By Sandeep Sahu
“The proof of the pudding,” they say, “is in the eating.” Well, the people of Uttar Pradesh – and the country at large – have had the chance to test the pudding for over a week now and found it utterly tasteless. Except for the congenital BJP haters, most people were willing to give Yogi Adityanath, the new Chief Minister, the benefit of doubt. “Judge him by his action and not by his utterances in the past,” appeared to be the prevailing wisdom when the Mahant of the Gorakhnath temple was named Chief Minister of India’s largest state. And judging strictly by his action during his first week in office, there is little doubt that the Hindutva rabble rouser, for all his ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ rhetoric, has no intention of changing his stripes.
The way his government has acted in the first few days, it would appear ‘illegal’ slaughter houses and eve teasers are the biggest problem in UP. Dozens of slaughter houses and meat factories have been raided and sealed, leading to a scarcity of meat across the state. Taking a cue from the priorities of the new government, the villagers of Dagrauli lynched a man they suspected to be a cattle trader. The decision to form the inappropriately named ‘anti-Romeo squad’ (why should street loafers be equated with the tragic lover immortalized by Shakespeare?) is not quite on the same footing, but it is causing consternation among unsuspecting lovers out on a date even as the cops belonging to the ‘anti-Romeo squad’ are salivating at the prospect of fleecing them –may be even expecting a pat on the back from the government for the ‘good work’.
Meanwhile, farmers continue to suffer from crop loss, people reel under the impact of drinking water scarcity, children suffer malnutrition and women in the countryside continue to be preyed by predator males. All of these are apparently ‘minor’ problems that can wait. Sorry Mahant Ji! This is certainly not what we understand by ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.”
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It is, of course, early days yet and the real intent – and purpose - of the Yogi government would be known only during the course of his five-year term. And yet, the first few days of the government do provide us a glimpse into the thinking of the man chosen to rule India’s most populous state. The presence of a lone Muslim – former cricketer Mohsin Raza – in his cabinet and planted stories in the media showing some of his most trusted staff are Muslim cannot hide the fact that the Adityanath government, just as the skeptics had apprehended, would be a government ‘of the Hindus, for the Hindus and by the Hindus’. There is little doubt now that the Yogi of Gorakhpur was chosen with the specific objective of turning Uttar Pradesh into Hindutva’s newest laboratory. Like their counterparts in Gujarat, the first Hindutva laboratory, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh would have to reconcile themselves to living as second class citizens, in perennial fear of the majority. The targeting of slaughterhouses as the top most priority of the government appears to be part of this grand resign because it is common knowledge that the vast majority of people running and working in these slaughterhouses – which, by the way, deal in buffaloes and not cows as there is a ban in force in the state on the killing of the latter – are Muslims.
By a strange coincidence, the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute, the pet issue of the Hindutva brigade, is back in public discourse even without any prodding by the new Chief Minister. Though Yogi is yet to present his road map for the next five years, it is not difficult to guess the issues that would get maximum attention from his government: the raking up of the issue of desecration by Muslim rulers in Hindu holy places like Kashi, Mathura and other places; the renaming of cities and towns named after Muslim rulers like Muzaffarnagar and Azamgarh; Saraswati vandana and Surya Namaskar in all government schools and so on. Issues like ‘Ghar Wapsi’ and ‘Love Jehad’, which have been in the Hindutva agenda in the state even before it won the election, are all set to get more traction now that there is a ‘favourable’ government in place.
The signs are ominous – and not just for the people of Uttar Pradesh. If the experiment on Hindutva succeeds in India’s most politically significant state, it would inevitably be extended to the rest of the country with disastrous consequences in the long run. The ‘Idea of India’ as we know it has never been in greater threat.