Editorial: The New Normal in Uttar Pradesh

The arrival of Adityanath as chief minister is the clearest sign that the BJP as well as its parent, the RSS are thinking of an agenda that goes far beyond just winning elections.

Wire-editorialOne week into his tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and it is already clear what kind of an administration Yogi Adityanath intends to run in the state. Despite his past record of communal hate-mongering and the credible charge of involvement in acts of violence, the BJP and its sympathisers, including in the media, suggested that he be “given a chance” – that he could very well turn out to be a good administrator and perhaps even shed some of his more pernicious and volatile hate-mongering tendencies. Fawning journalists have even written about his dietary habits and the love his cows have for him. All of it aimed at arguing that the yogi is now a changed man.

The naive hopes of the apologists have been swiftly dashed, by none other than Adityanath himself. As chief minister, he quickly got down to business – the two most important decisions he has taken are the shutting down of ‘illegal’ abattoirs and the unleashing of moral policing on the youth of Uttar Pradesh. The grant for the Hindu Mansarovar yatra has been doubled to Rs 1 lakh and his government will now build a centre for pilgrims in Delhi. All these decisions have been taken without the yogi holding a single cabinet meeting and are clearly aimed at appeasing the BJP’s religious vote bank. Yet, we are supposed to believe the party is still committed to ‘development’ because … government officials have been asked to come on time.

The first week’s roller-coaster ride is all in keeping with his – and his larger parivar’s – core agenda. Going after abattoirs, and the meat trade in general, has hit the livelihood of tens of thousands of Muslims. Letting loose vigilantes and giving the police powers to go after consenting young couples under the guise of targeting ‘Romeos’ fits in well with the reactionary notion that unmarried men and women should not socialise with each other.

Adityanath may not have said anything incendiary yet but can it be forgotten that he and his organisation have been in the forefront of fomenting communal tensions in the state for the past few years? There are charges against him of criminal intimidation, attempt to murder, rioting and even defiling a place of worship with the intention of insulting a religion. All along, the BJP and its supporters have insisted that the likes of Adityanath are merely ‘fringe’ elements, not reflective of the party’s stance. Today, it is clear that there is no ‘fringe’. When it comes to the Sangh parivar, there may be a division of labour  in terms of who plays what role at any given time but the entire family pursues the same toxic agenda – of fuelling resentment, hatred and even violence against Muslims.

Given Adityanath’s own track record and the ideology of the Sangh, what effect is state power likely to have on him? Will he become a messiah of communal and social harmony? Or will he use his position to further the communal agenda he and his backers in the RSS and BJP have had for decades? His first week in office has already given us the answer.

His appointment indicates that the BJP will liberally use the Hindutva card in the next general elections due in 2019, but there is more to it. The arrival of Adityanath is the clearest sign that the BJP as well as its parent, the RSS, are thinking of an agenda that goes far beyond just winning elections. An electoral victory is only a tool to achieve the larger goal. Adityanath, Modi, and those like them, are the faces in whom the RSS will repose faith to fulfil its longstanding dream of turning India into a ‘Hindu rashtra’.

As chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath is obliged to think of the welfare of every citizen of the state and deal equitably and justly with one and all regardless of religion or caste or food preferences. This is the concept of raj dharma that flows from Ambedkar and the Constitution. The manner in which he has begun his tenure, however, suggests he is being driven by a different calling.

  • alok asthana

    No doubt about it. But is the inevitable picking of the ‘spoils of war’. They have won massively and are now reaping it. No one else is as organised or determined to win as they are. So, it all is just sad but nothing unusual.

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    Yogi Adityanath loves cows. And mainstream media is thoroughly cowed. Made for each other.

  • Rohini

    I’ll take the moral policing any day over having lewd comments passed at me on the roads or having men touch me.
    Here is my experience in CHOWK OF LUCKNOW on Sunday, 15 th march ..the day the CM was sworn in. I am not from Lucknow but happened to be there for the last one week on work and then, on the last day, a group of three women..myself, another colleague and a younger woman decided to explore chowk, which we had heard so much about. We wanted to take in the old architecture, the lucknowi food, the chikankari shops .everything!!
    Chowk was bristling with armed officers. There was a small celebratory party singing and dancing, firing off crackers etc.
    We, the threes of us women, got out of our cab. We walked a few steps….and just in our path wa da motorcycle parked across with three youth on it….they started to pass lewd comments, making strange vulgar noises as we passed them. I would have normally glared and even said something, but given the place, the situation, I wanted no trouble. The three of us walked past, heads BOWED, pretending not to hear. This is not characteristic of me. But I didn’t feel safe in that place to stand up for myself and call out their bullshit, which I have done in every other Indian court I have lived in!!
    On my way to the airport two days later, I was in a cab. All of a sudden, a noisy motorbike started to keep pace with my cab. Two men, young and in their twenties, raced along, looking into the cab, leering, catcalling. This went on for a few km. My cabbie to le me to ignore them, not look at them. I was boiling.

    WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKIGN ABOUT WHEN YOU SAY ‘MORAL POLICING’? I would take moral policing any day over such an everyday assault on my independence, my very existence. I empathize with all those young and old women who have to be afraid to walk out alone, without male escorts, in UP.
    Btw, I was moral policed in Delhi when my spouse and I and another couple walked around our neighborhood..they asked all sorts of questions till we women got pissed off and asked them if they wanted to see our marriage licenses. And this was in 2004. Congress govt.

    So, please take your selective nonsense somewhere else. This is what happens in India..with or without yogi adithaynath.
    I hope you hear the suppressed rage in my post. That’s what I feel for all the indignities I have suffered on the streets in India….and the personal fight I have to fight without any help from the system..it is demeaning, undignified, emotionally wrecking and damages my psyche. It makes me feel less of a man, like I have less right on my public spaces, like I have to always be in the shadows, afraid that someone will touch me. Sneer vulgar words at me, enrage me.
    THAT’s not life.
    How are you helping change it, Vinod Dua, the Wire?

  • Rohini

    Continuing my post below below…I was also in the Tunday Kebab place in Akbari Gate on the night swearing in of the UP CM. I went there in a rickshaw, to taste the famous kebabs. But to my surprise, it was filthy, unhygienic and they served only beef!!!! No chicken or mutton or any other options for people who didn’t eat beef.
    Well, that turned us back. It wasn’t exactly a place that I would choose to eat meat at!!!
    It may be old ..and it’s methods of preparing and handling meat are just as old…not in keeping with the hygiene requirements of the 21 st century. Street food, is how I would categorize it. And we all know what happens to us when we eat street food indiscriminately.

    • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

      Madam, with due respect to your opinion, here’s mine: yes, abattoirs and street food in general could be called unhygienic, even though that is matter of some subjectivity. But one cannot escape the reality that there are many many such casual vendors all over India, selling cooked and raw food items with varying degrees of cleanliness and hygiene, and have been doing so for decades (and I must admit some of them serve truly tasty stuff!). Should we shut down all of these, leading to loss of livelihood of millions? Anyone who thinks they are unhygienic can simply avoid them, isnt it, as you did?
      I have one more comment, and this is about us – we who are urban, educated, enlightened, who read The Wire and the like: have we so lost our sense of empathy and compassion that loss of livelihood of the poor becomes a cause for celebration?

      • Rohini

        Sir, my counter to you is fact based i.e., not based on my ‘bleeding’ heart but on my ‘hard’ head. Point by point below:

        ****”even though that is matter of some subjectivity” ****-

        There is no SUBJECTIVITY in street food being unhygenic – it IS. Children and adults fall sick from it – leading to public health crises, including the spread of epidemics of gastroenteritis is its various forms, hepatitis (jaundice as it is commonly known), rotavirus etc. Kids DIE from this, as it passes from one to another in a crowded country like India at super fast speed, from droplets and touch. So, this is not like a piece of art where subjectivity comes in. It is purely a public health issue.

        *****”there are many many such casual vendors all over India, selling cooked and raw food items with varying degrees of cleanliness and hygiene”******

        YEs, indeed there are BUT NONE are touted as ‘cultural symbols of India’ and NONE make it to the national headlines because the illegal source for their products was shut down. Unless, we are saying that our culture is about filth and bad hygiene. In fact, because this Tuday is supposed ot be so famous, I would have expected a spic and span place..also because handling meat is so delicate, and should be done well to protect the consumers from disease.
        Shocked that anyone can find excuses for places that handle meat so poorly..it’s very very very dangerous! That’s all I can say. I wouldn’t eat there (EVEN if they served chicken, fish or mutton, which they didn’t).

        ****”we who are urban, educated, enlightened, who read The Wire and the like: have we so lost our sense of empathy and compassion that loss of livelihood of the poor becomes a cause for celebration”***

        Being a global educated Indian, I understand what it takes for India to become what is called a ‘developed country’. The core for this is health, education and rule of law. A lack of all three are evident in the current situation with the meat houses. MY education tells me this is BAD for my country. It leads to a high cost in terms of public health – the crises are ongoing, millions of lives are lost from diseases linked to bad food and water.
        People lie you should in fact join the demand for stringent action against such deafulters – yes, even street food can be safe – as is seen in many European countries. ever visited Barcelons and the tourist Las Ramblas district? Go there and see for yourself how street food CAN be hygenic and safe. No reason we in India should not aspire to that standard.

        A question for you – would you advance a similar ‘loss of livelihood’ argument for manual scavenging? Isn’t it an abhorrent practice affecting the health of those workers?

        • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

          Madam, thank you for your replies. I appreciate it.
          I am not saying that we should not aspire to the standards of hygiene and cleanliness prevalent in the West. Of course we must, only there HAS TO BE a considered and gentler approach to doing it because millions of livelihoods are involved, that of people who dont know any other trade. So the moral question needs to be addressed first – by providing all these vendors alternative means of livelihood – and only then shutting down their businesses. We must acknowledge this reality of our country.
          Regarding your point on lack of hygiene causing healthcare issues and sickness – I reiterate that ultimately its a personal choice. Those who are afraid of falling sick should simply avoid such outlets – which is what many of us do. There are enough hygienic options to choose from.

          Finally, about manual scavenging: It is TOTALLY an abhorrent practice, I have no two opinions on that. I DESPISE the fact that our household s–t is handled by these people, who are then “rewarded” by us treating them as untouchable scum of the earth. I wish that they are given modern tools to protect themselves from disease and other benefits like medical insurance etc. I had hoped that with all the enthusiasm about Swachh Bharat, they would have been the FIRST to benefit, since more than anyone else THEY are the ones who ACTUALLY make Bharat Swachh. But sadly, I dont see that happening. So we do the little that we can at an individual level.

          Have you seen the hand drawn rickshaws in Kolkata? That is inhuman too, a remnant from colonial times – an underfed scrawny man carrying several passengers through sheer physical labor. But here too, the tragedy is that thousands of livelihoods are tied to it. I am all for banning it – but then how do they feed their families? Is it right to swap one tragedy for another?

          • Rohini

            Sir, I am sorry to disagree with you very strongly. The very same poor you feel so sad for suffer from this lack of hygiene.
            Millions of children in India die from hepatitis, gasteroenteritis and rotavirus EVERY YEAR.
            They die from poor water and bad food.

            Sorry, no sympathy. In India, we do not have the habit of folowing rules. The poor vendors in developed countries comply (have learnt to comply) because there is a downside if they don’t.
            In India, there is no downside for anything. Its about time we created the downside.

          • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

            Madam, thank you for your reply. I appreciate it.
            I think our discussion has digressed a bit – we were talking about hygienic standards of street food, not about health/hygiene in general in India which is a much broader subject.
            Developed countries have very different realities – in terms of population, jobs, education, corruption, inequality, poverty etc. India is pretty unique, which is why our problems must be solved differently AND HUMANELY, with compassion. We cannot just take away millions of livelihoods without providing alternatives and create new social problems.
            Anyway, lets agree to disagree and put this conversation to rest. 🙂
            But thanks for the lively discussion!

          • Rohini

            Ok 🙂 Nice to find a civil interlocutor on the internet. Thanks for engaging in the discussion.
            Its always hard to convey exactly what one means to say on such topics in any comprehensive way through comments on the internet. I feel certain that if we ever had the chance to speak to each other, we would find out views do not diverge all that much. 🙂

          • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

            Madam, thank you for your reply.
            Times are strange. One action, many reactions. People have strong views. Indeed, the internet is the worst forum for a coherent exchange of opinions. The least we can do is be civil – which you were. Good for you!

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    I am sure we are all aware of the huge number of people who work in the so-called informal or unorganized sector in our country (close to 90% of the workforce), and the percentage of the GDP that this sector contributes (almost 50%). Lot of the business that goes on in this sector is associated with various shades and degrees of illegalities, e.g. the kulche-chhole waala who sets up his stall by obstructing the pavement, or the friendly neighborhood tailor who spins his sewing machine under the ashok tree, or the guy selling fried fish from a push cart positioned right next to a garbage dump. There are millions like this all over the country, as I am sure there are in Uttar Pradesh too. None of them have a license to do what they are doing. Yet, they have been carrying on for ages and their lives run on this – this is a hard reality of our country that we have accepted long ago.
    Yogi Adityanath could have chosen from numerous other illegal businesses to go after, if only to prove that he is not targeting the minority community and is EVERYONE’s Chief Minister, if only to prove his detractors wrong. There was no pressing need to begin with abattoirs – they could have come later, as part of a general drive against ALL illegal businesses if such was the intent. But instead, by picking on abattoirs right at the start, the CM has made a loud and clear statement – Muslims better watch out. I dont see the necessity to give any other positive spin to this, nor is any such spin required – after all, “Muslim appeasement” has been his electoral plank and he is just doing what he promised he would do.

  • Rohini

    I am sharing my experience with tundays because journalists were mourning about hte closure of that VERY same outlet a few days later. I am sharing my impressions of the supposed ‘cultural symbol’