Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the onetime poster boy of Congress Party, in his address in JNU a few days ago said ‘people should have the right to choose what they believe is correct and still be tolerant of others’ ideas in a democracy’. This statement has two main elements. First the right to choose what one feels is correct and secondly to be tolerant of others’ ideas. This is in line with the principles of democracy and for India it is also the need of the hour. The problem is when people start taking the first part relating to the right to choose for granted but are found wanting in their ability to be tolerant of other’s ideas. Most political parties are guilty of such double standards, but none more than the Congress. Is it any wonder then that so many from the Congress are showing such intolerance towards what Mr Mohan Bhagwat said a couple of weeks back?
It defies logic why so many Congress leaders are queuing up to condemn what Mr Bhagwat said. All he said was ‘“Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (hail Mother India). It should be real, spontaneous and part of all-round development of the youth”. This is what he believes is right and therefore he put his thought in words that it is time to teach the new generations to chant slogans hailing their country – Mother India. Frankly there is nothing in this statement that one needs to react to. After all showing pride for ones motherland or saluting ones nation are things that should come naturally to all citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, colour or political views. One wonders why Mr Bhagwat’s right to choose what he believes in is being questioned and secondly where is the tolerance to someone else’s ideas. After all what Mr Bhagwat said is not a diktat by the government, it is just his view.
It has also been insinuated by many, including Shashi Tharoor, that nationalism is now decided by whether one can say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or not. Nowhere has Mr Bhagwat made any such claim nor has the BJP government said anything in this vein. Has anyone said it is mandatory for everyone to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’? Nobody has said that unless this is chanted one lacks nationalism. At the best all these insinuations are figments of imagination of idle Congress minds and others who have raised objections to Mr Bhagwat’s suggestion. If one wants to debate the suggestion it is quite acceptable. Though it is beyond any sensible reasoning as to why one should have a counter view to a simple slogan in praise of the nation. The constitution, Mr Tharoor, as you have rightly stated does give each citizen a right to state his opinion at a time and place of his choosing but then why grudge that right to Mr Bhagwat?
Mr Tharoor went on to state ‘India is not just Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. We want an India with both Krishna and Kanhaiya Kumar’. It is well known that India has never been just Hindi, Hindu or Hindustan – it has always assimilated different races, cultures and religions in its fold since times immemorial. It is also equally true that Hinduism has continued to retain its identity and flourish despite many attempts to weaken it by those who were welcomed by it. However much, some people in the country may desire, but the fact that we are a predominantly a Hindu nation cannot be wished away. The fact that India aka Bharat continues to be so despite influx of other religions is also an undeniable truth. History shows that India has been known as Bharat from times immemorial and therefore it is a well established truth that in principle should be un-debateable. Last but not the least India’s diversity has always been its virtue, minor hiccups from time to time notwithstanding. It is only in the past couple of decades that Indian politicians, including Mr Tharoor, have abused Indian diversity by making it a political tool where vote bank politics have pitted one part of the society against the other.
One really wonders what Shashi Tharoor meant when he stated we want an India with both Krishna and Kanhaiya Kumar. First there is no comparison between the two, one is a mythological figure, credited with a wisdom that surpasses even a genius and worshipped as God by millions, the other is just an upstart who has suddenly found his two penny worth of fame since most out of work politicians want to exploit him in a bid to regain some of their relevance. But then Shashi Tharoor did not stop there and went on to compare him to Shaheed Bhagat Singh too. He conveniently forgot that while Bhagat Sigh sacrificed his life willingly to seek revenge for the atrocities committed against his fellow Indians, Kanhaiya Kumar has deliberately abused the very system and society that lifted him from a life of misery to the exalted position of a research scholar at country’s most prestigious institution. Frankly Mr Tharoor has often made faux passé and this is nothing new. It may be best to be tolerant and ignore such frivolous utterances from someone who despite his learned credentials does fall to newer depths of stupidity from time to time.
It is surprising that most of the critics of Mr Bhagwat’s suggestion do not have any objection to chanting ‘Jai Bharat’ or ‘Jai Hind’ or Jai Hindustan’. One wonders why they can’t view ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as just one more slogan and leave it at that. The essence of Mr Bhagwat’s statement is to ensure that youth of today has a real and spontaneous feel towards nationalism as part of their development. Unfortunately most critics seem to have missed this point deliberately in their attempt to paint his statement as part of Hindutwa agenda. Is it any wonder then that known religious bigots like Mr Owaisi, some other Muslim clerics and Simranjit Singh Mann of SAD (A) have come out strongly against the chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’? Any contention that this slogan relates to Hinduism and therefore unacceptable to other religions can best be described as a figment of imagination of devious minds who want to create a controversy where there is none. It may not surprise anyone if in the past some of these people or their supporters, who are now opposing the slogan, may have chanted the same in an Indo-Pak Cricket match or the Kargil war. But then this is the baseness that describes Indian politics where some politicians will even go the extent of dishonouring their motherland if it can help them to get a few more votes. Any veiled innuendo that this slogan relates to Hinduism is is totally baseless and mischievous in intent.
That Mr Tharoor was playing to the gallery in his address at JNU is obvious from this statement when he said “You may have come here for education but you are also educating the nation. What is happening here has given the whole nation an education in the vital issues of dissent and democracy, sedition and of course of ‘azaadi’ (freedom)”. So does Mr Tharoor believe that the nation is being educated by JNU students when they chant anti national slogans like ‘Bharat ki barbadi tak jung chalegi’ (fight will continue till India is destroyed) or ‘Kashmir ki azadi tak jung chalegi’ (fight will continue till Kashmir is independent)? If this is how research scholars at the pinnacle of the Indian educational system are going to educate the youth of India, then the nation does not need any external enemies. Imagine the development of young school children in their teens who are brought up on a diet of the dubious exploits of the likes of Kanhaiya Kumar or Umar Khalid among others. Research scholars like the ones who were at the forefront of the JNU event and their well wishers like Mr Tharoor, Mr Yechury, Mr Kejriwal, Mr Rahul Gandhi and others will ensure that whenever our nation takes one step forward towards progress, it will be forced to take two back. This is indeed a very frightening scenario for the future.
The former Union Minister had the gall to appreciate students for stirring a debate on vital issues in India, saying student days are the days “to expand one’s consciousness”. If the recent events at JNU are steps towards a constructive debate on vital issues then the future of the nation is certainly very bleak in more ways than one. Mr Tharoor’s approach reminds one of what Margret Mead said about human nature. She said ‘Human nature is potentially aggressive and destructive and potentially orderly and constructive’. Possibly Mr Tharoor belongs to the school of thought which advocates that human nature is potentially aggressive and destructive instead of the other more noble variety where it is potentially orderly and constructive.
As an Indian one can be proud of the fact that the tolerance showed by majority of the population over centuries in living amicably with communities practicing different faiths is possibly a bench mark for other nations to follow. It is only in last few decades that fault lines between different religious groups seem to be surfacing from time to time. To be more precise these lines are mainly between Hindus and Muslims and to a very small extent between Hindus and Christians. While Islam and Christianity have been known to be aggressive with a strong belief in violence if things do not go their way, Hinduism on the other hand has always been a more pliant religion with firm roots in non-violence. Unfortunately in view of the constant aggressiveness being practiced by Islam and at times Christianity, sometimes covertly and at others blatantly, today there is a marginal advent of aggressiveness within Hinduism too since some in the faith do believe that they have been taken for granted for too long. This is certainly not a desirable shift but then the onus lies equally on all to ensure that the nation’s environment is not vitiated and religion is not used as a political tool or to curry favours from the government of the day. It is also no secret that many so called educated and modern Indians tend to rundown Hinduism at the slightest of pretext but have no such compulsion when it comes to other religions. In fact this has become a kind of fashion statement today in our society to be critical of Hinduism with a view to sound and look secular.
Every citizen must take pride in being counted as a unique citizen of the nation without any religious or other prefix or suffix attached to his or her name. Unfortunately in our nation such prefixes and suffixes have become more important than the individual himself. Terms like minorities, scheduled castes, backward classes and dalits have become the buzz words for describing ones identity and take precedence over being called an Indian citizen. The reasons for such a state of affairs are simple – these suffixes and prefixes guarantee certain extra constitutional rights and privileges where even the law of the land does tends to buckle down and at times becomes impotent.
The catch in the whole ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ episode is probably that Mr Mohan Bhagwat happens to be the chief of RSS – an organisation that seems to irk some sections of the Indian society – mostly for ill founded reasons that have no logic. It may be safe to say that in most cases they are self-manufactured with a view to play the victimisation card. If any RSS functionary makes a statement on any subject, all these RSS haters try and find hidden meanings in it to see how they could twist the same and link it with the perceived Hindutwa agenda. If that link is not forthcoming then the next best bet is to show it as anti minorities or anti Muslim. If this were not so, it is inconceivable to think why any true Indian would have an objection to a slogan like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.
Why can’t we just say ‘Jai Hind’ instead? This is more established and pretty much a standard in the defense forces.
The problem with “Bharat Mata” slogan are :
1. It is in Hindi – many people aren’t fluent with it / outright uncomfortable
2. It is being pushed by RSS/VHP types who have a poor record of patriotism
3. The concept of “Bharat Mata” is rooted in idol-worship which does make some people uncomfortable.
I do not think your first point is valid since one does not have to be fluent in Hindi to say the four words ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Any number of non Hindi speaking people in the country sing Hindi film songs fluently without really knowing Hindi language.
Your second point about it originating from RSS is what is the real problem for those against it. While I am no fan of RSS, but to say RSS is all about un-patriotism may be too harsh and a biased statement. They have done yeoman service in many national calamities in recent past that very few other organisations can match. What they stood for or propagated 80-100 years ago is hardly relevant since it was based on thinking and environment at that time. Even if they were wrong and have done some course correction now, may be they should be given their due.
Bharat Mata Ki Jai being akin to idol worship is a fallacy and I think a made op theory to prove a point. Even if it is should we deny 85% of the population from saying it for the sake of 15% – I think that will be injustice. Also please do not forget that nearly cent per cent of that 15% too has same heritage and history as the other 85%. Just because one changes ones faith can you write off your heritage because of that? We still can be proud of our heritage even if we have chosen to worship in a different manner a few decades or a couple of centuries back. There is no better example of this logic than the armed forces where every one (from all religions) chants the same slogan. It acts as a binding force and that is what Bharat Mata Ki Jai is all about – not about Hinduism or Islam or any other religion.