Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has a new chief minister who is a Hindu priest and the head of the Gorakhnath Math (Gorakhnath Mutt), a temple of the Nath monastic group in the Nath tradition. Prime minister Modi chose him because the saffron clad Yogi Adityanath was the most popular among BJP leaders. He became popular as he was able to raise hatred against Muslims the most, following the path shown by Modi himself.
In an unusual move the human rights organisation, the Amnesty International, has come out with a strong statement asking Adityanath to retract his inflammatory statements against minorities.
The new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, must publicly withdraw his previous inflammatory statements against Muslims and other religious minorities, Amnesty International India said today.
“Adityanath has been one of Uttar Pradesh’s most polarizing politicians, given to hateful rhetoric that incites discrimination and hostility against minority groups, particularly Muslims,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.
“As chief minister of India’s most populous state, he and his party have an obligation to ensure that his positions do not become government policy. It is therefore imperative that he retracts any statements which may provide a license for others to abuse human rights.”
Adityanath has called for India to become a Hindu state. He has also made polarizing statements claiming ‘love jihad’ – an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to seduce Hindu women and convert them to Islam. He faces criminal charges in multiple cases, including attempt to murder, criminal intimidation, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and defiling a place of worship. In 2007, he was detained for 15 days for allegedly inciting riots in Gorakhpur.
In 2014, Adityanath was reprimanded by the Election Commission of India for an election speech. The previous year, over 60 people, mostly Muslims, had been killed in riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. The Commission said his speech “had the effect of provoking feelings of enmity or hatred” and “aggravating the existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities.”
In 2016, Adityanath said that the family of a Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh who had been lynched for allegedly consuming beef should face criminal charges. The same year, he said that incidents of ‘Christianization’ had led to separatist movements in north-east India. In 2015, he said that if he was given the chance, he would install idols of Hindu gods in every mosque. In an undated video uploaded in August 2014, he said, “If [Muslims] take one Hindu girl, we’ll take 100 Muslim girls. If they kill one Hindu, we’ll kill 100 Muslims.”
Adityanath is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organization that has often been accused of instigating communal tension. The organization has been implicated in several incidents of communal violence.
“Adityanath’s toxic ideas must not become part of his governance. By demonizing Muslims, he has increased religious divisions and put ordinary people at risk of discrimination, hostility and violence. As the head of the Uttar Pradesh government, he must disown his poisonous statements, and ensure that his administration respects the rights of people of all faiths,” said Aakar Patel.
It is absurd to hope for a change of heart from Hindutva zealots. Unless the electorate decides that they won’t be lured by hate speeches, such people will go on using it to get power.
But this call from Amnesty highlights the demise of secularism in world’s largest democracy.