Nearly 70 years after the country became independent, certain Indians are being required to prove their nationalism. A needless controversy surrounding the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogan has arisen which seeks to show all those who do not publicly endorse its chanting as unpatriotic. What is appalling is that each and every political party is attempting to use its allegiance to the slogan to proclaim its nationalist character, while certain hardline Muslim activists have maintained that they would rather praise the country in a different manner and the chorusing of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” was no evidence of anyone being in love with India more than those who did not wish to chant it in so many words.
Our freedom struggle had thrown up many slogans to instil a sense of national pride in the citizens. Bharat Mata ki Jai was one amongst many unifying calls by yesteryear activists to emphasise on the fact that an enslaved nation had to find its own sense of pride to awaken the people to strive for independence. “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Hindustan Zindabad” were also a part of the half a dozen calls to enlighten and motivate the people as a whole.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who was an atheist by his own admission, and whose martyrdom anniversary is in the coming week (23 March) was totally committed body, heart and soul to his motherland. One of the country’s most celebrated revolutionaries, who died when he was barely 23, wrote, “Dil se niklegi na mar kar bhi watan ki ulfat, meri mitti se bhi khushboo-e-watan aayegi (Even after my death my love for my motherland will remain undiminished in my heart. Even my ashes will be fragrant with your [motherland’s] greatness and love)”. But the uniting factor, which brought together all the revolutionaries those days, was not whether they would chant Bharat Mata ki Jai, but their unflinching and burning desire to see their country attain independence. There was neither any time nor reason to squabble over slogans. They merely had one goal and that was to see India free from the shackles of the British Empire.
However, in modern India, where politics has come to dominate every sphere, slogans are being used to determine who are patriotic in the eyes of the ruling dispensation and who are not. This is ludicrous and undoubtedly in bad taste. There is no need for any Indian to present his nationalist credentials as one would conclude that is a given fact. How can anyone claim to be more patriotic than others? It is a perilous path that could endanger the unity of the country, seized with the problems of growth and development. Every citizen is, in his or her own way, making attempts to do his little bit for the nation.
Personally speaking, I would fully back the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogan, but at the same time there would be little point in describing those who do not wish to repeat it in an identical fashion as unpatriotic. They may want to express themselves differently keeping similar sentiments in mind. Similarly, there is a problem in a segment of our society with “Vande Mataram” as it is sought to be interpreted by some Muslims as against their overall belief. What, however, is important is how well can we serve our nation. As long as we give our best to make India a better and stronger place to live, everything else becomes redundant.
Politicians have their way of scoring points and political parties do not like anyone disagreeing with their basic concepts. But parties and politicians are not above the country. Sahir Ludhianvi was arguably one of the finest Urdu poets of the subcontinent. When he penned a satirical verse in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa in Mohammad Rafi’s unmatched voice, “Jeeneh naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hain”, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was so infuriated that he banned this song from being played on All India Radio. People who appreciated the nuances of this song had to tune into Radio Ceylon to hear it.
Thus politicians get piqued with criticism and therefore constantly devise ideological themes to keep their parties relevant. Over the years, the Congress has tried to project itself as a secular outfit, though L.K. Advani, while leading the BJP’s forward march during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had called it a pseudo-secular party and its supporters as pseudo secularists.
Advised by Govindacharya, Advani, those days had the knack of catching public attention by his smart coinages of expressions and words. The BJP had simultaneously started branding itself as a nationalist organisation with Hindutva as its core. The implication of this was that those who opposed it were anti national.
The party continues to play this card even now in pursuance of its politics, forcing its critics to term it as a pseudo nationalist organisation, given that in many states there has been stratification of Hindu society. Politics is thus dividing people, instead of unifying them.
This has caused immense concern in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) circles.
There are enormous tasks ahead that need focused attention to make India a vibrant and emerging superpower with deep democratic roots. Fencing over slogans is certainly not among the ways to achieve this objective. Between us.