Yogi Adityanath's assertions apart, co-existence of different cultures is at the crux of India's formation
For many, the ascendance of Yogi Adityanath is unthinkable, while for others it is a positive development.
Whether one likes it or not, Yogi Adityanath, the powerful head of the Gorakhnath mutt, is now the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. His party, the BJP, has won the recent electoral contest convincingly, defeating all other competing forces. For many, the ascendance of Yogi Adityanath is unthinkable, while for others it is a positive development. A part of the existing narrative wants to allay the anxieties among those who belong to the ‘unthinkable’ crowd but painting him as a saint (in the social sense of the term and not in the literal theological sense) with certain extraordinary human qualities — a lover of animals, supported by minorities, simple lifestyle and such.
In this age of media, such spins and counter spins compete. That is where reality is made, far away from actual truths on the ground. Given the attempted whitewashing of Yogi Adityanath, it is important to present some of Adityanath's public statements that he has not denied and try to see what are the ultimate implications of such a stance. More importantly, what are the repercussions of having a leader who believes in such stances while being the chief minister of the most populous Indian state.
His activities need to be scrutinised very closely.
Much of what Yogi Adityanath has said is on public record. This article will not quote his whole speeches, but only portions that are relevant. Are those taken out of context? Possibly. However, it is also the perspective of the reader or the listener who end up finding a context to these lines:
"Hinduism is a different culture. Islam is a different culture. They can’t coexist. Two cultures cannot coexist. It will cause friction. There definitely will be."
This statement comes with certain issues. Uttar Pradesh has nearly 20 percent of its population comprising of Muslims. Now, whether Muslims of Uttar Pradesh have Islam as their culture, we don’t know since human cultures revolve around numerous things, including religion. Take for example, Yogi Adityanath’s decision to ban "illegal" slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh, which incidentally means most places where animal slaughter takes place in South Asia. These are non-cow slaughterhouses, since cow slaughter is banned in Uttar Pradesh. So, it affects non-cow meat eaters. I am a Bengali Shakto of Bengal. Meat is the prasad of Kali that we consume with respect and veneration. We sacrifice buffaloes, goats and various animals, not cows, to the holy mother and seek her blessings. We have been doing this for centuries. Our religious tradition is timeless. Yogi Adityanath is not. Yogi Adityanath will not take this prasad because he does not belong to that "culture".
If we now take the principle of separate cultures as observed by Adityanath at face value, it also means that meat-eating Bengali Shakto faith is a different culture. Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani vegetarian religion is a different culture. So, going by Adityanath's admission, Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani vegetarian faith culture and animal sacrificing meat as prasad Bengali Shakto can't co-exist. According to him, this will cause friction. Why? Because West Bengal is a 98.5 percent non-vegetarian state and there is no chance that it will be converted to this Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani vegetarian religion of Yogi Adityanath. If some ideology demands friction and there are enough number of adherents to carry forward that mission of friction, there will be friction.
Therefore, when there is someone at the helm of affairs in Uttar Pradesh who believes in the inevitability of friction, those of us in homelands where cultures are not defined solely by religion have much to be worried about.
The rise of Yogi Adityanath may represent that inflection point when the friction-friendly majoritarian force in Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan zones will want to infect non-Hindi homelands. This sort of a situation is typically the point where in multi-national super states like the Indian Union, minority nationalities demand protection of their homeland’s culture and values by way of increasing assertion for state rights. The Union government is on a spree of centralising all power and the principal opposition to it comes from forces that are holding the banner of federalism. That is not accidental. We are witnessing what could be a long term schism in the body politics of the Indian Union that is much deeper and broader than the classical Hindu-Muslim schism.
Whether that is good or bad, time will tell. But what is important is that one side of the schism believes that the two sides of the schism can’t co-exist. That leaves three options. One can avoid this 'friction', which is a peaceful solution. Or one can convert to Adityanath’s ideology and that deletion of self identity will possibly keep one away from 'friction'. And if either of these two don’t happen, Adityanath advocates ‘religious war’. If by that, he means war of ideas or ideologies, that is one thing. If he means intolerance, then everyone is in trouble.
Co-existence of different cultures is possible and that is the basis of the Indian Union which holds within itself radically diverse cultures – linguistic, ethnic, religious and so on. The Indian Union is at a crossroad but it did not have to be this way. Mutual co-existence without aspirations for dominance over other peoples and other cultures is the basic working principle of a diverse, federal democracy. Sheer numerical dominance is making the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani ideology stronger by the day and the reasons behind that numerical dominance is found oddly in reasons that the saffron brigade typically label Muslims with.
Due to larger family sizes and greater fertility rates, Hindi states are increasingly becoming a greater proportion of the population of the Indian union and Hindi speakers are becoming a greater proportion of the population of non-Hindi states. This trend has been true for the decades for which data has existed. For the preservation of the federal structure of the Indian Union, something needs to be done that protects the cultures of our homelands against aggressive votaries of different cultures cannot coexist ideologies like that of Adityanath.
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