The nation has been witnessing a strange debate on the issue of chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai. It all began with a statement made by RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat Ji while participating in a discussion on “value-based and nationalistic education” at annual meeting in Nagaur (Rajasthan). Referring to controversy over anti-India slogans raised in JNU he had said: “Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai. It should be real, spontaneous and part of the all-round development of the youth.” The statement drew an immediate negative response from an elected Member of Parliament who gave it a religious turn. He was soon joined by many other politicians who accused the RSS of forcing its ideology on the nation. The issue soon became a political one as well. Not to be left behind Omar Abdullah also tweeted: “Is Mehbooba Mufti also going to be asked to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai as a condition for government formation in J&K?” adding another dimension of political one-up man ship to the raging controversy of ideological war. As a patriot and veteran soldier I am confused. I am wondering why a mountain is being made out of a mole hill. Is Bharat Mata Ki Jai a religious slogan or is it a political slogan? Why a statement made by the head of a nationalist organisation has created so much of uproar, it in any case was a loud thinking and not a diktat. Does patriotism as an ideology belong to a particular social group or a political party or a pride of all Indians because to me Bharat Mata Ki Jai is a way of invoking patriotism and nothing else?
The slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai owes its origin to the Indian freedom struggle much before the RSS was born. The freedom struggle was neither a religious movement nor a social or cultural movement. It was a nationalist movement in which Indians from all walks of life participated. It was also not a political movement and hence no particular political party is entitled to take credit for the freedom struggle or have exclusive rights over the icons of the struggle. Indian National Congress was an umbrella organisation under whose patronage all Indians who believed in non-violence as a means for attaining independence participated in the freedom struggle. The point to be noted is that “non-violence” was the common denominator and not a particular political ideology among the leaders and members of Indian National Congress. It became a political party at the time of independence and those not subscribing to its ideology discarded it one by one giving birth to other political parties. After the early death of Sardar Patel, it virtually became Nehru Congress and disintegrated after his death. The final blow came in 1969 with a vertical split leading to formation of Congress (O) and Congress (R). While most of the senior leaders of the freedom struggle vintage remained in Congress (O), the Indira loyalists formed the Congress (R), the basis of the modern day Congress party. Freedom struggle therefore is the legacy of all Indians and not the sole preserve of Congress Party as claimed by most of its leaders. During freedom struggle Bharat Mata became an icon to create nationalist feeling and bring people of all shades (irrespective of caste or creed) together invoking patriotism. Soon the patriots idealised Bharat Mata as “Shakti” leading to an artistic impression of portraying Bharat Mata as Hindu goddess Durga draped in a tricolour Sari and carrying the tricolour flag-all symbols of nationalism and not of a particular religion. Since we refer to our homeland as motherland, honorific “Mata” was suffixed to Bharat, our nation. Reference as “Mata” was meant to imbibe patriotism as well as remind all Indians to defend her like their own mother. I find nothing offending in that. Every religion teaches to respect the mother.
In any case we are not the only nation that refers to our homeland as motherland. Even Russians call Mother Russia and so do our neighbours Sri Lanka and Bangladesh all practising and following different religious beliefs. Nehru in his classic Discovery of India has beautifully illustrated the concept of Bharat Mata and meaning of Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Referring to huge gathering of masses who greeted him with chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Nehru wrote: “India was all that they had thought and much more. The mountains, the rivers, the forests and broad fields which gave them food, but what counted ultimately was the people like themselves. Bharat Mata was essentially these millions of people and victory to her meant victory to these people.” In essence Bharat Mata Ki Jai means Victory of India or the Victory of Indians. Tell me why anybody should have objection to chant Victory of India, a truly nationalist slogan. Will all those opposing it tell me that when a Sikh friend of mine wishes me Sat Sri Akal and I reciprocate by repeating the same do I become a lesser person? Similarly, when I say Salam Aliakum to my Muslim colleague and he wishes me by saying Namaskar or Ram Ram, does it in any way alter our beliefs? In a multi-cultural state these are the symbols of brotherhood and should remain so. I thus fail to understand the logic behind making such hue and cry about chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai- a symbol of nationalism. Why this unnecessary fuss? My humble request to the pseudo-seculars of our country whose sole agenda is to regain political space through religious machinations is to not to trivialise the concept of patriotism and demean Bharat Mata Ki Jai as a slogan that has Hindu nationalist roots. Patriotism is love for the nation with more emphasis on values and beliefs and is not the monopoly of any particular religious group. A quick look at the list of highest Indian gallantry award winners would set to rest all such doubts. Indian Army, the most secular, apolitical and patriotic organisation patronises the slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai with pride and élan.
Bharat is the constitutionally recognised name of the nation that was left by the Britishers when they partitioned India on the basis of two-nation theory. Bharat is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation-state. All her citizens have pledged to ensure her territorial integrity and hence any attempt in any form suggesting her dismemberment is an anti-national act and highly condemnable. Such secessionist thoughts need to be nipped in the bud and no leniency should be shown under the garb of freedom of expression. Bharat Mata Ki Jai was a mantra of inspiration during the freedom struggle and should continue to inspire the billions of Indians post-independence especially today when a deliberate effort is being made to de-stabilise Bharat Mata. Stop quarrelling over trivial issues. Let us ponder over what Swami Viveka Nand said: “Do you love your country? Then come, let us struggle for higher and better things; look not back, no, not even if you see the dearest and nearest cry. Look not back, but forward!”
(The author is a Jammu based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed in the article are entirely personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])