'In Yogi's Raj, Hindu festivals are State festivals.'
'He celebrates them, so does his police force, as he boasted in the assembly on Tuesday.'
'Eid, Christmas -- these can be observed, but expect nothing from the State to facilitate these celebrations,' says Jyoti Punwani.
IMAGE: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath smeared with colour during Holi celebrations in Gorakhpur, March 2, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo
The Uttar Pradesh chief minister's declaration in the state assembly on Tuesday, March 6 -- 'I'm a Hindu, I don't celebrate Eid. I'm proud of being a Hindu. I wear the sacred thread and I will not wear a topi' -- seems shocking.
But seen along with his conduct last week during Holi, it makes perfect sense.
All chief ministers take an oath to uphold the Constitution, which binds them to practise secularism. But the chief minister of our most populous state runs it like a Hindu ruler.
Forget everything Yogi Adityanath has done since he took over a year ago. Just one set of directives issued by him last week is enough to understand how his mind works.
Holi was celebrated last week across the country. This year, it fell on a Friday, the only day of the week when Muslims turn up in large numbers for the afternoon namaz, as a religious obligation.
Across India, the possibility of Holi revelers clashing with namazees was handled without much fuss.
Not in Yogi's UP, where every Hindu festival is celebrated with fanfare by the CM himself, given his original position as head of the Gorakhnath math.
His administration came up with a strange solution to prevent clashes on Holi. They wanted to direct Holi revelers to wind up by 11 am.
This is what Adityanath told (external link) those gathered to hear him at an election rally in Phulpur on Monday, March 5.
Giving them an account of how he dealt with this issue, Adityanath told the crowd: 'I told them Holi comes just once a year, how can it be wound up by 11 am?'
So what was his solution? Did he direct his administration that instead of restricting Holi timings, they should post enough forces, incuding the Rapid Action Force, to prevent Holi revelers gathering outside mosques and throwing colour on mosques and on namazees?
Such a step would have shown the State's intention of ensuring that followers of both faiths observe their religion freely.
But the CM issued a different set of instructions entirely.
As he declared at the Phulpur rally, the CM told his administration that while Holi comes but once a year, Friday namaz comes 52 times a year. At this statement, cheers went up from his listeners.
'Holi bhi hoga, jumey ki namaz bhi hogi (There will be Holi and there will be Friday prayers),' he told his officers, said Adityanath, and instructed them to tell the maulvis to push back the namaz timings by two hours, so that Holi could be celebrated for as long as it always is. At this, more cheers went up from the crowd listening to him.
At the rally, he thanked the maulvis for pushing back the timings so that their Hindu brothers could play Holi to their hearts' content. Not too many cheers were heard when he said this.
One wonders why Adityanath didn't list all the steps he had ordered his administration to take for Holi. Had he done so, the crowd would have erupted in joy.
The Times of India reported (external link) that the CM of Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims form almost a fifth of the population, asked his administration to get masjids covered, so that colour was not thrown on them, and to ensure there was no confrontation with Holi revelers.
Taken along with the order not to restrict timings for Holi, what do these instructions mean?
The CM was making sure that a free hand was given to Hindu citizens of his state to celebrate Holi without any restrictions.
If any adjustments had to be made because the festival of colour and revelry coincided with Friday namaz, Muslim citizens alone would have to make them.
Was it any wonder then that Muslim religious heads lost no time in declaring that they had decided to shift the Friday afternoon namaz timings on Holi?
One can understand their desire to show this decision as a voluntary gesture. But did the media, who knew the reality, have to go along with this charade?
Did the media do so to save the Muslim leaders from public humiliation? To allow them to get the 'wah wahs' of Hindus and many Muslims who hailed the gesture as a display of harmony?
Or was it done to save the CM's real face from being exposed?
Whatever the reason, this charade turned out to be meaningless after the CM's Phulpur speech.
Yogi Adityanath has no qualms about projecting himself as a Hindu ruler; indeed, he knows his aggressive Hindutva is his biggest asset. That is the reason he bragged about these administrative orders in an election rally.
Here was a Hindu ruler telling his Hindu subjects that under him, they would never have to tolerate any obstacles in celebrating their religious festivals, specially if those obstacles came in the form of others' religious sensitivities.
In the same speech, Adityanath also claimed that the same way as Holi was celebrated, Eid and Christmas too were celebrated in his reign.
He repeated this in the assembly on Tuesday: 'If anyone celebrates Eid peacefully, the government will be with them. All festivals are being celebrated in my state.'
How true is the CM's boast? And who are those not allowing these festivals to be celebrated peacefully?
Last Christmas, the Hindu Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Hindu Yuva Vahini founded by Adityanath, threatened Christian schools in Aligarh district not to celebrate Christmas.
The majority of students in these schools are Hindus, and the Manch felt that asking them to celebrate Christmas was an attempt to convert them.
The CM said nothing.
It was left to senior policemen to reassure the schools and their students.
At the start of this year, the UP Madrassa Board slashed holidays for madarsas affiliated to it. Ten days used to be given off before Ramzan, to enable students to reach home in time to observe it with their families. This was cut to two days.
Ten discretionary holidays which used to be decided by madarsa managements were also cut. Madarsas were told they would now have to remain closed on non-Muslim festivals.
Why should the UP administration interfere with the way poor Muslim children -- those sent to madarsas are the poorest of the poor -- observe their most important religious occasion?
Why should these children forego a holiday related to their faith, and instead of it, get a holiday for a festival they do not observe, be it Raksha Bandhan or Dussehra?
Can this move be made without the chief minister's approval?
In Yogi's Raj, Hindu festivals are State festivals. He celebrates them, so does his police force, as he boasted in the assembly on Tuesday.
Eid, Christmas -- these can be observed, but expect nothing from the State to facilitate these celebrations.
Just a year ago, this same man had railed against Christians and Muslims. At that time, he was an MP.
Maybe we should be thankful that as CM, he allows Christians and Muslims in his state to celebrate their festivals.