Last year, when Yogi Adityanath was surprisingly picked up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for leading the newly elected BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, many supporters of Modi thought that the young, energetic head of a religious math in Gorakhpur (and also a member of Lok Sabha) would bring change in the stodgy politics of the state.
They have been proved right. What Yogi has done in his nearly two years of rule is to fast-forward India’s most populous state into a kind of proto-Hindu Rashtra, where all the features of a government based on bigotry and violence have been institutionalised, the economy has been ruined, India’s richest industrialists are hobnobbing with the state’s political leadership and joblessness is at an all-time high.
Yogi himself has so enthralled the Sangh Parivar support base that he is now the chief campaigner for Bharatiya Janata Party, touring state after state in the elections. In the process, UP itself has slid into a lawless night where crimes are at a high, targeted killings of alleged criminals by police is also at a high, and bigoted mobs can spill blood at the slightest pretext.
Bulandshahr, a busy agrarian city in Western UP, and just a few hours from Delhi, was the most recent example of where Yogi’s leadership is taking the state to. A mob led by the local Bajrang Dal head indulged in violence, ransacked a police station and killed police officer Subodh Kumar Singh after claiming that they had found cow carcasses in a field. Yogi first called it an accident, then later claimed it was a political conspiracy by the illegal alcohol mafia. But he revealed his real intent – and his bigoted thinking – by asserting that the killing of cows was the more important aspect of the matter.
Getting this clear signal, local police arrested four Muslim youth, who had to be let off for lack of evidence. Later, they picked up three other Muslim persons and blamed them for the killing of 25 cows. Meanwhile, the named leader of the mob, Yogesh Raj, a Bajrang Dal leader, is still absconding, even though he is sending videos of himself to the media claiming his innocence.
This incident comes in the wake of the killing of an Apple employee on September 29, in Lucknow by policemen for speeding past them.
Encounters as Anti-Muslim Weapon
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Media reports based on RTI queries and investigations show that since Yogi took over, there have been 2,351 shootouts in ‘encounters’ causing 63 deaths, spread over 24 districts, until August 4 this year. Far from being troubled by this upsurge in extra-judicial killings, Yogi’s government has boasted that this is a sign of its “resolve to clean up the state of crime and criminals.” In November, a worried Supreme Court issued a notice to the UP government over the encounters.
The Frankenstein’s monster of giving the police a free hand is now being challenged by an even bigger monster – Hindu fanatic lynch mobs that have been ravaging Northern India in the name of ‘cow-protection’ ever since Modi took over in 2014. And, true to his favourite saffron colour, Yogi is standing by the mobs.
The UP Chief Minister has also been active in demanding the building of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, giving fire-spewing speeches on this not just in UP but all over the country. He was active in arranging resplendent aartis on the banks of Saryu river in Ayodhya, arranged for the two congregations of Hindu seers that were held there and grandly promised that a massive statue of Shri Ram will be built there, besides the temple.
In the meantime, crimes against women have risen precipitously, as revealed by an RTI query filed by Sanjay Sharma, an RTI activist from Lucknow, according to media reports. The state government, in an incomplete response, said that there were 76,416 cases of crimes against women between March and June 2018. Compare this to the 49,262 cases in the whole of 2016, the last full year for which data is available. There has been a similar rise in all other crimes, but the matter of crimes against women is particularly notable because Yogi has constantly talked of protecting ‘behen, betis’ (sisters and daughters).
What this means is that the so-called drive against crime is in reality a drive against Muslims only. Most of the encounter deaths are of Muslims, mob attacks that the police ignore are against Muslims and the whole ‘cow protection’ campaign is targeted at the Muslim community, despite the fact that cow slaughter is banned in any case and rarely are Muslims involved in this. Yogi is actually carrying out a war against the minority community.
Dalits, among whom the biggest community of traditional leather artisans flays hides from dead cattle, have similarly been targeted in the name of cow protection. It is small wonder then that Dalits in UP have revolted against the BJP, as was clear from several by polls and local bodies elections in the past two years.
UP Economy in Ruins
The vast state has rapidly descended into economic distress of unprecedented proportions while Yogi is going about his bigoted agenda. According to Centre of Monitoring Indian Economy’s latest data, in August this year, unemployment was at a high of nearly 10%, with joblessness among 20-24 year-olds at a jaw dropping 26% and among graduates at 12%. Female unemployment was clocked at a staggering 32% in the state.
Agricultural wages are stagnating in the state, industrial wages have not been revised for 15 years, labour laws continue to remain hollowed out – in fact, further diluted – and yet, Yogi and his ministers, under the benign blessings of PM Modi, hold parleys and glamorous events hosting India’s top industrialists who promise crores of rupees of investment before taking the next flight out of Lucknow.
This is a snapshot of what happens when an unashamed bigot like Yogi Adityanath is given power, by none other than the Prime Minister. Both have ruined the economic systems, both have allowed fanatic Hindutva to rule the streets, both are clueless about how quickly the ground is sliding from beneath their feet.