Hindu Yuva Vahini, a law unto itself

Hindu Yuva Vahini, a law unto itself

Hindu Yuva Vahini, a law unto itself
Formed around 15 years ago with the specific purpose of promoting Hindutva ideology, the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) has become a law unto itself in the regime of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, its founder and chief patron. Not much was known about the Vahini beyond Gorakhpur, Yogi’s hometown, and a few districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but the HYV members have appeared from nowhere in almost every part of the state since Adityanath’s anointment as chief minister in March this year.

The Vahini hit headlines last month after a Muslim man was lynched in the state’s communally sensitive Bulandshahar district for helping two lovers from different communities to elope. The victim, Ghulam Ahmed, was beaten to death by “members of HYV”. Vahini members had earlier publicly assaulted a Muslim youth and dragged him to the police station, accusing him of what they termed was “love jihad” (Muslim youths trapping Hindu girls pretending to be Hindus).

Last month scores of HYV activists barged into a church in Maharajganj district during a prayer and assaulted the priests there alleging that they were “forcing” people to convert to Christianity. The Vahini members have also been accused of threatening and assaulting the police on several occasions.

The HYV members, who could easily be identified by their saffron turbans, flock to almost all the functions in which the chief minister is in attendance. At times they travel from other districts to attend the programmes. The members are usually entrusted with the responsibility of making all the arrangements for the chief minister’s functions if they are not government programmes.

The Vahini members have also been ignoring the local BJP units, much to their chagrin and discomfort, and on many occasions the local leaders also expressed their resentment at hijacking of Adityanath’s programmes by Vahini members. Increasing differences between the BJP and the HYV was evident recently at Adityanath’s function in Varanasi when the local BJP leaders virtually boycotted the programme much to the embarrassment of the chief minister. The resentment was such that at the recent state BJP executive committee meeting in Lucknow, state BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya said that some people, who were not part of the BJP, were trying to sideline genuine party workers and are bringing a bad name to the government. He also warned that any attempt to sideline genuine party workers would not be tolerated. Adityanath was also present at the meeting but he chose to remain silent. A source in the state BJP said that similar concerns had been aired during the party leaders’ meeting with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionaries in Lucknow a few days ago.

Soothing tempers

In an attempt to sooth frayed tempers, Adityanath, during his recent visit to Gorakhpur, told Vahini office-bearers to stay away from controversial issues, including “Love Jihad”, conversion and cow vigilantism. Interestingly, the Vahini’s popularity has soared since Adityanath took over the reins of the state. People, especially the youths, made a beeline to acquire membership. The HYV’s official website says that it is dedicated to “Hindutva” and “nationalism”. The site has articles on “Minority Appeasement and its Consequences”, “Islam ka safar-Jehad se Love Jehad tak” and “Hindu-Muslim Love Marriage-A conspiracy”.

A Vahini office-bearer said that around 5,000 applications were received. “Before Yogi took over as CM of the state, the number of daily applications varied between 500 and 600,” he said. The outfit, however, has put its membership drive on hold indefinitely. The step was taken to prevent the entry of “anti-social elements” into the organisation.

Adityanath regularly attends the meetings of the organisation and issues directives to the members. Several members are facing cases pertaining to rioting, damaging public property and delivering provocative speeches. Vahini members had been charged with rioting in Gorakhpur in 2007. Adityanath was alo booked for delivering a hate speech that led to rioting.