and 30 injured, according to the IndiaSpend database, drawn from media reports.
In fact, such incidents have gone up since Yogi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government took over in 2017. In the preceding two years (2015 and 2016) five cases of cow-related violence had taken place in UP in which five persons were killed and 18 injured.
Yogi seems to have conveniently forgotten that only a few kilometres away, in Bulandshahr district’s Chingrawathi, a police officer Subodh Kumar Singh was shot dead on December 3, 2018, by a violent mob that set fire to a police post after cow carcasses were found in a nearby field. At that time, too, Yogi had sided with the mob, reportedly asking the police to first find out who slaughtered the cows.
This is BJP Campaign for 2019?
BJP has evidently hammered out a game plan for the election campaign – spread communal hatred to try and accumulate votes of Hindus. This strategy is being forced on them because their other planks of beneficiaries of Modi’s schemes and corruption-free India are not cutting much ice. Neither are measly doles to farmers or air strikes on Balakot.
While Modi himself is mixing up his usual sermons on Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, with chest thumping on Balakot and the whole chowkidar meme, Yogi and several of his ilk are on a rampage with their barely concealed attacks on Muslims. The speech in Bisada is the very essence of this strategy.
Bisada is located in the midst of the great sugarcane belt of Western UP which goes to polls in the first phase on April 11. This belt had been swept by BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, with the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party coming together, joined by the Rashtriya Lok Dal in this region, the arithmetic is heavily against BJP in the forthcoming polls. Sugarcane farmers are deeply angered by the continued practice of highly delayed payments from sugar mills, a practice that Yogi and Modi had trenchantly criticised earlier. Currently, some Rs.10,000 crore are owed to sugarcane farmers in the region.
What this strategy of communal polarisation means for the country is a horrifying possibility of descent into a bloodbath, either during the elections or afterwards. Some are reminded of the 1989 and 1991 elections, held at the peak of the incendiary Ram Janmabhoomi agitation.
There is, however, a silver lining. Remember that Yogi played this same role in the five Assembly elections held last year. He was BJP’s star campaigner, holding more public meetings than Modi or BJP president Amit Shah. And, like now, his remit was to inflame hatred and communal passions. Yet the BJP lost all the elections, its defeat in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan ending an entrenched rule.
Perhaps, the people have become wiser and Yogi’s Bisada launchpad will fizzle out in much the same way as in the 2018 Assembly polls.