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Bharat Mata Ki Jai: NEW RULES OF PATRIOTISM, By Poonam I Kaushish, 22 March 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 22 March 2016

Bharat Mata Ki Jai


By Poonam I Kaushish

A tempest in a tea pot or a great Mother India wiggle? A nationalistic question which depends on whether one wears his love for motherland on his sleeve or not. Whereby all true-blue Indians are counted on the basis of shouting slogans or refusing to chant. Thereby hangs a patriotic tale.

It all started with Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s defiantly asserting, “I won’t chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai even if you put a knife to my throat’, in Hyderabad early this month. Defending his unabashedness by adding, “It is nowhere in the Constitution”.  Taking a lead from Owaisi, the MIM’s Maharashtra MLA Waris Pathan echoed the same during the debate on the Governor’s address.

Predictably, this got all the perceived secularists and supposed communalists patriotic blood boiling who collectively ganged up to play policeman. Resulting in Pathan’s suspension for the rest of the Assembly’s Budget session on the ground of ‘collective feeling’ of all Congress, BJP, NCP and Shiv Sena MLAs, no matter Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s  accusing the Hindutva brigade of “destroying relationships” in the name of the flag!

Questionably, did Owaisi and Pathan rake up a needless controversy over Bharat Mata Ki Jai? Was it to rebuff RSS Chief Bhagwat’s claim that young Indians must be taught to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Or did they have another agenda? And why did all other Parties rise to the bait and denounce them? Given there is no rule under the Constitution or Parliament rule book to suspend a legislator for refusing to shout a slogan?


Obviously, all Parties were collectively playing to the gallery as elections to five State Assemblies roll out next month. While Owaisi’s MIM has eyes on the minority vote banks, the others all want a piece of the majority Hindu vote pie. Further, Owaisi wants to emerge as the Muslims sole leader by trashing Messers Mian Mulayam, Lalu-Nitish as also the Congress.


It does not matter by projecting himself as the community’s sole saviour; he is playing into the BJP hands by dividing Muslim votes and pushing Hindus in to the Hindutva brigade’s arms.  Big deal if his outburst paints the minority community as anti-national.

In a milieu when allegations and allegiances are marked on the basis of slogans shouted or the refusal to chant one, not many recall that this slogan emerged during India’s freedom struggle and was reverential as Bharat Mata was shown as an icon, a goddess, a mother.

Though it is extremely difficult to pin-point when this slogan first came into existence, the genealogy of the figure of Bharat Mata has been traced to a satirical piece titled Unabimsa Purana (‘The Nineteenth Purana’) by Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay, first published anonymously in 1866. Bharat Mata is identified in this text as Adi-Bharati, the widow of Arya Swami, the embodiment of all that is essentially ‘Aryan’.

The image of the dispossessed motherland was portrayed in Kiran Chandra Bandyopadhyay’s play, Bharat Mata performed in 1873. During the Swadeshi movement in 1905, Abnindranath Tagore painted an image of ‘Banga Mata’ a beautiful young ascetic but decided to title it as Bharat Mata. Which, many saw as the amalgamation of the abstract ideal of nationalism, art, human form and the divine spirit.

In its original sense, Bharat Mata is the personification of India as Mother Goddess which was conceptualized in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel, Anandamath, loosely based on what is known as the Sannyasi rebellion of late 18th century. Since then, Hindutva has reclaimed and greatly magnified the Bankim Chandra idea of Bharat Mata.

The Bharat Mata icon quickly acquired wide ranging visual forms, becoming dressings of calendars, lithographs, dhoti borders, match box labels and cartoons. With nationalist leaders seeking to deepen the anti-colonial struggle and acquire a mass base they resorted to religious symbols to connect to people.

For free India’s first Prime Minister Nehru Bharat Mata Ki Jai was not just about land and geography but also about peasants and people themselves. Bringing things to such a pass that today patriotism is judged by evoking Bharat Mata which has become a symbol of Hindutva cultural nationalism.

Not only does it achieve a Hindutva imagining of India, it also casts Muslims as a community who are unable to partake of this form of patriotism.

Conversely Muslims view it differently. Rightly or wrongly they feel that to shout this slogan would tantamount to worshipping the deity Bharat Mata. Since Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion which disallows idol worship, any demand on Muslims to assert this slogan is akin to asking them to flout the fundamental tenets of their religion.

Specially against the backdrop that a temple was built in Bharat Mata’s honour in Varanasi in the early 20th century and another decades later in Haridwar.

Over the decades Muslim animus towards proclaiming Bharat Mata Ki Jai has reared its head time and again. Moreover, even if they were to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai, a fear persists that a more outrageous demand would be made on them. They also know their position in the Sangh’s vision of India --- it is one of subservience or of living under the threat of being made to feel inferior and insecure.

For the Sangh Parivar, Muslims chanting the slogan or refusing to do so is a test of their loyalty to the nation. As it stands the RSS conducts every event with blazing banners of Bharat Mata holding a saffron flag --- and not the Indian tricolour. The Goddess is mounted on a lion, the vahan of Goddess Durga.


For the die hard Hindutva brigade, today patriotism is judged by evoking Bharat Mata which has come to symbolize Hindutva cultural nationalism. Not only does it achieve a Hindutva imagining of India, it also casts Muslims as a community who are unable to partake of this form of patriotism.


Undoubtedly, 2016 is not 1905. We need to understand India’s multi-pluralistic character and pulsating democracy wherein civil society is neither rigid nor frozen in time, but is constantly evolving. True, one slogan cannot make or mar the future of a nation or its people. Nonetheless, Bharat Mata Ki Jai is our national slogan and symbol of national pride, on par with Jana Gana Mana.


The minority community too must realize that in secular India there is no place for fundamentalism, be it Hindu or Muslim. All our patriots. Else its regressive and orthodox social agenda will prevent Muslims from making full use of the windows of opportunities, social cohesion and change offered by a democratic State.


Instead it will present a fait accomplice and perfect foil to parochial groups with vested agendas to play up the politics of victimhood and feather their own nests. This has to be prevented at all costs.


It is high time we stopped trivializing and trashing it. All secular minded Indians must collectively chorus a slogan which ignited patriotism, galvanised Indians to gang up against British Raj to throw the firangis out and won India its freedom. Let us not demean it in the hands of our political drumbeaters! ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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