By Keshav Upadhye
A controversy is raging in the country now about whether one should say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' or not. That a controversy has erupted on the issue of chanting slogans in praise of one's country is unfortunate. One of the two MIM MLAs, who refused to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', have been suspended from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Now, the question has been raised about whether patriotism exists in only saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
All these occurrences are not only irritating but nauseating as well.
The arguments of the pseudo-seculars started as soon Asaduddin Owaisi spoke. The question is not whether or not one should say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', but whether we are now going to question every icon of pride in this country. Some time ago, the hoisting of the tricolour in universities was also criticised. The question was, and is, asked about what such symbolism can achieve. Some even asked a very laughable and irrelevant question about whether criminals would be pardoned if they said 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. By raising objections like what hoisting of flags will achieve, why one should chant slogans, and whether it will eradicate corruption or whether patriotism will do away with hunger etc, where are we taking our nation?
To proclaim that the Constitution of the country is supreme and at the same time labeling Afzal Guru's hanging — who was executed after completing all due legal processes — as a 'judicial killing' at a college programme and to brand the programme as freedom of expression; supporting the slogans of destruction of India directly or indirectly and at the same time, searching for the validity of slogans in India's praise in legal books is a blatant falsehood. Such double-faced forces must be opposed in the country.
Some have claimed that they would not chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai because it was RSS' agenda. Actually, the statement that 'people in the country have to be told to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai' was made by Sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat in the backdrop of incidents at JNU. However, MIM's Owaisi bragged that he would never chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' even if a knife was held to his throat. His party's legislators ran the same line forward and said in the Assembly that they would not say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
Actually, Kiran Chandra Banerjee put forward the concept of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' in 1873 and the songs Bharat Mata and Vande Mataram appeared in the famous novel Anandmath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1882. It became a historic song, and an inspiration for India's freedom struggle. Thereafter, the song Vande Mataram used to be sung in the Congress sessions after 1885. Vande Mataram was sung even when Muslims presided over Congress sessions. It was sung in 1887 when Badaruddin was president, then in 1896 when Rahim Sayani, in 1913 when Sayyad Mohammad Bahadur was president and also in 1927 when MA Ansari was Congress president. None objected to it until 1937 when Mohammad Ali Jinnah objected to it.
On 1 March, 1938 he propounded the thought that “Vande Mataram must go”. In the Calcutta session of the Muslim League on 6 April, 1938, Vande Mataram was opposed and the history that followed is known to all.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, says in his Discovery of India, “When I went to public meetings, I was welcomed by chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai. I ask, who is Bharat Mata? The people in front of me gaped at me in surprise...he hills, rivers, forests, agriculture here, income received from it and people living on this land... There is a common thread binding all of them together... Bharat Mata. To say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' is to hail all these people... They are the sons of this Bharat Mata.”
Thousands of people sacrificed themselves in India's freedom struggle saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. When he was flogged, martyr Chandrashekhar Azad cried 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' with every cane he received.
The reason for all these events today is that MIM wants to do exactly what Jinnah wanted to do.
In fact, millions of Muslim brethren in this country have no objection to saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. The Muslims here claim their legacy stemming from revolutionaries like Ashfaq Ullah Khan all the way to Abdul Kalam Azad. However, when a political party says that it will not chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', one has to check the context. MIM runs the legacy of anti-India Razakar in Hyderabad. Kasim Rizvi, the leader of Razakars and the MIM party, handed over the party to the grandfather of Asaduddin Owaisi before he left for Pakistan. When one looks at this context and the history, one understands why it is necessary to oppose such vitriol.
The first sentence in the preamble of the Constitution of India says, “We, the people of India,... for a sovereign secular democratic republic”. Now, a democratic republic can be built only when the unity, brotherhood and love among each other grows. The chants of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' or unfurling of the tricolour not only remind us of our glorious freedom struggle, but also breed affection among us. Will chanting of slogans reduce crime or end corruption? There are laws to take care of that. However, if saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' increases the feeling of brotherhood, what is wrong with that?
Bharat Mata is not an icon of religion or any organisation. It is a slogan which inspired an enslaved nation to attain independence. In Nehru's words, “Saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' is to hail the people of this country”. Then why should one object?
The questions is now being asked as to under which rule this MLA was suspended in the Assembly. The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has a tradition of members across the parties coming together on issues of wider consequences, leaving aside their party politics. All parties unanimously supported the bill in Legislative Assembly banning the dance bars. Yesterday, when two members refused to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', the legislators were obviously enraged. Although there is no stipulation to chant these slogans, there is no prohibition against doing so either.
In fact, does one need a Constitutional provision for patriotism? There is no sense is asking for legal and Constitutional provisions for something that should flow in the blood. In such a situation, the unanimous demand by the enraged members to suspend the member who refused to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' is justified.
The author is a spokesperson for the Maharashtra BJP. He tweets @keshavupadhye