Butchers in Uttar Pradesh face difficult times as state government bans ‘illegal’ abattoirs. Photo: Open Doors International

India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party on 19 March appointed a highly controversial Hindu cleric to lead the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. The choice for Yogi Adityanath – a controversial Hindu monk who has been repeatedly accused of stirring anti-Muslim sentiments – is a shocking rebuke to religious minorities, writes the New York Times. The swift closure of an increasing number of ‘illegal’ animal slaughter houses is one example of this.

Since winning the state elections, the BJP government has closed many slaughterhouses. Although the aim is to ban the slaughter and consumption of cows, considered sacred by India’s Hindu majority, shops selling goat meat and chicken have also been forced to shut down, mostly on flimsy grounds.

Uttar Pradesh is not the first state where abattoirs are being closed. Two years ago a beef ban in the West Indian state of Maharashtra caused commotion. Low-caste Christians suffered as a result. Since then Hindu nationalist groups have demanded the enactment of similar legislation across the nation – to enforce a complete ban on beef in India.

Emboldened by the landslide victory in recent elections in India’s largest state, Modi’s BJP now seems to move more decisively towards its dream of establishing a Hindu nation.

Mr Adityanath has often been accused of instigating communal hatred towards religious minorities and has led many riots in the state. He is facing criminal charges. He has also led the purification movement aimed at Christian converts called “ghar wapsi” (homecoming) since 2005.

However, to many people – especially in his town – he also is a celebrity and a hero.