By Subhashini Ali, 28 February, 2007, Countercurrents.org
The Hindu Mahasabha-BJP MP from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath, makes no attempt to mask his intentions with civilities and double-talk. He calls upon the majority community to recognize Muslims as the enemy and to utilize every opportunity to attack them. He has created his own organization, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, which has branches in almost every village, small town and district headquarter of Eastern UP. The members of this organization are mostly unemployed and lumpen youth. The organization has targeted poor youths belonging to the Scheduled and Backward Castes who now throng to its banner in the hope of gaining status and prosperity. Every incident that can be utilized to create communal tension is utilized by the Vahini members with the full support of the Yogi. As Dr. Hari Om, IAS, who was recently removed from his post of DM, Gorakhpur, said in an interview to the Hindi edition of 'Outlook' – "I learnt in my two years as DM Gorakhpur that Yogi is a religious leader and MP who wants to be involved in every incident in the area in a dominating fashion. He wants the Hindu community to accept his as their uncontested leader and also the Muslims as their enemies. They should
give him donations and gifts during every ceremony. .He utilizes all big and small events regularly. He inflates non-issues into issues and gives them a communal colour. Giving small and stray incidents involving Muslims like a minor fight, or a case of eve teasing or water flowing from one house in front of another house or shop a communal colour has become a habit with him."
As a result of the Yogi's activities, eastern districts of UP like Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria and Gonda resemble a communal tinderbox today. Every year, several incidents of attacks on Muslims in one or several of these districts take place. Often cattle being take to fairs or bought in Haryana by both Muslim and Hindu farmers are forcibly taken away by the Yogi who alleges that these are going to be slaughtered and they are then distributed amongst his followers. Every such incident serves to underline the fact that he is a law unto himself and that he and his followers can act with impunity. They can burn, attack and physically
assault as and when they please without facing any administrative action of any kind. This is a pattern established over the years in spite of the fact that there have been Governments of all hues in this time-span. A few police and administrative have to their credit tried to carry out their constitutional duties but they have usually paid the price of ignominious transfers as a result. The reason for this is that the Yogi is the only mathadhish (head of a math) in the country belonging to the Thakur caste and almost all political leaders belonging to his caste treat him with reverence and deference. They also ensure that the party to which they belong behaves in a similar fashion when it is in power. As a result, the Yogi has become a political force on his own. He regularly puts up candidates against the BJP and ensures their victories.
The CPI(M) has been campaigning against the Yogi and his activities for some time now. In June 2005, it organized a massive rally in the heart of Gorakhpur city against his vicious brand of politics. The sound of slogans and the sight of banners against communalism and for secularism, unity and development were seen and heard for the first time in years in Gorakhpur and its neighbouring districts. The CPI(M) campaign and rally were welcomed by many. Newspapers commented on the fact that this was the first time any political party had dared to take the Yogi on. He also reacted by holding press conferences and public meetings in which he attacked the CPI(M) in the most intemperate language.
In January of this year, a few days before Moharram, a minor incident of a Muslim boy misbehaving with a Hindu girl occurred. The police intervened and the boy was punished in front of members of his community who welcomed this. Despite this, the Yogi tried to capitalize on this issue and engineer a clash but the administration acted firmly. But the extremely
well-organised rumour-mongering that followed ('Our Hindu sisters are being molested by muslims and the administrative officers look on like transvestites' etc.) was extremely inflammatory. On the night of the 26th, a fight broke out during a wedding reception organized by a history-sheeter member of the Yuva Vahini in the course of which shots were fired. Unfortunately, a local Moharram procession was passing that way and four Muslim boys were got gunshot injuries. In the chaos that ensued, one of the boys at the reception who was also involved in the fight, Rajkumar Agrahari, ran onto the road and was beaten up. Next day, he succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. Yogi started a dharna at the place that the clash had occurred and highly inflammatory speeches were made and slogans raised. His followers set fire to a nearby mazaar but the police intervened to put it out. Then curfew was imposed. Those involved in assaulting Rajkumar were arrested immediately after this but since the Yogi was determined to foment trouble, he tried to break the curfew next day and was then arrested. When it became apparent after a few hours that he was not going to be released, his followers went on the rampage burning and looting Muslim homes and shops just adjacent to the Gorakhnath Temple. A very poor Muslim mechanic, Rashid, was murdered by them.
It was most unfortunate that the DM and SSP who arrested Yogi were not only transferred but also suspended the same day. It was this that encouraged Yogi's supporters to go on the rampage that night. A telling comment on the way in which Yogi is treated with kid gloves by many in
the top echelons of the UP Govt. is the fact that the new DM and SSP who arrived late in the evening of the 28th were advised to go and visit the Yogi in jail and talk to him by their superiors! They found the Yogi being treated like minor royalty in the prison. A well-known ruling party leader and criminal, Amarmani Tripathi, who was in the same jail since he has
been accused of conspiring to murder a poetess with whom he had intimate relations, was entertaining the Yogi to a feast and also to a program of bhajans inside the jail (the bhajan party had been brought in from outside.)
It was at this point that the CPI(M) national leaders intervened. They spoke to the Chief Minister and stressed on the importance of stopping the rioting from spreading in Gorakhpur and its neighbouring districts by keeping the Yogi in jail for having attacked a religious monument and inciting violence and by implementing strict administrative measures. It must be mentioned that the Chief Minister was under great pressure from within his party and from other political heavyweights to release the Yogi.
As soon as it became apparent that the Yogi was not going to be released, protests against his arrest were started by the BJP and others and there was a call to observe a bandh in all markets in Gorakhpur and neighbouring districts. To give an example of the kind of tactics
employed by the Yogis supporters, soon after his arrest, his supporters sent out over a lakh sms' which read as follows: "Katua mara jayega, Baap-baap chillayega" (The circumcised one will be thrashed, He will shout for his father).
In Gorakhpur, peace was soon restored. On the 30th, Muslim religious leaders decided on their own not to take out the Taziya procession. In a few days, shops also opened. Peaceful conditions prevailed in all the neighbouring districts also, with one shameful exception.
Padrauna is the district headquarter of the neighbouring Kushinagar district. It is also a vidhan sabha constituency held by the Congress and it is here that Yogi is planning to field his own c
andidate in the coming election. Two years ago he had raised the following slogan – U.P. Bhi Gujerat Banega, Padrauna shuruaat karega (U.P. will also become a Gujerat and the process will start in Padrauna).
And on the 30th and 31st of January, Padrauna witnessed arson and loot of an unprecedented ferocity. There are very few prosperous Muslims in this area and the destruction wrought in these two days reduced their numbers drastically. All shops owned by Muslims in the main market and in nearby localities were looted and gutted. Many Muslim homes were also reduced to ashes. The economic backbone of the community has been almost completely destroyed.
A two-member CPI(M) delegation consisting of Premnath Rai (State Secretariat member) and myself visited Gorakhpur and Padrauna on the 21st and 22nd of February. On the 20th, Com. Premnath along with Com. Dinanath (also a State Secretariat member) visited the riot-affected area around the Gorakhnath Temple.
Our visit occurred just after Yogi's release on bail from prison. The day after his release, he addressed a Press Conference in Deoria in which he blamed "Subhashini Ali, CPI(M) leader" for the disturbances in Purvanchal saying that she had been visiting the area to help the Maoists, SIMI and ISI increase their activities and this was what had led to the riots. To some reporters he repeated what he had been saying earlier that she and her party were also responsible for the removal of the King of Nepal from his throne! His utterances, however ridiculous, showed that he was only too aware of the fact that apart from the CPI(M), no other party had dared to oppose him publicly and in no uncertain terms.
On the 21st, we visited Padrauna along with CPI(M) members from Kushinagar, Com. Ayodhyalal (Secretary), Shivnath Singh, Vijay Srivastava, Raghavendra (DCMs) and Malti, Indu Pushpa and Kranti (AIDWA leaders). We also met prominent community leaders who gave us a lot of important information.
The first place we visited was the Subhash Chowk which is the main hub of the town. It is in the middle of the main market and is the place where all the Moharram processions congregate and then proceed together towards the Karbala. From the Karbala, they break up again and go back to
various mohallas and villages of the area. Just at the Subhash Chowk is a large shop, Dr. Maroof's X Ray. This was the first X Ray clinic in Padrauna. It was also a well-stocked medical store. Today, its shutters have been mangled beyond recognition, its few remaining shelves are
bare and there is no X ray machine to be seen. Dr. Maroof told us that he was told at about 2 in the afternoon on the 30th that his shop had been set on fire. He had come rushing from his house and found that the police and some administrative officers had arrived and the looters and arsonists had been forced to move away. He had then retrieved some of his goods which were lying on the road and had closed the double shutters of the shop and then left the place after the officers present assured him that there was nothing to worry about. As soon as he left, the rioters returned and proceeded to burn and loot his shop again, this time in the presence of the police and the administration. There are a few other shops owned by Muslims in this market – hardware shops, an electronic store, shoe shops, a PCO etc. – they are just charred, black holes today.
The Moharram procession on the 30th started from Subhash Chowk at about 1 in the afternoon. The arson started after it left. The procession turned from the Chowk onto the Khatkuiyan road towards the Sidhua Sthhan from where it turned to the left towards the Karbala. Just where the
procession was to turn, a large gate had been erected a few months ago when a Yagnya was held just there. For weeks before Moharram, the administration had been pleading with the organizers of the yagnya who, of course were followers of the Yogi, to remove the gate so that the procession could go through but they had no agreed. Finally, the gate was removed by the administration on the 29th night and in the morning the rumour was spread that the 'Muslims' had forcibly removed the gate. The yagnya mandap was damaged just before the procession arrived
there. Many people say that some of the PAC men of a large contingent posted there to 'protect' the procession were responsible for this. As a result of all this, after the procession left the Karbala, all the shops, large and small, owned by Muslims on either side of the road were looted and burned. Small teashops, paan shops, tailors' shops, repair workshops, a very large cloth shops, small shops selling readymade garments – all were looted and then completely gutted. A little further down the road, some large thatched homes of Muslims had also been burnt. We were told that much of this stretch of land on the roadside was actually Govt. land which had been occupied by a former Pradhan, Nagina Kushwaha, who was trying to get rid of all the others, mostly Muslims, who either had their shops or their homes here. What is of great concern is that many of the Muslim shops that were burnt have now been occupied by Hindus. We also saw that a lady, Pandey along with her three sons, had occupied a large area where a Muslim family had been living in a home that had been burnt down.
Further down the road, is the village of s . Here 9 homes belonging to Kushwahas had been destroyed and burnt. Apparently, one of the processions returning down this road had been stoned near this place and, in retaliation, some of the processionists had attacked the Kushwaha
We also visited the small hamlet of Razapur which is more in the interior, behind Sidhua. Here 37 fairly prosperous Muslim families who had migrated from Bihar several years ago had built their homes. Most of the men worked far away in Surat and even in the Gulf. On the 30th and
31st, Razapur was attacked by a mob of villagers from the neighbouring villages. Only 2 houses have been left standing, the rest were all burned down and looted. Women of the hamlet told us that they had run away with their children. Some of them had even jumped into the nearby canal to save themselves. They had remained hidden in the fields for two days and nights without any food or shelter. They could see the rioters slaughtering their chickens and goats and eating them while they starved.
Nothing was left of these once prosperous homes. Even the wheat and rice that had been stored in huge earthenware pots had been burned and we could see charred grain everywhere. The anguish and despair of Razapur was lightened by only one fact – Bilas Kushwaha, a neighbour, had come to their help. He had saved the two houses that were still standing and he had given them shelter. He had been abused and threatened by the rioters but he had stood his ground.
Another badly affected place is the Belua Chungi. This is a small market-place where several shops belonging to Muslims have been looted and burnt. One shop-cum-home of a prosperous Hindu, Chaurasiya, was also attacked and has suffered some damage.
There are many things about Padrauna that bring post-Godhra Gujerat to mind: the complete destruction of the prosperity and livelihood of the Muslim community; the appalling nature of the propaganda methods used to spread hatred and incite violence and the complicity of the administration in the devastation of the minority community. It is this last which is the most
dangerous aspect. UP is not a BJP-ruled state. Its ruling party projects itself as a secular force and it is accused by its detractors of following a policy of appeasement of Muslims. And yet it appoints district magistrates to ultra-sensitive districts like Mau and Padrauna who are completely incompetent so that the writ of its MLAs can rule the roost. And yet its
administration is an impotent witness to arson and loot directed against the minority community. And, for a month, people who have lost their homes, their c
ooking vessels, their foodstuffs and their clothes are left to fend for themselves in the cold and rain without any assistance from the administration.
On the 22nd, in Gorakhpur, we visited the homes and families of Rajkumar Agrahari and Rashid. Their inconsolable grief was indistinguishable. Rajkumar's mother said – Whether Muslim or Hindu, the death of a young son is unbearable for his mother.
After meeting the bereaved families, we met the IG (Zone), Jagmohan Yadav and gave him a memorandum in which we demanded the arrest of those accused of leading and inciting the rioters in Padrauna many of whom are still at large; restoration of status quo as far as occupancy of affected homes and shops was concerned; immediate relief to the homeless and payment of compensation to all those who had suffered losses; and strict action against those found to be indulging in provocative acts. In this context we mentioned that Yogi had visited Padrauna on the 20th and had made a speech in which not only did he abuse those officers who were strictly enforcing the law and coming down harshly against those responsible for the violence, but had gone to the extent of saying that the task in Padrauna had only been partly accomplished and it was now necessary to see that it was completed.
The IG gave instructions regarding several issues that we raised immediately and assured us that the administration would do everything possible to maintain law and order. Holi would pass off peacefully, he said with confidence.
The situation in eastern UP should be one of great concern for all those who are committed to secularism and communal harmony. It is most unfortunate that secular parties in government and in the opposition in the State have completely failed to intervene in any way at all to combat all that the Yogi and his ilk represent. It is only the CPI(M) and a few courageous individuals who are doing their bit in this regard. Party units in Kasya (Kushinagar) and Deoria took out processions condemning the Yogi's actions and urging the people to maintain peace and brotherhood. The AIDWA unit in Lakhsmipur village in Gorakhpur District took the
lead in insisting that the Taziya procession be taken out and, in fact, participated in it along with their family members.
While administrative action is crucial in maintaining peace, ultimately the Yogi's evil designs can only be foiled by a consistent political campaign and united struggles around the real demands of the people. The Kushinagar CPI(M) district committee has taken a decision to hold an Anti-Communalism Convention in Kasya on the 18th March. This will be a small beginning of a long and hard struggle.