The BJP’s decision to choose militant Hindutva leader, Yogi Adityanath, as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday left many utterly shocked.
Social media platforms were abuzz with intense conversation with many suggesting that the decision had exposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims of inclusive politics and pursuing development agenda.
One of the fears among Uttar Pradesh’s minority community, who constitute the state’s 20 percent population, is their safety under a leader, who, in the past, has even threatened to install Ganesha idols inside mosques and convert Muslim girls to Hinduism.
On Sunday, moments after Adityanath took oath of office as the state’s 21st chief minister, arrangements were made for the new leader to address the media scheduled for 5 PM on Sunday.
To everyone’s surprise, the chief minister’s chair was immediately covered with a saffron sheet of cloth. The organisers, understandably working at the instruction of Adityanath’s close associates, didn’t stop here.
They soon began to cover the remaining chairs with white sheets.
Chairs in the media gallery of the the UP assembly’s auditorium have traditionally been in green colour.
One journalist present at the auditorium said, “This simply shows what lies ahead for the Muslims in the state. The new CM simply can’t stand the sight of green colour, which is always been associated with Muslims. God save Uttar Pradesh’s Muslims under him.”
A five-term Lok Sabha MP, BJP leader Yogi Adityanath is a fiery Hindutva mascot who has developed a reputation of being controversy’s favourite child over a period of time.
Named as the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh today, 44-year-old Adityanath, a priest-turned-politician, is known for his provocative speeches and mass following across the state and never shies away from making controversial remarks, be it about Islam or Pakistan.
In 2005, Adityanath allegedly led a purification drive which involved the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. In one such instance, 1,800 Christians were reportedly converted to Hinduism in the town of Etah in UP.
In January 2007, an altercation involving a Hindu group and Muslims broke out during a Muharram procession in Gorakhpur which led to the hospitalisation of a young Hindu, Raj Kumar Agrahari. The District Magistrate had made it clear that Adityanath should not visit the site as it may inflame tensions.
He initially agreed but after Agrahari died, he disobeyed the magistrate and travelled to the site with a group of his followers. Adityanath then started a non-violent dharna on the site.
However, inflammatory speeches were made and some of his followers even set fire to a nearby mazar (Muslim mausoleum). Curfew was imposed by the local police, but Adityanath broke it and was subsequently jailed. He was arrested and remanded for a fortnight, on charges of disturbing peace. His arrest led to further unrest and several coaches of the Mumbai bound Mumbai-Gorakhpur Godan Express were burnt, allegedly by protesting Hindu Yuva Vahini activists.
The tensions escalated to riots across Gorakhpur leading to the burning of mosques, homes, buses and trains.
During the intolerance debate in the media, Adityanath compared Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed.
He had said, “Shah Rukh Khan should remember that majority population of the country made him the star, and if they boycott his films, he will also have to wander on streets. It is unfortunate SRK is speaking the same language that of Hafiz Saeed.”
(With PTI inputs)