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HomeIndiaHindu Yuva Vahini helped Yogi into CM's chair. Now its Gorakhpur office...

Hindu Yuva Vahini helped Yogi into CM’s chair. Now its Gorakhpur office lies deserted

While Hindu Yuva Vahini office-bearers say its role has changed since pro-Hindutva govt came to power in UP, its office doesn’t open every day, and former members allege ‘deception’.

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Gorakhpur: On Maharana Pratap Marg, a stone’s throw away from the Gorakhpur railway station, stands a nondescript two-storey building, with a ‘Holiday Inn’ on the ground floor and a local landmark on the first. This is the office of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the organisation founded by Yogi Adityanath in the early 2000s, long before he became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Above the doorway to the office hangs a faded poster bearing Adityanath’s face, but the door is locked and the office looks abandoned when ThePrint visits around the middle of the day. Shopkeepers in the area say the office isn’t opened regularly — that one “boy” is supposed to come and open it, but on some days he doesn’t come at all.

This just about sums up what has become of the Hindu Yuva Vahini since Adityanath became CM — the vigilante organisation that played a part in establishing him as a rising force has dropped off the radar, according to former members and observers.

But its general secretary Pramod Kumar Mall disagrees. “We are still heavily involved in social and cultural activities,” Mall tells ThePrint.

Asked if Yogi Adityanath is still associated with the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Mall adds: “Whoever is the Goraksha Peethadheeshwar (head of the Gorakhnath temple and mutt), is the sanrakshak (patron) of the organisation.”

Also read: ‘Moles’ in courts, WhatsApp — how UP Hindu groups are networking to stop inter-faith marriages

Origin and controversies

The Hindu Yuva Vahini — which literally translates to Hindu youth force — was formed in 2002. While it isn’t technically an offshoot of the Hindutva ideology, it fits into the larger family of organisations that promote it.

It established young Yogi Adityanath — a 30-year-old two-time MP from Gorakhpur at the time of its birth — as a prominent advocate for Hindutva in the region.

The Hindu Yuva Vahini’s activities brought it infamy and criticism on the one hand, and support from the majority community on the other. It focussed on issues such as gauraksha (cow protection) and ‘love jihad’, a term applied to religious conversion through love relationships and marriage. It also attracted attention for forming so-called ‘anti-Romeo squads’, which would catch and threaten/beat up men for any public displays of affection.

It proclaimed itself a “fierce cultural and social organisation dedicated to Hindutva and nationalism” and organised programmes to make people converted to other religions Hindus again, calling it “ghar wapsi” (return home).

The organisation and Adityanath himself were at the centre of communal tensions in Gorakhpur in 2007 — the then-MP was arrested by the administration when he insisted on holding a condolence meeting for a Hindu allegedly killed by a Muslim. His arrest triggered communal violence which spread out of Gorakhpur to other parts of eastern UP, including Varanasi.

In 2017, three members of the Yuva Vahini were arrested on allegations of rape and thrashing a police officer. The same year, its members were also allegedly involved in lynching a Muslim man in Bulandshahr for helping a Hindu girl elope, and beating up a Muslim couple in a courtroom on the suspicion of ‘love jihad’ in Baghpat in 2018.

However, when the BJP came to power with a massive majority in the 2017 UP assembly elections and Adityanath was hand-picked by the party high command to lead the government, the Hindu Yuva Vahini seemed to disappear from the mainstream.

Maharaj ji (Adityanath) had put a restriction on new people joining the organisation to stop frauds happening in the name of Yuva Vahini. Many people from opposition parties were also trying to get associated with him by using the name of the organisation, so it was decided that no other person from any other organisation could join anymore,” Mall says.

“Many people from states other than Uttar Pradesh have been associated with the organisation before Maharaj ji became CM, but our organisation does not exist in other states,” he clarifies.

Asked how many volunteers of the organisation are still active, Mall replies it’s difficult to ascertain the exact number. “It is difficult to count how many members are here in the district, as we have 2000 villages and every block has a 51-member committee,” he says.

Also read: Hindu Vahinis, Hindu Samaj, Hindu Army — how vigilante groups are thriving in Yogi’s UP

Disillusioned ex-members criticise what it became

Some current and former members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini ThePrint spoke to say it is still involved in social and cultural activities, but is not as important as before.

A member from the early days who has now dissociated himself from the organisation and is not active in politics says on the condition of anonymity that he was disillusioned because it became increasingly political.

“It was formed as per the orders of Bade Maharaj ji (Mahant Avaidyanath, former MP and Yogi Adityanath’s guru). We got full direction and support of Yogi ji, who was the MP at the time. People had faith in this organisation; it used to be a ray of hope for Hindus , not just in Gorakhpur but in the whole region as well,” the member says.

“However, after 2012, the Vahini began political activism… I was still thinking of it as an organisation which was fighting for Hindu rights and upliftment of the Sanatan Dharma… It is very unfortunate that the current Yuva Vahini has more politicians involved and less ‘sevaks’. Now, everyone associated with the Vahini is on some political post, like ward councillor or president of some political unit,” he further alleges.

The member is alluding to the fact that the state convener of the Hindu Yuva Vahini is Domariyaganj MLA Raghavendra Pratap Singh, while the Gorakhpur city convener is Rishi Mohan Verma, deputy chairman of the municipal corporation.

Another former member claims after Yogi became CM, other members’ political ambitions also got fulfilled, so they stopped giving attention to the Hindu Yuva Vahini.

“Naturally, Yogi ji has more important things to take care of. But Yuva Vahini’s programmes have decreased because many people have also got busy with their political posts… their political ambitions got fulfilled, so they have abandoned the organisation,” claims the second member, who also doesn’t wish to be identified.

“After Yogi ji became CM, some people thought they also became CM with him. These things cannot work together. One needs devotion towards the organisation,” he says, adding that this is among the reasons why he quit activism and is focussing on his business.

A third member says meetings used to happen regularly before 2017, but now, they’ve become “rare occasions”.

“When Maharaj ji (Adityanath) comes to Gorakhpur, all these members can be seen around him, but they hardly meet otherwise, unless there is some event,” the third anonymous member claims.

However, general secretary Mall denies such claims. “It is not true that the Yuva Vahini is finished. We are involved in popularising government schemes and take part in social activities,” he says.

“When the government was anti-Hindutva, we had to struggle for the smallest things for our people’s rights. Now, all those activities are happening very smoothly, so we are taking up other social activities such as tree plantation, tackling malnutrition, other social awareness programmes etc,” Mall adds.

State convener and BJP MLA Raghavendra Pratap Singh echoes his words.

“I have just returned from the inauguration of a help desk at Balua Mata temple by the Yuva Vahini,” he tells ThePrint.

‘Yogi ka Hanuman’ hits out

Sunil Singh, another former member of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, was once so close to Yogi Adityanath that he was called ‘Yogi ka Hanuman’, referencing the Ramayana. Now, he is in the Samajwadi Party, and alleges Adityanath used the organisation as a means to fulfil his political ambitions.

“Our pure movement got infiltrated by hate. We were told to incite communal differences. We were asked to tell Hindus that Muslim are the biggest threat for them. How do you otherwise explain Yogi’s win? He comes from outside of Uttar Pradesh, that too from a Rajput family. There is no way he could have remained the MP for so long without any challenge. That is what the hateful politics did for him,” Sunil Singh alleges.

In 2018, Singh was arrested along with eight others after a row over the “real” Hindu Yuva Vahini, when he established his own organisation.

“I was arrested by Yogi Adityanath in July 2018 when I established a separate organisation called Hindu Yuva Vahini Bharat, but I merged that into the Samajwadi Party when I joined it,” he says.

He adds that the senior BJP leadership had indicated to Adityanath that he shouldn’t be involved with another organisation. “He was told sangathan ke andar sangathan nahin chalega,” Sunil claims.

“So many of these small organisations were dismantled… But what about those who left their career, families and devoted themselves in the service of dharma? Those young men were deceived,” he alleges.

Asked about these allegations, Raghavendra Pratap Singh merely says “I cannot comment on what others say”.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: UP BJP tweets cartoon depicting CM Yogi as Lord Ram, taking aim at ‘Ravana’ of social evils


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