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'Bharat Mata' Row: Nagpur cannot dictate our definitions of patriotism

  Updated: Mar 18, 2016 18:10 IST

#Asaduddin Owaisi   #Bharat Mata   #InMyOpinion   #Jai Hind   #Nationalism   #RSS   #Tamil Nadu  

It's really simple to explain India's linguistic diversity. Just pick up a currency note and look at the obverse. Right there, you will see fifteen of our twenty two officially recognised languages. This means that on our currency notes, we have seventeen languages. It was thought important to be able to say "Ten Rupees" in seventeen different languages.

Today, we are being asked to express our nationalism in one. When did we get to a point where Vande Mataram or Hindustan Zindabad or even Jai Hind was somehow not as good as "Bharat Mata Ki Jai"? Surely Jai Hind has the same meaning as Bharat Mata ki Jai? Both call for the victory of our country, but they clearly do not seem to convey the same meaning and therein lies the objection when the RSS tries to say that every nationalist and patriot should say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai,' for they do not see Jai Hind as being equally valid.

Representational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' was one of the many slogans used during the independence struggle along with slogans like Vande Mataram, Jai Hind, Hindustan Zindabad, Inquilab Zindabad etc. Our independence movement included many people of various languages and various faiths. In fact, there was never a uniting slogan that became a rallying cry. Even these slogans kept changing through the course of our history. If there was one united rallying cry, it would have come in the national motto. But our national motto says "Satyameva Jayate" unlike France and other countries that maintain their revolutionary cries as their national mottos.

Mr Owaisi may have never said 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' maybe because he speaks Urdu and it Urdu you say Jai Hind, or maybe he has an objection that comes from his faith. The Urdu equivalent to Bharat Mata Ki Jai is Jai Hind or Hindustan Zindabad and he has said so many times. The Bengali from West Bengal has probably never said it either, because he says Vande Mataram. There are many different languages and ways one can praise their country and express their patriotism.

Once there was a case that some people from the Jehovah's Witnesses faith in Kerala were suspended from school for refusing to sing the national anthem. Singing the national anthem violated the tenants of their faith. The Supreme Court said they had a right not to sing it. No person can be asked to say anything, each person has the right to maintain their silence or express themselves in a manner they see fit.

India is a strangely diverse country, linguistically, ethnically and socially and that's what makes it so wonderful to live here. You can eat idli vada for breakfast, biryani for lunch and Calcutta Chinese for dinner, but you can all bring that under one head which we call Indian cuisine.

When I was studying in Chennai, I was surprised at an incident during flag hoisting on national holidays. After the hoisting of the flag on Independence day, they would sing a song called Tamil Thai Vazhthu and the national anthem would be played at the end of the ceremony. But soon I came to learn that this is just one of the many things that makes our country India. Each state, people actually person has a very different way of expressing their love for our country. Some people find that saying nothing is best and pick up the litter instead, others wish to express their love by shouting it from the roof tops. Each person has their own way of expressing their love for India.

Mr Owaisi is no less a patriot for refusing to say Bharat Mata ke Jai then is Tamil Nadu singing Tamil Thai Vazhthu before the Indian National Anthem at official functions.

Our constitution begins with a wonderful phrase. It says ["India, that is Bharat" shall be a Union of States"]. There are some who would like Bharat to be a country. But that should not be the case. The People of India are Bharat. Bharat is not a country, Bharat is a people. The descendants of Bharata who happen to inhabit the lands south of the snowy mountains of the Himalayas and north of the Southern Ocean. Bharat is the people who live east of the Hindu Kush to the West of the Arakan Ranges in Burma.

That is what Bharat should mean to all of us, Bharat should not mean a piece of land or a form of government. Bharat is a people, a diverse people, a people who come in many shapes, many sizes, many colours and many faiths, but a people who share a common history and bear a commitment to a common future. Bharat should not be a way of life that comes via a diktat from an organisation in Nagpur. India is the nation state and Bharat refers to the people who live in that nation state.

'Jai Hind' means the same thing as 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and will always mean the same thing, no matter how much the organisation in Nagpur tries to prove otherwise. Just like I do not see why a Tamil needs to learn Hindi I do not see why Owasi needs to use a particular rallying cry. There is no need to have one national rallying cry.

We all speak to our mothers in our mother tongues, or in the languages we are most comfortable with, or in the manner we are most comfortable with. Why must an organisation in Nagpur insist that we treat Mother India any different?

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