“Tera vaibhav amar rahe Ma, hum din chaar rahen naa rahen”—May your splendour remain immortal Mother, whether or not we live long lives. This proclamation, along with the words “Hindu Yuva Vahini,” circumscribe an image of a Hindu goddess perched upon a lion and holding the Bhagwa Dhwaja, the saffron flag. Set against a predominantly white and saffron background, this image constitutes much of the introductory page to the website of the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Below the image is a brief descuription, also in Hindi, of the Yuva Vahini: “A fierce cultural and social organisation dedicated to Hindutva and nationalism.” At the bottom of the page is a button that reads “enter.” Upon clicking on it, I was led to a page with an image of the Yuva Vahini’s “mukhya sanrakshak,” or chief guardian, Yogi Adityanath—the five-time Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur, chief priest of the Gorakhnath Math, and newly-appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Beyond this second page lies a vast array of materials, including: the organisation’s view of Indian history, a compendium of media coverage of its events, and the Yuva Vahini’s constitution.
Adityanath founded the Yuva Vahini, a youth organisation known for its history of arson and communal violence, in 2002. Since his appointment as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, there has been a frenzied interest in both the politician and the outfit that he has been heading for 15 years. Over the years, the media has covered the typically divisive rhetoric and activities of Adityanath and the Yuva Vahini. While this has helped put together a picture of the man and his organisation, perhaps equally, or at least further illuminating for that purpose is the Yuva Vahini’s constitution, spanning three pages, and readily available on the organisation’s website. An examination of this constitution offered a glimpse into the brand of Hindutva that Adityanath, and, by extension, the Yuva Vahini endorses. It also provided an insight into the outfit’s meticulously-organised internal structure.
That Hindutva constitutes a core component of Adityanath’s political project is not a matter of surprise. In a 2005 speech he said, “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra.” In February 2015, he said during a speech in Varanasi: “When the Hindu samaj goes for darshan of Vishwanath then Gyanvapi mosque taunts us. If that’s how it is, give us permission, we will install Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque.” The Yuva Vahini’s constitution is revealing, additionally, of the particularities of his conception of Hinduism and Hindutva.
“The meaning of Hindu is Vedic, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Naga, and other adherents of Hindu culture,” the constitution reads. Several Hindu nationalists have previously referred to their faith’s affinity with Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism among other belief systems, based on what they perceive as ideational overlaps. However, the appropriation of all these faiths as components of “Hindu culture” is a much greater, and untenable—or at least unproven—assertion.
Further on, the Yuva Vahini’s constitution goes on to evince not just the horizontal axis of Hindu nationalism—of appropriating non-Hindus into Hindutva—but the vertical—of co-opting oppressed castes. (As I had noted in my story for The Caravan, this is an approach that the Yuva Vahini had also adopted to gain the support of the Rajbhar community in the lead up to the UP elections.) One of the objectives of the organisation, listed on the third page of the constitution, reads: “For the integration of and mutual good faith within the massive Hindu society, through the complete abolishment of the differentiation between touchable-untouchable and high-low, promote the harmonious development of society.”