There is a terrible rumour that has been making the rounds, that Yogi Adityanath, the newly-minted chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said something earlier to the effect that dead Muslim women should be exhumed from their graves and then be raped. This kind of slander is unjustified. Yogi Adityanath never said those words.
That a speaker from his group said it while he was present on the dais and he never protested that statement done in his presence is another matter. However, what he has said on record is the following: “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, which Mohammad Ali Jinnah and all the communal proponents of the Pakistan movement would have been very proud of, comes with a certain problem. UP actually had nearly 20% of its population comprising Muslims.
Now, whether Muslims of UP have Islam as their culture, we don’t know since human cultures for most humans revolve around various things, including religion. Take, for example, Yogi Adityanath’s step about banning “illegal” slaughterhouses in UP -- which incidentally means most places where animal slaughter takes place in South Asia.
These are non-cow slaughterhouses since cow slaughter is banned in UP. So it affects non cow-meat eaters. I am a Bengali Shakto of Bengal. Meat is the prasad of Ma Kali that we consume with respect and veneration. We sacrifice buffaloes, goats, and various other non-cow animals to the holy mother and seek her blessings.
We have been doing this for centuries. Our religious tradition is timeless. Yogi Adityanath is not. After sacrifice, we slaughter the sacrificed animal and consume that meat as prasad. Yogi Adityanath will not take this prasad. In fact, he has made sure that animal sacrifice based invocation and veneration of Ma Kali cannot be done in UP.
But we will, in our Bengal. Clearly someone who doesn’t consume the meat as prasad in my culture clearly does not belong to my culture. Now, if we take the principle of separate cultures as enunciated in Yogi Adityanath’s words 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.
They can’t coexist.
Two cultures cannot co-exist. It will cause friction. There definitely will be. Why? Because West Bengal is a 98.5% non-vegetarian state and there is no chance that it will be converted to this Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani vegetarian religion of Yogi Adityanath, unless some terrible genocide is unleashed on us Bengalis.
If some ideology demands friction and there are enough number of adherents to carry forward that mission of friction, there will be friction. This friction, in real terms, means killing people -- UP is the riot centre of the Indian Union.
Thus, when there is someone at the helm of affairs in UP 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.
That is because, in the fake federal structure that the Indian Union has, what Hindi-Hindu-Hindustanis of UP decides for Tamil Nadu or West Bengal matters more than what Tamils decide for Tamil Nadu or Bengalis decide for Bengal.
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.
The Indian Union is at a crossroads, but it did not have to be this way
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 which are holding the banner of federalism. That is not accidental.
We are witnessing what could be a long-term schism in the body politic 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: Separation, conversion, or genocide.
The Indian Union is at a crossroads, 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 whose constituent units in the form of linguistic homelands have pasts much longer than that of the Indian Union or that fake British-created entity called Uttar Pradesh.
Sheer numerical dominance is making the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani ideology stronger and stronger, and the reasons behind that numerical dominance is oddly found in reasons that the saffron brigade typically label Muslims with.
Due to higher 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 to protect the cultures of our homelands against aggressive votaries of different-cultures-cannot-coexist ideologies like that of Yogi Adityanath. Remember the separation, conversion, or genocide point I made. In the same meeting where Yogi Adityanath made the different cultures cannot coexist statement, he also talks about preparing for a religious war.
At another venue, he said the following: “We have decided, if they kidnap even one Hindu girl child, then at least 100 Muslim girl children will be kidnapped.” The crowd cheered. Now, with the large megaphone and media face time that will be available to him as the chief minister of a land which, if it were independent, would be two-thirds the size of the US in population, Yogi Adityanath can spread these ideologies, albeit in a more sophisticated manner.
The present top guy in his party has already learned to do that after 2002. Thus, we see a media refurbishing of the Yogi’s image -- an animal lover, has Muslim employees, and so on. That the corporate media is doing this, is revealing. They are betting that he is a long-race horse just like corporate India did after 2002 with its rallying behind Modi.
Whether in that long race he will end up challenging the rajdharma abdicator of Gujarat in 2002, only time will tell. But the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustani base of the BJP, the soul of the party and the sangh, love him, and more of them will come to love him in days to come.
Modi probably knows this and must have his game-plan ready, for he too was once a less-known long-race horse who made it to where he is today by first becoming the most popular face in the BJP.
And that was due to one reason alone: He was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002.
Garga Chatterjee is a political and cultural commentator. He can be followed on Twitter @gargac.