Yogi Adityanath, the Mahant of Gorakhnath Mutt and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has captured the public imagination in a manner that is unprecedented even in the era of Narendra Modi. Already dubbed by many as Prime Minister Modi’s successor, the ruthlessness of the state police in dealing with criminals and his unabashed commitment to Sanatana Dharma has arguably made him the second most popular BJP leader after the Prime Minister himself.
But how does Yogi Adityanath think? What is the ideological framework he operates under? Today, we shall make an effort to decipher the motivations that drive the Warrior Priest.
It is well known that Yogi Adityanath’s preferred mode of defence, is attack. He has demonstrated time and again that he will not back down from a challenge and perceives as his duty to ensure the continued survival of the Hindu civilization. During his interviews, during the election campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and after, he has made no effort to hide his ideological inclinations and is completely unapologetic about the actions he has undertaken to fulfil ideological objectives.
The central theme of Yogi Adityanath’s worldview appears to be his perception that the Hindu civilization as we know it is under threat from forces both within and without. An article on his official website titled ‘Hindus in danger’ states, “If we Hindus are to survive, then we must become aware, we have to recognize the forces that threaten our existence and we also have to identify our own strengths.” He goes on to warn,
The secularization of Nepal appears to have affected Yogi Adityanath quite strongly. It is quite obvious that the Mahant perceives the declaration of Nepal as a secular state as an attack on Hinduism itself. In the same article, he writes, “The danger that looms over Nepal isn’t a threat to merely a country, it is a conspiracy to destroy a culture. Nepal is not merely a nation but a legacy.”
In his article, ‘The ongoing Cheerharan of Nepal‘, he elaborates on the issue and asserts that preserving Nepal’s identity as a Hindu nation is absolutely essential for Indian interests. He asserts that for as long as Nepal has existed, it has always been a Hindu country. And the attempts to secularize it was being made by vested interests as the country’s official designation as a Hindu Rashtra under a Hindu Monarchy was making it difficult for communists, Islamists and Christian missionaries to function freely.
He also heavily criticized the Indian government at the time (the UPA regime) for its inaction and cited the chaos that Nepal was forced through as a great failure of Indian foreign policy. It is quite evident that Yogi Adityanath believes as long as Nepal remains a Hindu country, its government and administration will naturally be aligned to Indian interests and anything otherwise would affect the relationship between our countries adversely.
Yogi Adityanath appears to have great regards for the erstwhile monarchy of Nepal and perceived the abolition of monarchy in the country as a great tragedy. “As long as the Monarchy existed, the Maoists could not create anarchy in the country and that is why in the name of democracy, the monarchy was abolished. Capturing power over the state is their only objective.”
He also sees collaborations between Islamists, Christian missionaries and communists in the events that transpired in Nepal. It should also be mentioned that Yogi Adityanath has close personal ties with the erstwhile Nepalese royal family and his sampradaya has a huge following there. It is said that Prithvi Narayan Shah himself, who is credited to have waged the conquests that led to the formation of the modern Nepalese state, visited Gorakhnath Mutt and took the blessings of the Mahant before embarking on the path of war. Since then, every Nepalese monarch visited the Temple of Gorakhnath to seek His blessings.
Yogi Adityanath asserts that Islam is a source of inspiration behind acts of terrorism. An article titled which is assumed to be written in the wake of the terror attacks at Jaipur in 2008, ‘Islam and Terrorism‘ says, “There’s a section of Indian people who object when Islam is associated with terrorism. They call it a conspiracy to malign the religion. Aren’t they aware why not only in India but all over the world, the number of people killed in the name of Islam and Allah keeps on increasing? Why is the sacred land of Bharata being reddened with the blood of innocents? Why are innocent Hindus murdered on a daily basis? Why have Hindus been completely wiped out from Afghanistan? Why is it that the extermination of Hindus in Bangladesh is in its final phase? Why were Hindus wiped out in Pakistan occupied Kashmir? Why did the Kashmir valley turn anti-India as soon as Muslims became the majority and Hindus were wiped out?” The Yogi doesn’t buy into the idea that people are taking to terrorism due to lack of employment opportunities, according to him, there are some fundamental doctrines of Islam which inspire terrorism. In the same article, he says, “Till the time the ideas of Jihad and Jannat continue to exist, terrorism will not stop. Let us vow to eradicate the ideas of Jihad and Jannat from the face of the Earth, only then will Dharma and our culture survive and our pride will remain secure as well.”
Yogi Adityanath’s vision of Hindutva is also worth noting. He calls those who deem Hindutva communal as silly. He says Hindus can never be communal. On the other hand, those who claim their religion to be the only true religion and deem the others false and assert that they should not even exist are actually the communal ones, says the Yogi. “Hindutva is an inclusive movement for the nation’s renaissance whose objective is to eradicate evil traditions such as untouchability, casteism, dowry. It should also not be forgotten that despite so many obstacles and challenges if India has succeeded in remaining secular, it’s only because India is a Hindu-majority country.”
Yogi also regards religious conversions as a conspiracy against the nation. “Dharma-antran is Rashtra-antran and is a conspiracy to destroy the culture of our nation,” he proclaims. He says that Muslim invaders and Christian missionaries during the colonial era converted many many Hindus using terror, threats, bribes and even through deceit and later these very people were used as foot-soldiers in their war against Bharata. And he claims that such conspiracies continue to this day. He claims that Christian missionaries do not convert people to promote spiritual inquiry but for entirely political reasons. “After the conversion, efforts are made to change the nation the person identifies himself with. His beliefs are separated from the land of this country its culture. It is due to religious conversions that the northeastern states of India have come Christianized and have become hubs of separatism.”
Illegal immigration is also a major concern for Yogi Adityanath. He accuses the UPA regime of being motivated by selfish politics and blames state governments (most of which were not under BJP rule then) as well for their inability to check illegal immigration from Bangladesh which has altered the demography of many northeastern regions in the country. “Due to Bangladeshi illegal immigrants, every state in northeast India along with West Bengal and Bihar are suffering a dangerous situation of changing demography.” He also claims that anti-India forces are using Bangladeshi illegal immigrants to further their nefarious anti-national agenda.
In the past, the revered leader of the Nath sampradaya has asserted that movies are selectively undermining Hindu culture. Citing examples of movies such as ‘Jodha Akbar’, the Yogi says these are attempts at denigrating Hindu society and culture. He also calls such attempts ‘mischievous’. “Why don’t the filmmakers remember Maharana Pratap who swore that he shall not bow before any invader?” He further says, “We have to stop this mischief otherwise if such insult to the divine feminine continues, we have to prepare ourselves for another Mahabharata.”
One of the things that have made Yogi Adityanath so popular is his completely unapologetic nature. In the past, he has made several statements which made him an immensely controversial figure in Indian politics. He had said to those opposing Surya Namaskar during the International Yoga Day celebrations, “Sun is the source of life-giving energy. Whoever thinks Sun is communal, I would like to humbly request them to drown themselves in the sea or they should stay in a dark cell.” Of Mother Teresa, he had said, “Mother Teresa was part of a conspiracy to convert Hindus to Christianity. Hindus were targeted in the name of doing service and then converted by her.”
His track record in the Parliament during his tenure as an MP from Gorakhpur speaks volumes about his commitment towards Hindutva. During a discussion on the 5151st anniversary of Bhagavad Geeta, he requested that the Book, Holy to Hindus, be declared a national book and be made a part of the school, secondary and university education.
On another occasion, he spoke out against the Uttar Pradesh state government’s decision to take over the Shri Banke Bihari Temple and Shri Vindhanchal Shaktipeeth. He criticized the then state government for not acting on the directions of the National Green Tribunal to shut down illegal slaughterhouses in the state, something which he took decisive action against after assuming the seat of Chief Minister. During his time as an MP, he also spoke out against the banning of loudspeakers during Kanwaryatra and the harassment that the devotees endured due to their protests. After he became the Chief Minister, devotees have been greeted with flowers from the air and DJs were permitted as well. He has also requested that a law be formulated to ban cow slaughter in the entire country.
In the Parliament, Yogi has asked several pointed questions as well. He asked the government if it was aware that suspicious role of the Church was found behind separatism in the North East to which Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren RIjiju stated there was no such report. He has also asked questions regarding activities of NGOs in tribal areas. He has spoken out against the communal nature of RTE Act as well and demanded that the then UPA government stop dividing the country between the minority and the majority.
The most glaring insight to Yogi Adityanath’s worldview was provided during his interview at Chunav Manch ahead of the state assembly elections. When the interviewer pressed him about the names that had been restored in Uttar Pradesh and asked why he couldn’t he let the names just be, Yogi’s answer, instead of going on the defensive, was a straightforward, “Why should we let it be?”
Then, he went on to assert that he will continue to restores the names of places and he indeed has proved true to his word in that regard thus far. During the same event, when someone from the audience accused him of practising communal politics and suggested that the country will benefit greatly if he chooses to retire from politics, Yogi retaliated by saying,”You have said a very good thing, if you have said the same thing in Kashmir, if we had sent you there as a counsellor, then it would have been great.” When Muslim women attacked him, he went on the offensive and asserted that they should try convincing Maulvis and Maulanas to issue a fatwa against Triple Talaq instead.
Yogi Adityanath appears to be one of those people who recognize the Indian state as the custodian of the great Hindu civilization and to ensure the continued existence of it as its duty. Coupled with his combative attitude, the saffron-clad saint is a very potent mix of ideological fortitude, the strength of character and righteous conviction in the path that he has embarked upon.
The ideological framework that he operates under and his actions as Chief Minister since he took office reveals that his appointment as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was a great watershed moment for Indian politics, perhaps even more so than the 2014 General Elections. More importantly, the decisions he has taken thus far hints towards the fact that he has not deviated from his ideological positions which he had endorsed prior to his appointment as Chief Minister of the most populous state in India.
Note: Yogi Adityanath’s articles quoted here were originally published in Hindi on his official website. The author has attempted to translate them to the best of his abilities.