Yogi’s Rise Clearest Sign Hindu Rashtra is Here – Aijaz Zaka Syed

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Controversial BJP member of parliament Yogi Adityanath takes over as chief minister of India's largest state Uttar Pradesh
Controversial BJP member of parliament Yogi Adityanath takes over as chief minister of India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh

Whatever the BJP apologists and spinmeisters may say about the Modi government and its lofty commitment to inclusive growth and development, Yogi’s elevation is the clearest sign yet that we are heading to the Hindu Rashtra of RSS’ dreams. If the outraged editorials and headlines in the national and international press are anything to go by, the message seems to have been received loud and clear around the world. An emboldened BJP, as the New York Times noted, now believes that “nothing stands in the way of transforming a secular republic into a Hindu state.” Now begins the careful canonization of Adityanath as the new mascot of Hindutva and perhaps the future leader of India. Despite his robust physique and punishing yoga regimen, Modi isn’t getting any younger. Hindutva needs an insurance policy after Modi. Yogi represents the original, unadulterated version of the PM. 

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED | Caravan Daily

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter Narendra Modi’s effortless leap from Gujarat to Delhi in 2014, one thought that nothing would surprise us pseudo-seculars anymore.  But how wrong we were and how little do we know our own country! Despite its overwhelming victory in Uttar Pradesh, no one in their wildest dreams ever imagined that the BJP would pick its most rabid face to head the country’s largest state.

Liberal sections of Indian media, which still swear by Modi’s carefully-cultivated image of ‘development man’ and ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ (Inclusion and Development for all) mantra, are still scratching their heads, blaming the choice of Yogi Adityanath on ‘political compulsions’ and ‘arm-twisting’ by the RSS. Others assure us quoting sources in the BJP that Modi himself would be closely monitoring the militant monk and his government.

That is a huge relief! We can all now go back to sleep while the head priest of Goraknath temple rules over the land fabled for its rich, syncretic culture and pushes ahead with his agenda promising hell and high water to Muslims and other dispossessed communities.

In a way, this is just as well that the BJP has let the mask slip to reveal its true face and agenda. At least we know who and what we are dealing with.  The fringe has gone mainstream!

Whatever the BJP apologists and spinmeisters may say about the Modi government and its lofty commitment to inclusive growth and development, Yogi’s elevation is the clearest sign yet that we are heading to the Hindu Rashtra of RSS’ dreams. If the outraged editorials and headlines in the national and international press are anything to go by, the message seems to have been received loud and clear around the world. An emboldened BJP, as the New York Times noted, now believes that “nothing stands in the way of transforming a secular republic into a Hindu state.”

Yogi’s elevation is perhaps even more portentous than that of Modi himself. He at least boasted 12 years of experience as Gujarat chief minister. Yogi has none. All he has to recommend him for the top job in the state of more than 210-million people was his rabble-rousing reputation and hundreds of fulminations against the Muslims, from promising to kill 100 Muslims for one Hindu to vowing to put idols in mosques across the country. Many of his rants can’t even be reproduced.

Clearly, that was enough. In fact, from Modi to Yogi, a manic obsession with a voiceless minority seems to be the chief qualification for the most coveted of jobs in India now. Scores of those criminal cases against the new chief minister and his deputies are only added strengths and qualifications. If you can get away with the demolition of mosques and pogroms, you can get away with anything. You can trust the judiciary to keep nodding and not upset the applecart while the powerful leaders hold court all in the name of the people and democracy of course.

Now begins the careful canonization of Adityanath as the new mascot of Hindutva and perhaps the future leader of India. Despite his robust physique and punishing yoga regimen, Modi isn’t getting any younger. Hindutva needs an insurance policy after Modi. Yogi represents the original, unadulterated version of the PM.

Muslims form nearly 20 percent or 40 million in the state's 200 million plus population.
Muslims form nearly 20 percent or 40 million in the state’s 200 million plus population.

Doubtless, we are at a critical point in our history. But we must fight the temptation to plunge into collective despondency or panic. These are testing times and that is how we should view them – as a test.  A test we cannot afford to fail. India’s Muslims need a whole new approach, a paradigm shift, if you will, to deal with the new realities and challenges. It can no longer be business as usual. Adversities are only going to multiply in times ahead. These disturbing developments should electrify us into action. We need a long-term strategy and a herculean effort to lift ourselves out of our current predicament.   The Muslims have lived in India for more than a thousand years and they have been through many ups and downs. This too shall pass. It’s up to us how we deal with the new challenges facing us – continue to wallow in self-pity or come up with a bold new vision to reinvent and revive ourselves as a community. 

Whatever the explanation, the rise of Adityanath is a wake-up call to all reasonable, fair-minded Indians, if the polarized UP verdict didn’t. India has taken a decisive, violent lurch further to the right. Things are sure to heat up even more, especially for religious minorities. Indeed, they already are, with the harassment unleashed in the name of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ and crackdown on meat sellers. Thousands of Muslims, already lowest of the low, have been overnight deprived of their livelihoods. And Yogi has barely begun!

Doubtless, we are at a critical point in our history. But we must fight the temptation to plunge into collective despondency or panic. These are testing times and that is how we should view them – as a test.  A test we cannot afford to fail.

As I argued in the wake of UP elections, India’s Muslims need a whole new approach, a paradigm shift, if you will, to deal with the new realities and challenges. It can no longer be business as usual. Adversities are only going to multiply in times ahead. These disturbing developments should electrify us into action. We need a long-term strategy and a herculean effort to lift ourselves out of our current predicament.

The Muslims have lived in India for more than a thousand years and they have been through many ups and downs. This too shall pass. It’s up to us how we deal with the new challenges facing us – continue to wallow in self-pity or come up with a bold new vision to reinvent and revive ourselves as a community.

We need a relentless national movement to rid ourselves of ignorance and educational and economic backwardness. The mission Sir Syed had launched in Aligarh after the carnage of 1857 needs to be carried forward to every nook and corner of India. Education holds the key to our future. Political and economic empowerment will follow. No one messes with people who are aware, organized and united. Look at the example of the Jews or Sikhs. The clout they enjoy is incredible when compared to their size. 

We must learn from the recent mistakes and quit wasting our precious time, resources and energy in pointless pursuits and fighting shadows. As UP once again demonstrated, self-serving turncoats like the Bukharis and other professional divines are the bane of this community.

When will we learn to tell our genuine well-wishers from our enemies? There’s no dearth of people with real vision and commitment in our midst. They must put their heads together to confront the existential crisis staring us in the face.

We need a relentless national movement to rid ourselves of ignorance and educational and economic backwardness. The mission Sir Syed had launched in Aligarh after the carnage of 1857 needs to be carried forward to every nook and corner of India.

Education holds the key to our future. Political and economic empowerment will follow. No one messes with people who are aware, organized and united. Look at the example of the Jews or Sikhs. The clout they enjoy is incredible when compared to their size.

We have squandered away long years, resting on the laurels of our past. It is time to rediscover ourselves and prepare for the future. Our faith ordains us to guide and help others. If we cannot help ourselves and our own, how can we help others?

I said it last week and I say it again.  In this battle for an inclusive India and inclusive world, we are not alone. We need to look around and build bridges and alliances with other vulnerable communities and groups. We must consciously work to revive our relations with our Hindu brethren in particular.

Despite the recent successes of Hindutva, an overwhelming majority of Indians still believe in the idea of an inclusive, democratic country. In fact, this is true of most people and nations around the world. We must reach out to this sane majority and connect with it wherever we are. They are our greatest allies. This is the best way to address many of the misconceptions about our faith and ourselves.  There is no other way forward. If we do not change, we will perish.  

Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award-winning journalist. Email: Aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

 

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