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Opposing Ram in 1990s was easy. Yadavs’ secularism will be tested with Krishna in 2020

BJP's Krishna janmabhoomi movement in Mathura will be an agni-pariksha for cow-belt leaders such as Tejashwi Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav.

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Ayodhya toh bas jhanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai.’ This BJP-VHP slogan from the 1990s is being chanted once again after the Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya on 5 August. But the biggest challenge of the coming campaign for Mathura’s Krishna Janmabhoomi will be for the cow-belt’s secular heroes – the House of Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. After all, Yadavs consider themselves the direct descendants of Krishna.

Leaders such as Lalu Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav will find it more difficult to oppose the Mathura campaign, the way they did with the Ram Mandir movement in Ayodhya. This time, though, their strident secular politics will be tested like never before.

And with them, India’s resolve and religiosity will be tested as well.

Also read: Sushant Singh Rajput and the burden of being a ‘Shravan Kumar’ in toxic Bihari families

Ayodhya’s Ram to Mathura’s Krishna

It was much easier with Ram. Lalu Yadav stopped Lal Krishna Advani’s Rath Yatra in Samastipur and had him arrested. Lalu thundered at Advani: “Agar aap danga yatra nikaliyega toh hum chhodenge nahin, aaiye Bihar mein batata hoon (If you take out your riot tour, I won’t spare you. Come to Bihar and I will show you that I mean it).” Mulayam Singh Yadav, on the other hand, had ordered firing on Hindutva kar sevaks in 1990, earning the deprecatory tag of being ‘Mullah Mulayam’. It helped both leaders form formidable M-Y social coalitions in UP and Bihar, and win elections in the name of saving the Indian Constitution and secularism.

But, once the bhoomi pujan was over in Ayodhya, the Yadav leaders were rejoicing too, side-stepping nearly three decades of their anti-Mandir and anti-BJP electoral politics.

Now, the next temple beckons in Uttar Pradesh. And Hindus on social media, who are still in a celebratory mode over Ram Mandir, with laughing emojis and victory signs littering their posts, are now sharing photos of Amit Shah with Lord Krishna. Some, though, are just relieved that decades-old dispute has finally come to an end, and are hoping that the discourse will now move away from Mandir-Masjid politics.

But on Facebook groups such as ‘I support Narendra Modi’, Hindu enthusiasts are calling the Ayodhya bhoomi pujan merely the beginning of a movement to “reclaim” thousands of temples across India.

BJP leader Vinay Katiyar has made it clear that constructing temples in Kashi and Mathura are next on the party’s agenda. In June this year, a Hindu outfit in UP filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking changes in the ‘Place of Worship Act, 1991’, which prohibits changing the religious structure. But any amendment in the 1991 Act could facilitate Hindus’ takeover of the Gyanvapi Mosque in Kashi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura. Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, a Muslim outfit, has asked the Supreme Court not to entertain the petition.

In the meantime, Hindus have seemingly started the movement. A Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust in Mathura has been set up. Acharya Devmurari, the head of the Trust, said: “We are going to launch a nationwide movement.”

Also read: Politics over Parashuram in UP now as all opposition parties eye the Brahmin vote

Yadavs’ secularism test

All this means that the Krishna Janmabhoomi movement will be an agni-pariksha for the Yadav leaders. Perhaps that’s why the Samajwadi Party has started pandering to the politics that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shaped since 2014. Not only did SP leader Akhilesh Yadav tweet ‘Jai Siya Ram’ on the day of the bhoomi pujan, he even wants to install a gigantic, 108-foot-high statue of Parashuram now.

As the BJP works overtime to break the OBC vote bank, the Krishna Janmabhoomi can deepen the Yadav dilemma. On the other hand, all the parties are racing to pick up a piece of the kamandal today. A member of the Samajwadi Party told me, ‘If the BJP promises a Krishna temple, we will build a bigger temple.”

Also read: Idea of India wasn’t demolished at Ayodhya. That happened in our ‘liberal’ homes

Krishna, the ‘Yadav icon’

The reason Krishna puts the 1990s’ ‘secular heroes’ of UP in a bind is that the Hindu god is believed to hail from the Yadu dynasty. Mathura was his city. Both Mathura and Braj have a sizeable Yadav population.

But where Krishna truly becomes the ‘Yadav icon’ is in the ‘pride’ he instils among the community members for being the source of Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata and holds cultural and religious significance of Bhagavad Gita among Hindus. British anthropologist Lucia Michelutti, wrote in her 2002 PhD thesis Sons of Krishna: the politics of Yadav community formation in a North Indian town that “the Bhagavad Gita is portrayed as ‘the book of the Yadavs’.”

Quoting an SP activist Pralad Yadav, she wrote: “The Bhagavad Gita is the essence of all scriptures. It is the sign of Indian tradition, civilisation and culture…The Gita knowledge originates from the mouth of Krishna, and hence from the mouth of a Yadav.”

In 1999, Lalu Prasad Yadav described Krishna as “a person who was determined to fight injustice. Lord Krishna fought for the cause of the Backward Classes, the farmers, the cowherders and the economically weaker sections of the society. Lord Krishna was the person who was born in jail and who fought against social odds,” according to Michelutti’s thesis. His elder son Tej Pratap Yadav occasionally dresses himself as a flute-playing, romantic Krishna. He often shares his pictures with cows on Instagram.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, there were reports that Akhilesh Yadav had been secretly working for a 50-foot-high Krishna’s Statue in his hometown Saifai after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a 100-metre-tall statue of Ram in Ayodhya.

In the end, how Yadav politics changes in Mathura’s Krishna Janmabhoomi campaign will not only alter UP’s politics, but also redraw the old Indian secularism for a new era. If the traditional political parties forsake the interest of Muslims in safeguarding Shahi Idgah and Gyanvapi mosques, there is no telling who will fill their place. Politics, like nature, abhors vacuum.

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  1. Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath issues have to be resolved through negotiations and with a view to remove injustice heaped on the Indians by the foreign rulers in the medieval period, based on historical records. Once this principle is accepted, then unnecessary religious color given to the issue is avoided. further, no Act of Parliament can come in the way to achieve this purpose. We should as well rename all cities, monuments, roads all over India by removing their association with the foreign rulers , just as we did in in case of Mumbai for Bombay, Kolkatta for Calcutta, Bengalaru for Bangalore etc. If the issue cannot be resolved through negotiations, then SC should intervene and settle it quickly so that politicization is avoided.

  2. The writer should do proper research before letting lose such an article. In 1991, PVN government brought a law which requires preservation of status qua ante of all places of worship as on 15.8.1947. Now, nobody can change the status of mosques in Varanasi and Mathura to Temple. Even the courts cannot do that. This writer is building a castle in the air by imagining that there will be a Hindu agitation for recovery of these two places and secularism of these parties will be tested.

  3. Cancel Culture, let it begin. When the liberal masses cheered the pulling down of historically held icons of Black oppression, this should be cheered as well. Why the hesitation? Are these mosques not representative of the oppression of Islamic conflict? To the extent they represent this oppression. The historical clock has to be wound back and set right.

    • the difference you are not noting is that the black lives matter slogan comes as a result of ongoing oppression against African Americans there and by oppression I mean their actual lives. People have lived in harmony in India for centuries now- what is the need to stoke communal tensions? Temples and mosques have been side by side making India the true leader in the world for unity in diversity.

  4. Yadavs voted in large numbers for BJP AND will continue to do so when they feel that their religion is safe under BJP rule.

  5. Can the author please enlighten us on why this issue has at all come up? Why do many Hindus want temples in these two places, precisely where the two mosques are located? Or is that question too uncomfortable for a selective secularist to handle?

  6. Secularism in India has got only one meaning —BEING PRO-MUSLIM . presently You will never find Congress and SP, RJD etc. — abandoning this version of secularism. For them Muslim votes matter more than Hindu unity or nationalism . This policy may have brought some dividend in 1990 s , but is unlikely to bring these Yadavs and Congis to center stage in 2020. 30 or 40 s of 21st century . Even Most of the common people in India are aware dangers of following of this policy to national internal and external security and existence of Indian Nation state as a unified political entity in long run. Sooner or later they will have adopt a version of secularism which means — equal respect for all religions and APEASEMENT OF NONE for their own political existence. The sweet old days of their version of secularism is over.

  7. With due respect to all concerned parties- we must not build statues for Bhagwan Ram in Ayodhya and Bhagwan Krishana in Mathura or elsewhere. They are too big to be measured with the height of statues.

  8. The M-Y days of both Yadav chieftains is over. The Ys are not going to suffice as a votebank without the rest of the OBCs and the Ms vote (for regional parties) will not matter in the Modi era. The smaller parties have only 2 options –
    a. join the BJP in majoritarian politics and try to wean away some of the BJP voters (Mayawati and Kejriwal have already started in earnest) or
    b. face severe backlash for supporting secular politics like the Congress or the communists and risk getting blown away in the Hindi belt. The strategy of putting the onus on the judiciary to rescue secular politics is not going to work as well. The SC is not going to interfere in majoritarian politics – you have seen what happened with Babri Masjid case, Article 370 and CAA-NRC. The places of worship act 1991 either will get struck off or watered down. When that happens, temple building at Mathura and Benaras will get the same legal sanction that Ayodhya got. Parties better start planning for that eventuality if they do not want to be caught napping.

  9. Well,you know it very well that Yadavas aren’t that secular in nature.These so-called leaders haven’t supported any secularism but the most popular view back then.
    So, forget that they are going to fight for most bogus concept of secularism.But as always happens some of the purabiya/Biharis may pop out for this very propaganda.
    This Lucy girl is for sure an idiot, whatsoever she writes is just the leftist propaganda.Yadavs aren’t any caste but an ancient tribe.Same is the case with the Abhiras they were also a tribe not any caste. groups.

    • yadavs are most communal
      i asked a yadav about muslims and eventhough i am a hindutva guy
      got scared by the answer

  10. Ahirs and yadav are two different case. Ahirs adopted yadav surname in 1930s, before they were not using yadav. The people you are talking about are ahirs.

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