Bharatiya Janata Party's Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu hardliner who has been accused of stirring violence against India's Muslim minority, was chosen by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead Uttar Pradesh this year.
The opposition parities denounced his appointment. Although the five-time parliamentarian from Uttar Pradesh has a strong base of power in the east of the state, he also has a history of spewing hate with his bitter anti-Muslim comments. All his campaigning was based on unabashed religious prejudices.
Yet, Modi appointed him to lead Uttar Pradesh — the most populous state of the country, where about 40 million people are Muslim.
Take a look at some of his positions:
Politician first, priest second
Adityanath, at first, had a passion for politics and not for religion. But that changed during the '90s, when he joined the Gorakhnath Temple, a right-wing Hindu organization with an alleged tradition of militancy. In September 2014, he was appointed as the head of the temple after the death of his successor Mahant Avaidyanath.
Avaidyanath reportedly urged Hindu mobs in 1992 to tear down a 16th-century mosque and build a temple in its place.
He formed a vigilante group
Adityanath became a firebrand Hindu leader after forming the Hindu Yuva Vahini, or Hindu Youth Brigade, a vigilante organization in 2002.
During the first five years, after the vigilante group was formed, 22 religious clashes reportedly broke out in the districts surrounding Gorakhpur, a city in Uttar Pradesh, and many cases were reportedly enticed after Adityanath’s encouragement.
History of being behind bars after promoting enmity between religious groups
In 2000, Adityanath was accused of three different crimes, including attempted murder, rioting and promoting hostile behaviors between religious groups. Later, he spent two weeks in prison in 2007, after being accused of inciting riots in Gorakhpur, before being released on bail.
However, his influence among law-enforcement was so strong that the officer who arrested Adityanath first stopped to touch his feet as a gesture of reverence, according to Manoj Singh, a journalist.
Investigations in these cases were subsequently delayed, allowing him to pursue his political career.
Reputation of spewing hate with inflammatory speeches against Muslims
In 2011, he called for the killing of Muslims. “If one Hindu is killed, we won’t go to the police. We will kill 100 Muslims,” he said. The bigot reportedly also called for Hindu men to rape the corpses of Muslim women.
“If given a chance, we will install statues of [Hindu deities] Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque,” said Adityanath in 2015. He also warned Hindu parents to stop their girls from seducing Hindu men to convert to Islam.
Next in line
He is now believed to be next in line to rule India despite his vast criminal record.
At the age of 45, Adityanath is receiving an unusual amount of media coverage. “He is automatically on anybody’s list as a potential contender to succeed Modi,” said Sadanand Dhume, an India specialist at the American Enterprise Institute. “They have normalized someone who, three years ago, was considered too extreme to be minister of state for textiles. Everything has been normalized so quickly.”
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters