Sau mein se nabbe beimaan, phir bhi mera Bharat Mahan.
Ninety percent of India cheats, yet Bharat is great. In the 80s, when the Rajiv Gandhi government started a campaign to laud the greatness of India with the slogan 'Mera Bharat Mahan', his initiative became a subject of instant scorn and ridicule.
When the Congress government pushed the slogan through a media blitz, India was in the throes of a popular rebellion against the ruling dispensation, which was seen as increasingly corrupt and communal.
Rajiv's critics countered the slogan with their own variations, playing with rhyming words like be-imaan and makaan to coin taunting limericks.
Khaane ko nahin roti, Rehne ko nahin makaan,
Pehenne ko nahin kapda, Phir bhi mera Bharat Mahan.
(No bread to eat, no house to live in; No clothes to wear, yet My India is great)
Three decades later, we are again in the grip of a jingoistic frenzy, where empty slogans, chest-thumping and banal debates have started dominating the political discourse.
India, somehow, is worthy of being hailed again. Presumably, we are no longer as be-imaan as we were--though our ranking on the global index of corruption doesn't point at this--and maybe a lot more people now have roti, kapda and makaan, an achievement, unfortunately, not reflected in human index reports.
So, even those who had mocked Rajiv Gandhi's campaign then are now chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', indicating, perhaps, that India has become the proverbial 'sone ki chiriya' (golden bird) again and we are back to the age where rivers of ghee and doodh (butter and milk) used to sweep the country.
In this Mahan country, community after influential community is coming out in the streets to demand reservation, flag in hand, Bharat Mata ki Jai on lips, they are torching shops, destroying cities, killing men and raping women; the rate of suicides among farmers is the highest in a decade, female foeticide is rampant, rising rural poverty is forcing government to hike MNREGA budgets and unemployment among youth is growing, laying waste the huge demographic dividend we enjoy.
But, the debate that is dominating politics is this: Is desh main rehna hai, kutton, toh Vande Mataram bolna hoga.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi should be condemned for triggering needless debates, and making controversial remarks around sensitive subjects. Nobody had asked him if he is willing to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai, nobody had put a knife to his throat to make him prove his love for India. So, it is vile of him to further raise the communal temperature of the country by creating controversies for cheap publicity and creating fake binaries between Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai.
Owaisi should understand he is harming the cause of the Muslims he seeks to represent by strengthening the prevailing prejudices against them through such avoidable debates. His deplorable politics of creating a fringe out of the Muslims as a backlash to the BJP's Hindutva agenda will add to hardening of positions on both sides of the communal divide. It is apparent that he wants to lead his community down the path of isolation and victimisation with his politics of antagonism and competitive communalism.
So, he needs to be called out as a rabble-rouser, wannabe demagogue, and a hate-monger, just as Javed Akhtar did when he called Owaisi an ill-informed leader of a mohalla (locality). The liberal voices among Muslims must realise, as they did recently in Bihar, that Owaisi's brand of politics will have its destined tryst with tragedy. And he needs to be asked to shut up before it is too late.
But, even more despicable is the insistence of the mainstream political parties to force flag-waving, slogan-shouting brand of pseudo-nationalism down everybody's throat. It is a shame when legislators start behaving like bullies and throw someone out when he refuses to oblige them by shouting their favourite slogans on the floor of the House, which is not meant to be a stage for elocution contests.
The entire premise of the pseudo nationalists where the country is imagined as a goddess that needs to be appeased with slogans is flawed. If Bharat is indeed the generous Mata that has given birth to each of its citizens--including the likes of Owaisi--you've got to be stupid to argue that this mother is a narcissist who needs to be hailed in public with slogans for proving our love and affection for her.
If any of us were to shout slogans praising our biological mothers in public, a flag in hand, many would be worried about our mental health. (On a different note, if Indian mothers were the recipients of the reverence being shown for Bharat Mata by our nationalists, most of the old age homes would have been shut down.)
In his autobiographical account, The Summing Up, W Somerset Maugham writes there is nothing so vulgar as to praise people to their faces. He argues that God could not be so ungentlemanly as to like such fawning.
So, unless she is fond of it, it must be indeed demeaning for our godlike Bharat Mata when we want its children to shout empty slogans hailing her greatness.
Real patriotism lies in performing good karma, following the dharma of humanity, upholding the legacy of our ancestors who made India great. But politicians would rather take refuge in patriotism, shaming their religion and country for their petty gains.
In an ode to feminist, scholar and writer Nivedita Menon, who is currently the target of pseudo-deshbhakts, in the magazine Outlook, the author refers to psychoanalyst Alice Miller's deconstruction of pseudo-nationalists. Miller argues nationalism is the favourite refuge of the cruel, insecure child. Miller argument is buttressed by detailed analysis of the life and times of Adolf Hitler.
The reference to Hitler should reminds us of a defining moment in the rise of Fascism, captured memorably in the documentary Hitler: The Rise of Evil.
Soon after the German Reichstag is burnt down, Hitler seeks suspension of several constitutional rights and freedoms through an enabling act. When some members of Parliament oppose the draconian step, Hitler's Nazis, resplendent in their uniform and insignia, rise from their seats and drown all opposition by chanting: Deutschland, Deutschland.
It is worth pointing out as we get swept away by the facile fervour of Bharat Mata ki Jai: Those who do not learn from the slogans of others are condemned to repeat them.