WITH a string of cases reported in western Uttar Pradesh involving alleged Hindu Yuva Vahini activists, senior leaders say no directions are coming from above, leaving members to take matters into their own hands.
It’s been more than a year since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the founder of the Yuva Vahini, held a meeting of its leaders. Sachin Mittal, in-charge of the Yuva Vahini’s Meerut Vibhag (covering Meerut, Hapur and Baghpat districts), says the leaders whom Yogi appointed in his place haven’t held any state-level meetings either. “None of them has even visited western UP,” Mittal says.
The Vahini’s website has been dysfunctional now for almost four months, and recently, orders dissolving its district unit at Lucknow and Mau were posted on Facebook. Leaders said the Mau unit was dissolved as some expelled workers were “misusing the name of the organisation”.
Yogi had named his loyalist Raghvendra Pratap Singh as the Vahini state in-charge, Rakesh Rai as state president and P K Mall as state general secretary. Says Mittal, “Raghvendra has confined himself to Domariyaganj after he was elected BJP MLA from there.”
In May last year, following a surge in applications, membership to the Vahini had been closed. The CM had also instructed Vahini’s men to maintain “decency” and avoid controversy. In the past few months though, its name has surfaced time and again, and in areas where it is not as well-entrenched as in eastern UP.
In December, Vahini workers are believed to have been part of a mob that barged into a campus in Bijnor, “to prevent conversion of Hindus to Christianity”. Its Moradabad division in-charge N P Singh says ghar wapsi of the Hindus was carried out the next day. On January 13, members of the Vahini, along with some of the VHP, were accused of assaulting, in Baghpat tehsil, three Muslim youths who had come from Punjab for a court marriage between a Hindu woman and one of them. An FIR was lodged, and while the Vahini denies the youths were its members, an office-bearer says, “We are not owning them up because the girl came on her own. But our act was justified as it was a case of love jihad. Her parents didn’t know she was going to marry a Muslim. Our objective was met because police sent the girl with her parents.”
A fortnight later, an FIR was lodged against Vahini state secretary Nagendra Tomar, after a video surfaced of him talking about “love jihad” during a Republic Day function in Budhana, Muzaffarnagar. The FIR was lodged under IPC section 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion). Tomar, a lecturer at a government-aided college in Meerut, is yet to be arrested.
A few days later, Tomar got into another controversy for allegedly sending Vahini workers in Meerut to “protect” a Hindu girl from some Muslim youths, which had led to a scuffle. Mittal says Vahini workers approached police to “settle the issue”.
The Vahini’s Moradabad leader, N P Singh, acknowledges one more incident, where a Kashmiri couple were handed over to police in Bijnore, as the handiwork of its men. “What they did was in national interest,” he says.
A Vahini office-bearer in Moradabad says that despite membership to the outfit being closed formally, “new people are getting associated with us”. “Nearly 500 new youths in Meerut and more than 1,000 youths in Bijnor and Moradabad have started working with us. Once the ban on membership is removed, they will be taken in formally.”
General secretary Mall says the Vahini work hasn’t stopped. “All instructions and messages are being conveyed through Facebook and during the regular meetings of Sambhag Prabharis (divisional in-charges). Western UP leaders were called for a meeting in Lucknow four months ago.”
While the relationship between the Vahini and the BJP is strained — also seen as one of the reasons Yogi has kept his distance from the Vahini since becoming CM — they are in regular touch with the RSS. The Vahini is involved in preparations for the RSS’s largest ever meeting of volunteers, ‘Rashtrodaya, Swayamsevak Samaagam’, to be held in Meerut on February 25 and addressed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. “Nearly 150 Vahini workers will wear the RSS ganvesh (uniform) at the event,” says the Vahini’s Meerut district head, Ajay Som.
While they feel neglected by the central leadership, Mittal says they continue to “follow the guidelines set by Mahantji (Adityanath)”. “Mahantji wants discipline.”
He adds, “If any anti-social incident like love jihad comes to our knowledge, we are supposed to inform police first. That we did recently when some Muslim youths gheraoed the house of a Hindu girl in Meerut. But when police did not reach on time, our workers were there to help the girl.”
About their activities in western UP, Raghvendra Pratap Singh, the Vahini state in-charge, says “there is peace all across” and “exploitation of Hindus has stopped in eastern UP”. “But when such incidents occur in western UP, our workers become active there.” He also denies that meetings of the organisation are not regular, and says that no one is allowed to function as per own wish.
BJP state vice-president Kanta Kardam, who lost the mayoral election in Meerut recently, praises the Vahini activities. “They are doing good work in western UP. They are also maintaining coordination with the BJP.”
Moradabad division in-charge N P Singh, from whose pathology lab the Bijnor office of the Vahini runs, says they are not too perturbed about controversies that may arise. “Jab activities hongi to naam to hoga hi (If there are activities, of course there will be some name).”