How a Mystical Mutt of Yore Became HQ of Hardcore Hindutva Under AdityanathSuhas Munshi | News18.com
Updated: March 4, 2017, 1:29 PM IST
BJP’s Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath campaigns in Pilibhit on February 10. (PTI)'Agla agna hogba to hey avadhu tu hova paani’
If the person next to you is fire, then hey sadhu you should be water.
At about 1pm in Gorakhpur, Sunil Singh, the head of Hindu Yuva Vahini, was talking about Muslims he had murdered.
“Were you part of 2007 riots?”
“Haan... eint ka jawaab pathhar se diya… hamare ek bhai maroge, tumhare chaar bhai maarenge. Ek Musalmaan ne Dalit ladki ka balaatkaar kiya tha, jaan se maar diya tha. Mohan Munder village Kaptangunj mein, ek bhi Mussalman ka ghar nahi bacha. Sabke ghar jalaye. Theek se jalayee. Bum feke. Goliyan chalai. Do teen udhar se bhi mare.” (We gave them a fitting reply. If you kill one of us, we will kill four of you. A Muslim man raped a Dalit girl, killed her. In Mohan Munder village, not a single Muslim house was spared. All houses were burnt, bombed, fired at.”
For 25 years, Singh has been the head of Hindu Yuva Vahini, a private army of five-time Gorakhpaur MP Yogi Adityanath, who himself has been booked for making hate speeches, and was arrested during 2007 riots.
Standing in today’s poll-bound Gorakhpur, it’s difficult to believe that this city was once the spiritual headquarters of Nathpanthis, a tradition of mystics called kaan-phatas (because of their custom of piercing one ear), who trace their lineage to the Adiyogi, Lord Shiva. The Nath monks were known more for leading progressive and reformist movements across the subcontinent, which even inspired Kabir Das and Guru Nanak.
It is difficult to believe today that Yogi Adityanath is the present Mahant of the Mutt that was started by Dalits and made famous by Muslims. Or that the Gorakhnath Mutt had little to do with Lord Ram or heavy Hindutva.Manoj Singh, a local journalist and a scholar on Gorakhnath Mutt, offers a valid poser. “Ever since Adityanath became the Mahant of this Mutt, I have not once heard a verse of Gorakh Vaani from him,” he said.
“Why would the Mahant of one of the most popular and oldest Mutts not even discuss the ideas and literature of his Mutt?" he asks.Singh ends that question with his own conclusion. “Maybe he doesn’t know Gorakh Vaani himself, or maybe he’s read it and knows that the idea behind those powerful verses actually undermines his own position.”
Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath karyalaya at the Mutt.
Nathpanthis had no connection with politics or even the wider society. They set up their centres well outside busy settlements to spend time alone meditating.
“Its followers were mainly Dalits, Nishads and a few Muslims who were turned away by Brahmins under the prevalent sanatan systems. They came together to sing Gorakh Vaani,” Singh said.Even today, several villages like Lohra and Sathiaun in Azamgarh, and Koth in Balia are comprised mainly of Muslim jogis, who, wearing saffron robes, set out and sing Gorakh Vaani throughout the country.
“Nathpanth was a unique ideology that was neither dwait nor adwait. It was about purity of the soul. Even Prophet Mohammad finds mention and praise in Gorakh Vaani. This was a popular centre of meditation, not of politics as the case is today,” said Professor Chittranjan Mishra, head of department (Hindi), Gorakhpur University.Another Gorakh Mutt scholar, Professor Pramod Pandey, who heads the sociology department, Gorakhpur University, claims Adityanath with his aggressive Hindutva agenda has distorted the Nathpanthi ideology.
“Nathpanth kabhi ugr Hindutva soch nahi thi (Nathpanth was never about hardline Hindutva). It was a progressive, reformist movement based on Gorakh Vaani, which for its literary and sociological value, is taught even today to our students.”Experts claim the transition from spirituality to reactionary politics began around 100 years ago with the arrival of Mahant Digvijay Nath, who was also one of the founders of the Hindu Mahasabha. His name came up during the investigation into Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
And then came the turn of his disciple Avaidyanath who represents Gorakhpur in the Lok Sabha.
“There are hints that the Mahants before Digvijay Nath were Dalits. But with him Hindutvasation and Kshatriyakaran of the Mutt started. He was a kshatriya and so were his two followers. Slowly, images and sculptures of Ram and Hanuman and verses from Ramayan started replacing images of Gorakhnath and his verses. It expanded from a humble fireplace to a 52-acre campus,” said Manoj Singh.He added, “But things changed drastically with Adityanath. There is something about Adityanath that distinguishes him from the previous Mahants.”
While the ambitions of his predecessors were confined to Gorakhpur, Adityanath wants to play on a national stage. He has addressed 150 rallies in UP campaign, and is threatening to overshadow all other BJP leaders in and outside UP.
‘Habak na chalba, thabak na chalba, dheere dharba paon,’ goes a line of Gorakh Vaani. (Do not walk fast or jump, O selfless Sadhu, place your feet slowly.)
Adityanath has emerged as BJP’s power-centre in Poorvanchal. Since he jumped into electoral politics, in 1989, the party has maintained dominance over the area’s MLAs, city mayors, and Parliamentary seat.
On the other hand, though, he has not really achieved much outside Gorakhpur. In the 41 Assembly seats in the Gorakhpur–Basti belt under his leadership, the party has never secured more than 11 seats. This shows how, in this belt, which has a high percentage of Dalits, Adityanath has been popular only among few upper caste Hindu voters.
This time, the BJP’s prospects even within Gorakhpur look grim. Nishads, with about 1 lakh voters, have formed their own party. Kayasths have publicly supported the BSP, strong renegade BJP leaders are threatening to take down new BJP candidates in Gorakhpur district.“The party is in such a bad shape that for the first time its party president has had to hold rallies here,” said Sunil Singh.
Being such a popular and powerful figure in his district, Yogi Adityanath holds a darbar outside his office in Gorakhpur Mutt every morning. Those whose voices aren’t heard by bureaucrats and police start assembling outside his office from 7am to seek an audience with him.
The venue of Yogi Adityanath's morning darbar.
On March 2, Adityanath was uncharacteristically late in his durbar. According to his assistants, Yogi Adityanath was busy meeting and talking to people on phone since 5 in the morning. Later in the day, he’d go and receive Amit Shah and hold a joint roadshow with him.
Adityanath arrived with his assistants only at 9. Media, eagerly waiting for a sound byte on the last day of campaigning in phase six, was lined up. Many wanted to get his views on the local newspaper advertisements that BJP had published that morning. It had Amit Shah’s face on it, not Adityanath’s. BJP had clearly shown the Mahant his place.
Unlike his usual practice of sitting on his customary chair, he stopped outside his office for a second — listening to his audience — and dismissed everyone immediately. “Chunaav ke baad aana,” he said while walking away from the people holding requests and recommendation letters in their hands.
Yogi Adityanath has achieved quite a lot at a remarkably young age of 44. But this time, he is fighting one of the toughest battles of his political life. On one hand, political parties like the BSP and the SP–Congress alliance threaten to invade into his political space. And on the other, disadvantaged communities like Nishads are for the first time fighting back to stake their claim on the Mutt, since, they claim, Gorakhnath’s guru Matsyendranath was a Nishad.
At this time, it may be wise for the Yogi to return to the timeless, memorable and instructive verses of Gorakh Vani.
‘Ye jag hai kaanto ki badhi, dekh dekh pag dharna,’ (This world is full of thorns, O Sadhu, tread very carefully.)