www.sacw.net | October 7, 2004
HINDUTVAISATION OF A GORAKHNATH MUTT
THE YOGI AND THE FANATIC
by Subhash Gatade
The last two decades of the 20 th century have been witness to the coming to the fore of the careful and planned unfolding of what one sociologist calls 'spatial strategies of Hindutva'. Ranging from the then obscure looking Ayodhya focussed place / site based strategy in the early 80s to the shameful use of many religious Yatras or the n number of Political Yatras it undertook, it has thus taken under its ambit places / sites, areas as well as routes to spread the homogenising and hegemonic agenda of Hindu Rashtra . No doubt barring a few disasters ( like the recent 'India Shining' Yatra) this strategy has paid rich dividends to the saffron combine.
What can be considered the key elements of this strategy. The 'success' of such a 'place /area / route' centred strategy hinges around basically two things : one the particular site / place should be 'invested with a unique particularity' and two, the 'other' should be implicated in it.
The movement for the 'liberation of Ram Janam Bhoomi' which ultimately led to the demolition of a four century old year mosque and the biggest communal conflagaration in postinependent India to the periodic raising of tempers at Mathura / 'Krishnajanambhoomi' or Kashi Vishwanath Temple / Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi can be called the centrepiece of their activities in the 90s. But apart from focussing themselves on these 'sacred places' and further staking claim to 30,000 more similar shrines / mosques / mazars spread all over the country one was also witness to the playing out of the another type of 'place centred interventions' by the Hindutva forces which apparently had 'secular ' overtones. The controversy over the Hubli Idgah Maidan and the attempts to unfurl Tricolour over it had been a case in point.
Another type of such interventions can be categorised by looking at the changes wrought in at places / sites which claim a syncretic tradition. The homogenising / hegemonising project of Hindutva has continued with its feverish attempts to destroy the composite character of such places. Baba Buddhan Giri is a case in point. While a few such places have really succumbed to the 'hinduisation' drive but at many places it has been difficult for them to break the communal unity of the broad masses of the people.
A third category of 'place centred' interventions has involved the gradual Brahminisation / Hindutvisation of temples, mutts which had remained outside the Brahminical fold and had their genesis in the revolts of the subalterns in the medieval times against the stranglehold of Brahminism. The way the historic Veershaiva movement started by the great Basava as a cultural rebellion is being slowly coopted in the Hindutva fold or the way a section of the famous Nath movement is being coopted in the overall gameplan of the Hindutva forces is for everyone to see.
Definitely the efforts of the Hindutva brigade which has cleverly made plans, provided space, built networks or started agitations supposedly to involve them in their grand project have played an important stimulating/ catalytic role in their metamorphosis but these type of 'external' interventions cannot be said to be solely responsible for the ensuing changes. At times one has also been witness to the way the 'internal' dynamic also plays a role in their transformations. Apart from the rising political ambitions of the chief Guru whose influence is widespread, the internal squabbles among the mutts have also played a role in their transformations. At times the growing 'Sanskritisation' of the followers of a particular mutt has also rather forced the chieftains of the mutts to shed a few of its overtly nonBrahminical rituals or introduce a few Brahminical rituals.
This brief writeup focusses on the hinduisation / hindutvaisation of a famous mutt in Eastern Uttar Pradesh which has the potential of impacting the regional politics in a big way.
GORAKHPUR : THE 'SAFFRON CITADEL' ?
Adityanath , Date of birth: 5 June 1972, Political Experience: Won the Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and 1999 from Gorakhpur. In 1998, Adityanath was the youngest legislator in the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. The young yogi is the successor to former Hindu Maha Sabha president Mahant Avaidyanath at the Gorakhpur temple and is at the forefront of the Hindutva agenda. Education: B.Sc (Maths) from Garhwal University ...Pet projects: Education and cow sheds. His office proudly claims that the MP started 18 educational institutions including a polytechnic; and Gorakhpur has 15 cow sheds. ..His office claims he checked smuggling of beef from his constituency to Bangladesh.
Meet Hindutva's Young Flag Bearer TIMESOFINDIA.COM[Parul Gupta : FRIDAY, APRIL 09, 2004 02:23:18 PM]
Gorakhpur a distirct in UP bordering Nepal and the area around it which had reached national headlines during the anti colonial struggle for its various militant interventions is a pale image of itself today. The ascendance of majoritarian forces led by the Hindutva right on the national scence during the nineties has rather accelerated the process of its achieving a new status of a 'saffron citadel' with a local mutt belonging to the Nath tradition acting a harbinger of this change
Of course it cannot be denied that despite the poor response they received during preindependence times the area always remained a focus of Hindutva organisations, especially RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. Workers belonging to these formations were active in this region long before Independence also. The chain of the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs started by the RSS which later assumed gigantic proportions could be said to have their beginning here. The first school in the series started by the RSS was opened here in 1952. However, a combination of the strong democratic movement coupled with the long standing bond between the hindus and muslims in the area the city had never allowed the communal forces to ride roughshod over the civil society.It is not for nothing that despite provocation from fanatic elements neither the area witnessed any communal riot at the time of partition nor were there any riots in the post Babri Mosque demolition phase.
But things seemed to have changed for the worse of late with the emergence of Yogi Adityanath, M.P. of BJP and anointed successor of the famous Gorakshnath Peetham on the political scene. Officially he is the MP of BJP. However, according to the way in which the division of labour unfolds itself in the Hindutwa Brigade at present he appears his own master. It is now openly announced in Gorakhpur, Gorakhpur Mein Rehna Hoga, To Yogi Yogi Kehna Hoga ('Want to stay in Gorakhpur? Recant,'Yogi,Yogi,Yogi!') People still remember with alarcity how there were open threats in public meetings held at Golghar square, the main hub of the city, to make Gorakhapur the Godhra of Gujrath. These threats were issued to the minorities during the meetings held in the immediate aftermath of the infamous Godhara carnage. .
Adityanath who became the youngest legislator in the 12 th Lok Sabha at 26 ( 1998) and got reelected twice after that has helped change the situation in and around Gorakhpur in a qualitative manner. It is the unique nature of his intervention which has on the one hand tried to carve out alliances cutting across castes lines thru' raising their economic demands and on the other hand emerging as a 'Hindutva Robinhood' who only could redeem the Hindus of their sufferings has made it possible for him to widen base.In this process he has been greatly helped by his long association with the Gorakhnath peetham .His anointment to the Mahant's post to this Nath peeth which has been very popular in this region for centuries and enjoys respect among mainly the subaltern classes has definitely helped him in this 'mission'
Thus while the 'credit' for transforming this area into a different sort of bastion of Hindutva politics may be given to Yogi but it need be noted at the same time that the process of the gradual Hindutvaisation of this peetham started in post independence times only which gained momentum in the '80s with the beginning of the Ramjanambhoomi movement. It is a marker of the changed ambience that the City witnessed a communal flare up last year (2003) and today the city and the adjoining areas have come under what is known in the lexicon of the statecraft as 'communal sensitive zones'.
Unfortunately this region has remained on the margins of attention in post independence times for various reasons. In the times of the British rule thousands from this area were sent to different countries in the Latin America or Asia or Africa as indentured labour.There has not been any significant change in the pattern of migration even after independence.This area still witnesses large scale migration of people in search of jobs to the various metropolis. The problems of acute underdevelopment of area have become moe stark with the closing down of the Fertilizer Corporation of India factory along with the closure of 10 out of 25 sugar factories as well as the closure of a major section of railway workshop. It has added to the already existing woes of the youth here.
The dismal clout of mafia groups and their internecine killings also hung over this area which is geographically akin to Nepal. There was also a time when the city was referred to as the crime capital of Uttar Pradesh. It had earned this dubious reputation long ago when it became the hunting ground for warring ganglords some of whom later joined the greener pastures of politics and were also successful in becoming ministers in the state ministries. More than 50 lives were lost in the gangwars held between the different mafiosio groups.While the guns of the Mafiosio might have been silenced but perpetrators of overt-covert violence against the marginalized have not yet called it a day. Today many of them joined the sprawling brigade of Hindutva's soldiers with the likes of the Yogi at their helm.
YOGI AND BJP : DIVISION OF LABOUR OF A DIFFERENT KIND !
Gorakhpur is one of the few areas that could be counted on the fingertips where BJP escaped ignominy of being disrobed in public.The 34 year old Mahant Yogi Adityanath won the seat for the third time in succession during the 2004 elections to the parliament. It is also noteworthy that for four consecutive terms before that his guru and the earlier Mahant to the Gorakshnath Peetham Mahant Avaidyanath had occupied this seat. Could we surmise from it that at least here the BJP organisation is strong which saved the BJP from the ignominy of defeat.? The reply is "NO". A BJP public meeting at Gorakhpur on the eve of the elections with such eminent personalities as Kalyan Singh (The prodigal son who had returned) and senior leaders Rajnath had proved a disastrous flop. The reason is that Yogi Adityanath had kept himself away from the meeting on the specious excuse of going to Delhi for medical treatment for one of his relatives.This is not all.This official representative of the BJP in the parliament for the third consecutive time had even put up his own candidates against BJP's own with the result that the BJP nominees including the ex-Minister Shivpratap Shukla had to bite the dust. Dr.Radhamohan Das Agrwal who stood under the banner of Hindu Mahasabha but essentially was the nominee of the Mahant won with handsome margin. During the election campaign Mahant had gone so far as to characterise BJP as a party speaking in two voices and appealed people to oppose it.
In spite of the fact that this official M.P. of the BJP has built a parallel network in the area, the party, swearing by its 'discipline' not only did not expel this MP but did not even issue even a show-cause notice to him. On the other hand theYogi kept enjoying the blessings of the seniors in RSS and BJP without any hassle. Just last February (2003)the seventh International Mahasammelan of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh a broad forum of Hindus the world over floated by the predesseors of Adityanath was held in Gorakhpur under the auspices of Yogi himself. All the top RSS leaders had hastened to reach there.Despite his ill-health the ex-supremo of RSS Rajjubhaiyya as well as International working president of VHP Mr. Ashok Singhal had made it a point to participate in the programme. Ashok Singhal of the VHP was so overwhelmed by the success of the meeting that he declared Yogi as the new symbol of the Hindu youth.It was only last year that the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani accepted his invitation to Gorakhpur last year in a move that upset the state BJP leaders, who were miffed when Adityanath opposed a BJP candidate in the 2002 assembly elections. In this swift move the Mahant thus forced other BJP leaders to attend his durbar for their obeisance.
A glance at history shows that the mixture of religion and politics which permeated the entire country had its initial successful experiments in this region. The Goraknath Peeth which was confined in the pre-Independence period to a small area and mainly concerned with religious activities established organisations for educational and constructive works . However, the ambition of Mahant Digvijaynath who became a Mahant in the 50s was not restricted to spiritual activities only. He always remained at the centre of controversies on account of the various means employed by him for the expansion of the Math.Today the Gorakhpur Peeth owns vast tracts of land. He fought elections under Hindu Mahasabha banner and also became MP.
Mahant Avaidyanath succeeded him as the next Mahant. It was during his regime that this magnificient temple of Nath Sampraday joined forces with the Ram Mandir movement started by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. It did not create any moral dilemmas before the Mahant that the founder of the sect the legendary Gorakhnath and his path of Nath was dead against varna system and traditional ritualism and were against idol worship also.
After all what could be the reason for a rebel MP who had spared no efforts to destroy the foundations of the party is still attached to it. Why is the BJP allowing it to ride roughshod over its head and why is the RSS so enamoured of him.? Why does Advani, even after seeing that all his iron discipline is torn to tatters and why the local party workers thought it better part of valour to observe a pact of silence? Surely there should be some reason behind this.
The strongest reason is that there is no difference between the agenda of RSS-BJP or for that matter Yogi Adityanath. Essentially Adityanath is widening and deepening the same agenda of Hindutva further by ways and means which a 'responsible' political party like BJP cannot even imagine. An analyst put it right when he said that their is a 'division of labour' between Yogi and BJP. While Yogi is engaged in furthering the agenda quite ruthlessly cleverly exploiting people's respect for the Gorakhnath Peeth, the BJP has provided him with the 'parliamentary' cover to come out unscathed. What RSS-BJP could not do by their activities over half-a-century Yogi has achieved within a span of just few years. RSS policy makers can say how careful they are about their agenda.As an aside it can be added that it is not for nothing that the they had backed Congress in the 1984 General Elections. These were the elections where BJP was reduced to a grand strength of two seats. It is clear to any Hindutva follower that Adityanath is moreover doing it better than the RSS. All know that Adityanath is notorious for his defiant deliveries.
The mutual understanding of 'division of labour' which the RSS has with Adityanath is no different from that which obtains between it and other affiliated organisations .CPI ML(Liberation) feels that "Some people may be under the impression that activities of Yogi are independent of RSS actually the Yogi organisation is a manifestation of the RSS division of labour. ..The Sangh supreme K.C. Sudarshan had attended a meeting on Ayodhya held in the Gorakhnath Mandir on 4th December of the last year.(Recent incidents and the RSS struggle, CPIML(Liberation)UP Committee,2003 )
FURTHERING THE AGENDA : THE 'THIRD' WAY
RSS-BJP are very well aware if the fact that Yogi aims high and wants to be Bal Thakray or Modi of the Eastern UP. The weekly OUTLOOK -Hindi in its issue of the 24th February 2004 (Yogi : Danger to BJP-Yogesh Mishra) unambiguously stated the similarity of Gorakhpur and Gujarat does not stop at the identity of their initials On a closer look yet more similarities have begun to appear...If there is Modi there , here is an upcoming hero 'Yogi'.
Looking at it from the angle of the Hindutva agenda ( keeping aside for a moment the discussions about BJP's discipline) we find that the achievments of Yogi Adityanath are quite impressive.
-A glance at his activities would show that he had rushed into the vacuum created by the inactivity of the politicians of the other bourgeois formations or the growing marginalisation of left politics in the area.What is important is that he has his hand on the wrist of 'mass work'. Like a leader who is aware of the fact that he has a long inning to play he has dug himself in. In the 90s with the growing assertion of the Dalit-Backwards for a bigger slice of power, the RSS had witnessed the weakening of its appeal for unity of all Hindus.The rise of SP and BSP in UP has especially damaged its image and reduced it to a party of Upper Castes. The 'model' adopted by Yogi of carving out pan Hindu alliances and coopting the Dalit in the marauding Hindutva is an objective lesson for the RSS-BJP.
-During the last few years Yogi has woven a warp and weft of organisations about him. According to knowledgable people many an organisation like Hindu Jagran Manch, Hindu Yuwa Wahini, Kesariya Sena, Kesariya Wahini, Krishna Sena have come up.All these are working on the Hindu agenda.For example the footpath dwellers have been organised under 'Ram Prakoshtha' and those working on wood brought together under the banner of 'Bansfod Hindu Manch' (Woodcutter Hindu Manch). Interestingly the first drama presented by the Hindu Yuwa Wahini dealt with 'Conversion'.
-The political vacuum also attracts a portion towads the fighting spirit of Yogi who raises popular demands through it. For example he demanded that the rickshawallahs should be provided with dwelling places and was also forthright in asking for alternative employment for those who supposedly had committed 'encroachments' on the government land. It is not for nothing that small shopkeepers, footpath vendors, poor participated in large numbers in the Virat Hindu Sammelan held last year. He has used the age-old symbol of Hindu politics--The Cow-- on a grand scale in his political activities. He lays especial emphasis on preservation and development of cows.He is active from gifting away of cows to putting up 'goshalas.' Should there be any whiff of cow / bull slaughter he runs there and endeavours to hot up the atmosphere. In January 2004 he had enforced a 'city bandh' when 4-5 cows died accidently below a speeding truck.The pressure on the administration under the pretext of protection of cows is so intense that in Lakhmipur, Maharajganj it had a person arrested under the Gangster Act for beating up a bull.
-Every step that Yogi takes appears to be driven by the need of a politician out to play a long inning..He had presented a bill for protection of cows in the last parliament. Obviously, this leader leading his flock from a city in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh wants to administer a warning to those Hindutva forces who are active throughout the country.The activities of the Virat Hindu Mahasammelan also underlines this long inning. Besides Muslims and Christians the Communists were also branded as enemies of Hindus in this Sammelan. It passed resolutions calling for prohibition on cow-slaughter everywhere in the world where Hindus lived, putting a stop to the Talibani activities in the madarsaas on the India-Nepal border, total ban on conversion in all the states and putting up parallel bodies of theMahasangh in all places including the India-Nepal-SriLanka where Muslim, Christians Conversion missions are active.
It is also noteworthy that Yogi has also acquired a 'liberal' image for his 'extreme' politics by coopting an ex socialist to his side and making him a MLA.While Adityanath represents the 'extremist' Hindutva agenda, Dr. Radhamohan Das Agarwal, a paediatrician and a Hindu Mahasabha MLA, won over by him is the 'moderate' face of his politics.The speciality of Dr. Agrwal is that he is easily accessible,even today he is at his dispensary and even goes in his own car if there is an urgent call.He is present in lanes where the gutters for dirty water are being dug up. No wonder in the small place that Gorakhpur is he is a constant topic of popular talk.
-The media policy of Yogi Adityanath and his group is also noteworthy. He has excellent relations with all the reporters in the township. He holds frequent Press Conferences to apprise the public about his activities. It also happens at times that he and his subsidiary organisations holds as many as 10 press conferences a day on different issues.The way the news has been localised all these reports appear in the papers. There is an air in the entire township and the adjoining areas that everything is being done exclusively by them alone.
COOPTING THE DALITS FOR TARGETTING MUSLIMS
Hindu Yuwa Wahini workers beat up for not picking up a quarrel with neighbourers.
Nautanwa, Maharajganj : RamBharat, a dalit living at Kadjahiya Tola,Chandanpur has alleged that just because he would not quarrel with his Muslim neighbour workers of the Hindu Yuwa Wahini instigated somebody to pick up a quarrel and had manhandled him.
(Hindustan, 5 October 2003)
A key feature of the Hindutva experiment engaged in by Yogi is to always keep Muslims in focus and win over the dalits and backwards to his side. In order to organise the Dalits against the Muslims he has made it a policy to interfere in all small or big quarrels between them and endeavour to paint it in communal black. There are no two opinions that Yogi has succeeded in instigating anti-Muslim feelings from Gorakhpur, Deoria, Siddharthnagar to Baharaich . The geographical layout of Gorakhpur has also helped him in this. At one end it abuts on Ayodhya and on the other on Nepal. Like the RSS the bogey of ISI training camps on Indo-Nepal border is also raised by Yogi. Every day there is a plethora of propaganda in papers about increase in the ISI activities through the madarsas on the Indo-Nepal border 'or again 'The clandestine relations between the ISI-Maoist .Needless to say all based on figments of their feverish imagination.
When Gujarat was burning in the aftermath of Godhra with the fire directed at minorities Gorakhpur was not far behind. Many parallel instances of terrorizing the minorities , razing their houses to ground all under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath had come to light.Loud proclamation of turning Gorakhpur into Godhra-Gujarat were also heard. In the post-Godhra bandh a leader of Hindu Mahasabha and considered as the right hand man of Yogi in his speech declared, " If only Yogiji permits us we will repay a hundred per each."The local MLA Dr. Radha Mohan Das Agarwal in his speech which was reported in papers had defiantly declared ,"Gorakhpur is a Hindu Rashtra. Yogijee is both its President and Prime Minister ."
Uttar Pradesh PUCL as well as another organisation-Insaaf--in their Enquiry Report ,"UP on way to Gujarat" had given a long list of deeds of Yogi out to become a mini-Mody. On the basis of this Report based on spot investigations into the incidents at Mohan Mundera , Nathua and Turkmanpur a representation was also made to the NHRC (5th July 2002) inter alia clarifying how Yogi gives lurid communal colours to what is after all just a criminal misdeed ; the police and administration adopts a purely defensive posture before the attach resulting into engulfng the Muslim population in terror and insecurity.The unfortunate fatal attacks on Muslims at Mohan Mundera(Dt.Kushinagar)on 19th June 2002, at Nathua(PS-Pipraich ) on 23rd June or again on the 25th June 2002 at Pande Hata (Gorakhpur)are links in the same chain. It may be mentioned that under the provocation of alleged rape of a backward class girl by an antisocial element who happened to be a Muslim a mob of thousands of people had attacked the Muslim locality setting their houses on fire.Hindutva terrorist had a hand in it.There are reports that after heaping destruction on the Muslims at MohanMundera the mob descended on Nahua (PS Piparaich,Dt.Gorakhpur) where following the harassment of a Dalit Hindu girl there were some incidents of stabbing.The mob set fire to three Muslim houses there. This was preceded by a public meeting and when sufficient strength gathered the locality was challenged and the attack mounted. However, in this case a complaint has been filed against the members of Hindu Mahasabha and the rowdy Deepak Agarwal, a right hand man of Yogi.
This practice of fighting against the Muslims did not stop at 2002.There were a number of incidents which only go to show how Yogi Adityanath is at it -setting Hindus against the Muslims. Significantly, as the issue of Yogi's involvement in the MohanMundera and other incidents heated up and a demand was made for his arrest Yogi addressed a letter to Advani hinting at the alleged "..harassment of the majority by some unruly elements of a specified community and sudden increase in anti-national activities".He warned that if proper attention was not given and timely action was not taken it would lead to administrative difficulties.
On 3-ll-2003 Saturday night in a conflict at Ghati (TolaThawai,PS Bhatni) a young man (Mukesh Sharma-Caste Ironsmith) succumbed to heavy thrashing.received. The village had two houses of lohars (ironsmiths), two dalits and 80 well-to-do Muslim families. The incident was reported to the police. Some local miscreants were responsible for the incident and they happened to be Muslims.According to Press Reports on Sunday afternoon around One o' clock members of some Hindu organisations arrived on the scene. Slowly people from neighbouring villages also gathered so that there was quite a crowd.Then suddenly the mob attacked the minority locality ,started manhandling the members and setting their houses on fire. It is significant that the road for the firebrigade was blocked. Another paper had reported that these fireworks were well-planned.The firemongers had carried kerosene, diesel and petrol from the Ghati market and systematically ignited the locality from all the four sides. -When the police arrived on the scene they were seen running away on motor cycles. On 6th November they reported on the authority of the Supdt of Police that the incident occurred due to negligence of the SHO and police at the Ghati police station.
On 10 November 2003 ex-MP Aas Mohammd held a press conference at Gorakhpur . He unambiguously declared that Yogi Adityanath has become a problem .He is holding parallel court naming it 'Natural Reaction' process.
IN LIEU OF CONCLUSION
It is really surprising that the 'Yogi Phenomenon' which represents a significant addition to the Hindutva arsenal and which has helped further its hate agenda in a 'creative' manner has not received the proper attention it deserves. Apart from stray newspaper reports or articles in the mainstream magazines focussing themselves on particular events one has yet to come across a serious appraisal of the changes wrought in by the growing assertion of the forces of Hindutva in the area. If RSS-BJP can be construed as the first way in which Hindutva has unfolded itself or for that Shiv Sena's experiments in Maharashtra which have won a section of OBCs to its side can be considered to be the second way of Hindutva, the Gorakhpur experiment can definitely be considered as the third way for the Hindutva politics.
It is for everyone to see that in a time of declining fortunes of the Hindutva the experiment unfolded in this part of Eastern U.P. has brightened its prospects in a miraculous manner. It combines in itself many a significant features of this L'experiment Hindutva which have larger ramifications for the country as a whole. One can clearly see that not only it has been successful in winning over a section of dalits and backwards to its side by demonizing the Muslims but has also cleverly helped the gradual Hindutvaisation/ Brahminisation of a mainly 'subaltern' peetham.
Ofcourse it is nobody's contention that it rests only on fear a la the marauders of the Hindutva brigade active elsewhere. The most puzzling as well as the most dangerous aspect of this phenomenon is that it has been able to achieve ( to quote Gramsci) a 'hegemony' of sorts among a large section of the Hindus.
It is time one wakes up to this strange situation where we have 'little' fascists who are popular also. It is time we are able to shed our old straighjacketed understaning of fascism and see for oneself how a Yogi can double up as a fanatic and vice versa.
( The author is thankful to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi which provided the necessary support in undertaking this study as part of their 'activist fellowship' programme. Ofcourse they cannot be held responsilble for the conclusions drawn in the writeup)
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