INSIDE STORY: How Yogi Adityanath’s last-minute shuffle saved him from murderous attack near Azamgarh in 2008

A recent report that Yogi Aditya Nath was among top Indian leaders on the hit list of terror group Islamic State (IS) underlines the threat perception to the UP chief minister. He has long been on the hit list of militant organisations, but a murderous attack on him about a decade ago was carried out not by any terror outfit, but home-grown subversive elements in Azamagarh.

The attack on his convoy in Azamagarh on September 7, 2008, and the inside story of how he survived, has been documented in ‘Yogi Aditynath: The Rise of A Saffron Socialist’ published by Times Group Books. Written by TOI journalist Pravin Kumar. The book says that Yogi was on his way to address an anti-terrorism rally in Azamgarh to counter rival parties whose leaders had started making a beeline to the house of Abu Basheer, arrested for his alleged role in Ahmedabad blasts in July 2008.

According to the book, “Several saffron organisations, led by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, announced that they would hold a rally against terrorism in Azamgarh. Yogi was to be the chief speaker in the rally slated to be held at the DAV ground on 7 September 2008. On the morning of the rally, a fleet of 40 vehicles started from Gorakhnath Temple. Since it was feared that they might face hostilities in Azamgarh, Team Yogi was well prepared. In the convoy, Yogi’s red SUV was the seventh in number.

However, nothing had prepared them for what was going to crop up on the outskirts of Azamgarh. By the time the convoy came closer to Azamgarh, it already had a hundred fourwheelers and many more motorcycles. Besides, after intelligence inputs about the threat of an attack, a Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) unit was also following the fleet. But nobody knew what could be the place or form of the attack.

At 1.20pm, just as the convoy was passing through the Takia, a little before Azamgarh town, a stone hit the seventh vehicle in the convoy. Soon, stones started coming from all directions. Then came petrol bombs… It was a synchronised assault, planned well in advance. Its suddenness pulverised Yogi’s supporters. The fleet had been divided into three. Six vehicles had moved ahead and most of them were left far behind. But a few of them in the middle came under attack. Assailants had surrounded the vehicles and started attacking the occupants. They were hunting for their target. But he was nowhere to be found.

His disappearance annoyed them and they turned fiercer. But where was Yogi? After the men in the fleet recovered their senses, everybody was asking the same question. Meanwhile, reinforcements from other police stations had reached the troubled site and vendors on either side of the street came to the rescue and formed a shield around the vehicles under attack.

The city’s circle officer, Shailendra Srivastava, ordered a counter offensive. One person was killed. The injured in the convoy were rushed to hospital. But there was still no trace of Yogi.” As the search for him got frantic, it was found that Yogi had moved much farther ahead and was waiting for the rest of the vehicles. He was, in fact, in the first SUV of the fleet. The change-over had been done at a PWD guesthouse when the convoy had taken a short break.

The attackers in Takia, probably, did not have the information about this last-minute change. Apart from this, the book has several other unreported nuggets from Yogi’s fascinating life, from the scenic Pauri in Uttarakhand to one of the most revered maths of eastern UP and then finally to the CM house in Lucknow.

Source: Times of India