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Yogic logic: When a CM's priority is cows not people, we have a problem

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 27 March 2017, 17:30 IST
(Photo by Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

This weekend, viewers who tuned in to India Today were privy to a stellar piece of video journalism courtesy of Gaurav Sawant. Sawant, the perpetual understudy to the channel's main anchors, was on ground in CM Yogi Adityanath's constituency of Gorakhpur to give us this groundbreaking news – Yogi Adityanath fed cows at a gaushala!

Now, we know this news has changed your life forever, but Sawant, the recent recipient of a 'Best Spot News Reporting' award, has a reputation to uphold. So he went further – Adityanath apparently knows the names of all the 400-plus cows in the gaushala.

In a time when media houses are laying off journalists for want of resources, India is truly blessed to have a media house willing to stretch itself thin to bring us news like this. And anchors like Sawant for doing this yeoman service.

A host of news reports are trying to deflect from Adityanath's past to paint him as a moderate leader

But while Sawant may have the most visible platform, he isn't alone. Ever since Adityanath's ascension to the UP CM's seat, we've been treated to various reports extolling the CM's virtues, apparently in an attempt to whitewash his terrible track record.

From Adityanath's love for animals, to the token Muslims working at his gaushala, we've been inundated by such articles, in increasingly cringe-inducing ways. However, while sentiment is often allowed to trump fact these days, it is imperative that we don't get caught up in meaningless photo-ops when there are serious problems to address.

Cows over Muslims

That Yogi Adityanath is an animal lover is no secret, nor is it a bad thing. However, Pablo Escobar too famously loved animals, enough to have a small zoo, much like the Gorakhpur temple's assortment of animals. Hitler too had a historically documented aversion to animal cruelty. This isn't to equate Adityanath with either Hitler or Escobar, but merely as a reminder that being an animal lover is no real measure of a virtuous, or even good leader.

Yes Adityanath loves animals, but the fact that they are seemingly at the top of his list of priorities is not laudable so much as disturbing. Shortly after the BJP victory in UP, a poster went up in a village in Bareilly demanding Muslims leave the area. The day before he was announced as CM, there was an attempt to affix a BJP flag to the top of a mosque. Days after his election, three Muslim-owned butcher shops were burned down by a mob.

While Adityanath has spoken out against cow slaughter, he's been mum on Muslims being targeted.

With close to 20% of UP's population being Muslim, one would imagine condemning these acts would be top of Adityanath's agenda. And one would be wrong, because, while Adityanath is all action when it comes to cows, Muslims are apparently less important. Though Adityanath has parroted PM Modi's 'sabka saath, sabka vikaas' rhetoric, he has not gone beyond this to actually condemn either incident. This despite finding enough screen time to repeatedly condemn cow slaughter, and even closing two slaughter houses on day one as CM.

In the spirit of fairness, secondary sources claim that Adityanath took cognizance of the mosque incident in a private meeting. However, this seems to always be the case when it comes to communal issues – Adityanath takes notice of them in private, but never publicly. This dual treatment of communal issues will only embolden fringe Hindutva elements; Adityanath's public silence will serve as tacit approval.

From the fringes to the frontline

With all these cases, those choosing to defend Adityanath's silence may argue that those involved in the incidents were fringe elements, outside his control. However, even when it comes to those officially associated with the BJP, Adityanath has done nothing to inspire confidence.

When party MLAs have made inflammatory statements, the outspoken 'Yogi' has been unusually silent.

Yes, he has apparently told his Cabinet ministers to refrain from making brash comments, but here too it was done behind closed doors, rather than in public. Still, with little else to take comfort from, this is huge...if it were meant seriously. Instead, when party functionaries have made inflammatory statements, the usually outspoken 'Yogi' has been unusually silent.

On 25 May, BJP's UP MLA Vikram Saini threatened to break the limbs of those who disrespect and kill cows. Given Saini's track record – he was booked and arrested for making inflammatory speeches during the Muzaffarnagar riots – Adityanath would do well to reign him in. However, at least publicly, Saini's actions don't seem to be on the CM's radar. Or maybe he gets a pass because he mentioned cows.

On 25 May, BJP's UP MLA Vikram Saini threatened to break the limbs of those who disrespect and kill cows. Given Saini's track record – he was booked and arrested for making inflammatory speeches during the Muzaffarnagar riots – Adityanath would do well to reign him in. However, at least publicly, Saini's actions don't seem to be on the CM's radar. Or maybe he gets a pass because he mentioned cows.

But Adityanath's indifference towards the Muslim community is best observed in his treatment of another Muzaffarnagar-accused, Suresh Rana. Even as he held on to 36 cabinet posts himself, Adityanath still found a Cabinet portfolio for Rana, giving him charge of sugar mills.

Now, Rana has gone on record to say that cases against “innocent people” related to the Muzaffarnagar riots would be withdrawn by the Adityanath government. Once again, Adityanath has not made a contrary statement. Yes, even as Muslim victims of the 2013 violence, including 6 women gangrape victims, are yet to obtain proper restitution and justice, the Adityanath government's agenda is to protect those who played a part in the riots.

With all of this being the case, the BJP and its sympathisers are obviously scrambling to find a fig leaf to hide Adityanath's true nature. However, whether this is in the form of cute animal photo-ops, or token Muslim temple workers, there can be no doubt that Adityanath's agenda is decidedly saffron.

First published: 27 March 2017, 17:30 IST
 
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