Both in terms of its membership and activities, the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) has picked up pace beyond its traditional bastion of Gorakhpur ever since its founder Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, setting off a turf battle between Hindutva’s “cultural organisations”.
According to a report in this paper, RSS seniors have conveyed their reservations about the HYV “running parallel to the BJP and RSS”. But on the Vahini, the UP CM needs to do more than just address the concerns of his political and ideological compatriots. In fact, the functioning of the HYV raises fundamental questions about the rule of law and the nature of policing in India’s most populous and politically important state.
In April alone, HYV activists interrupted a church prayer in Maharajganj, accusing the pastor of forced conversion, assaulted a Muslim couple in Meerut and pelted stones and assaulted police in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. Members of the HYV were also allegedly involved in the murder of 60-year-old Ghulam Mohammad in Bulandshahar for allegedly aiding the elopement of a Hindu-Muslim couple.
In several instances, the UP police have filed cases based on the HYV’s allegations, while being visibly circumspect in arresting and investigating the organisation’s members. Last month, the UP CM did caution members of the HYV to “maintain decent behaviour” in a closed-door meeting, lest the “image of the BJP is hurt”. CM Adityanath now needs to realise that there are larger issues at stake than merely the image of the ruling dispensation. It must worry him that the apparent impunity with which HYV members break the law is attributed to his becoming chief minister.
The choice of Adityanath for UP’s top political post was controversial, in large part, because of the polarising statements he made as patron of the HYV. There were apprehensions that the BJP, which did not field a single Muslim candidate, would ignore the intimidation and harassment of minorities by vigilante groups. That is precisely why the CM must act, and be seen to act, decisively in cases that members of the organisation are involved in. A constitutional office comes with clear responsibilities. As head of the state’s government, Adityanath will be held accountable for ensuring that the monopoly over violence remains with the state and its agencies, not non-state actors and vigilante groups.