New Chief Minister For India's Largest State Has Tumultuous First Week

Mar 27, 2017
Originally published on March 27, 2017 8:06 am

A holy man, recently installed as the chief minister of India's largest state, is stirring things up. A meat crackdown began within 48 hours of Yogi Adityanath assuming office. Critics say this has antagonized the country's largest religious minority: its Muslims.

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We told you recently about a controversial politician in India, a Hindu nationalist who was elected to run that country's biggest state. Many Muslims and other religious minorities are worrying about how his policies might affect them. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy with an update.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: In Ghaziabad, an hour outside New Delhi, sits the clamorous, garbage-strewn Muslim community of Islam Nagar...

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN BEEPING)

MCCARTHY: ...Where the tension between Hindu nationalists and Muslims is playing out over meat. Islam Nagar is home to more than two dozen Muslim meat traders who deal mostly in buffalo. Unlike the cow, there is no social taboo against slaughtering or selling it. But in India, there is a resurgent campaign to protect the cow, which is regarded as sacred in the Hindu religion. And beef is illegal to sell in Uttar Pradesh. Now a meat crackdown is under way.

MOHAMMED DILSHAD: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCARTHY: "This is not going to be a good time for Muslims," says Mohammed Dilshad (ph), whose meat shop was locked last week. This is just the start of the yogi's term, he says. And he's already created trouble for us. He's talking about Yogi Adityanath, the new chief administrator of Uttar Pradesh state. He's a Hindu priest and vocal Hindu nationalist who enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Under the yogi's direction, police are checking the shops, suspicious they are selling illegal beef, shutting many down and spreading fear in the community.

Most of the vendors here lack valid licensing, which makes them easy targets. Among them is Chan Babu Qureshi (ph). The 53-year-old Muslim meat trader voted for Modi's BJP party when it captured the state house two weeks ago, ushering the Hindu priest to the state's top office. Qureshi warmed to Modi's pitch for development in the state. But authorities have just closed all seven of Qureshi's meat shops, and he says he feels betrayed.

CHAN BABU QURESHI: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCARTHY: "We voted for them in the name of development," he says. "We wanted better facilities for our work, better industries and better futures for our children. But none of that is coming true."

Qureshi sees his livelihood being snatched and says he feels helpless. India earns over $4 billion from buffalo meat exports, half of it from Uttar Pradesh. Disrupting that makes the mantra of development a farce, says meat trader Mohammed Dilshad. His neighbor's meat was taken for testing to see if it contained any cow meat. One commentator wrote critically in a prominent business newspaper, (reading) the Hindu majority has taken over and feels more dominant than ever.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Ghaziabad.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAYA PROJECT'S "EYE OF THE STORM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.