Political Hinduism

  • For Nepal, there’s much to be wary of the Hindu cleric in UP’s new chief minister

Mar 20, 2017-

The appointment of the Hindu cleric Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has created waves in the Indian media. It is an event that could well have significant ramifications for Nepal. Adityanath has more extensive links and stronger opinions about this country than perhaps any chief minister of any Indian state bordering Nepal since Indian independence. 

Yogi Adityanath is the mahant of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur. Anyone with  knowledge of Nepali history will instantly recognise that the Gorakhnath temple had deep historical ties with Nepal’s erstwhile royal family. Prithvi Narayan Shah himself supposedly received the blessings of the mahant of the temple before he waged his conquests that led to the formation of the modern Nepali state. From that time onwards, each Nepali king visited Gorakhnath to seek the deity’s blessings. 

Yogi Adityanath was outspoken about political events in Nepal during the early years of the peace process. He vociferously criticised the decision of the mainstream parliamentary parties to ally with the Maoists (whom he viewed as anti-Hindu criminals), as well as the decision to establish a secular and republican state. In his view, Hindu monarchy was the only thing that could hold Nepal together, and he often claimed that the abolition of the institution would lead to Nepal’s fragmentation. He is also thought to have actively supported the Madhes movements in 2007 and 2008. Still, for the Hindu cleric-turned-chief minister, the revival of a Hindu state and monarchy was, and continues to be, far more important than any demands for the inclusion of marginalised groups. When Nepal adopted a constitution in 2015, he barely said anything about the Madhesi demands. He, however, condemned the document as it made Nepal a secular, rather than a Hindu, state. 

It is too early to clearly decide what Adityanath’s appointment will mean for Nepal. Nonetheless, there are some tendencies that can be discerned. One, it is likely that he will encourage the Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to increase its activities on Nepali soil, and campaign for the restoration of a Hindu state. Two, the UP government could well gain greater influence on Delhi’s policies towards Nepal. It is widely thought that Indian policy in recent years has been primarily focused on supporting the Madhesi demands. But it is more likely that UP’s chief minister will not help the Madhesi parties so much as embolden and strengthen Hindu revivalist organisations and parties, such as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. 

This could pose threats to our fledgling federal and secular order. Voices in favour of smothering minorities might gain ground, leading to a reversal of the political achievements of the recent years. This is something that Nepal’s parties and civil society need to keep guard against.  

Published: 20-03-2017 08:15

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