Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bharat Mata Ki Jai – Does it have religious connotation?

On the controversy surrounding Asaduddin Owaisi’s refusal to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, Bharka Dutt of NDTV asks Owaisi, ‘Why would you say NO to a slogan which does not have a religious connotation - that simply describes the country to be a motherland?’

When I Google Searched ‘Bharath Mata’ in Images, this is what I get.  These are the first few results.

All of them unmistakably depict a Hindu goddess, with a halo around her head, wearing a saree – similar to the representation of any typical Hindu Goddess.   Clearly, Bharka Dutt is wrong in her assertion that 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' has no religious connotation.  Most Hindus do tend to see their country as a Goddess, and therefore singing a religious hymn like Vande Mataram, where the country is now Goddess Durga, comes naturally to them.  However, expecting every other religious group in India to subscribe to the same Hindu Goddess doesn’t make sense.

During the entire discourse, Owaisi’s refusal to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ was taken as lack of respect and lack of love for the country.  Though he chanted, ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Hindustan Zindabad’, the Hindutva Brigade is bent on chasing him to make him say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.   Without that, they believe Owaisi doesn’t respect India.

Worship and Respect are not the same for everyone.  While for most Hindus these two words may look very similar, and they may be synonymous to some extent, it is not the case with many other cultures.  Germans respect their Fatherland, but not necessarily worship their Fatherland. 

For Hindus, worshipping comes very easy.  They worship almost anything - from a tree to a snake, from a hillock to a stone, from a person to a rat, from breast to a phallus, from a demon to an actress.  They even worship their father, their mother, their teacher and even their guest (Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava, Athidi Devo Bhava).  Also, for most Hindus, worshipping is the highest form of reverence.  And since most of us tend to believe that a country should be given utmost respect, Hindus believe that worshipping it with highest devotion is their way of paying respects to the nation.  In their worldview, one has to worship Bharat Mata, which closely resembles Lady Durga sans the extra hands, to express love and respect to one's country.  That is a very convenient picture for Hindus.

Doesn’t mean that all religions and cultures look at their nation in the same way.  Most Americans love their country, but do not necessarily pray to it.  And for most Muslims, personification and deification of earthly objects, like a tree or snake, or a person, or a country, are problematic.  Their religion forbids personification and deification of people or natural objects, and that includes even a country.  They do not pray to Mohammed Prophet, because they believe he is a Man and not a God.  For Muslims, even Jesus is a Prophet, and not a God.  Similarly, they do not even pray to their own mothers, though most Hindus find it very easy to pray to their mothers. 
We all have different ways of paying respects to our objects of reverence.   Many North Indians touch the feet of the elders to pay their respects.  Imagine such a North Indian meeting an African of a certain society which treats touching of feet to submission of a slave.  If that African refuses to touch your uncle’s feet, does that mean he is being disrespectful to your uncle?  What if he says, ‘can I just bow down to your uncle to express my respect?’ Would you still believe he is being disrespectful?

Failure to understand other cultures and other religions, believing that ‘the way I live is the right way to live, and everyone else should live like me’ – these are the attitudes of current Indians which is creating so many problems for most of us.   I don’t eat beef, therefore you shouldn’t eat beef.  I sing Vande Mataram, therefore you should also sing it.  I say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, you should also say it.  And if you don’t, we will call you anti-national and put you in jail on charges of sedition.  That is the prevailing atmosphere in this country.

We have to put a stop to this fascism that is being preached and propagated in this country.  Fascism always starts with refusal to understand or respect other person’s culture or identity, and with promoting your own way of life as the only way of life, thereby assuming the seat of superiority.  Germans did that in early 1900s, Italians did that, Japanese did that.  And we saw fascism on this planet showcase its devastation that led to nearly 50 million people dead.

Right now, Hindutva brigade has to let go of their monopoly on defining the expression of patriotism for all of us.  There is no single expression.  Just because someone does not pray to one’s country, and does not personify one’s country, it does not necessarily make him a less of a patriot! 

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