Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why I won’t say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’?

Another controversy is now brewing across the country.  Asaduddin Owaisi, MP from Hyderabad, said that he won’t say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. He insisted that he won’t chant this slogan even if someone puts a sword on his neck.  

Owaisi says he is a patriot, but not a nationalist (the way RSS defines).  Mr. Rakesh Sinha, the other commentator, says that a person who doesn’t say, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ cannot love his country.  Whereas Owaisi asks, do you have a problem if we say, ‘Hindustan Zindabad'? [He later said, 'Jai Hind' on TV]

This raises fundamental questions about how we view our country.  What is India to each of us?

Is it a geographical entity with political borders?  Or is it an administrative unit governed by Legislature, headed by Executive, and monitored by Judiciary?  Or is it a constitutional entity of people who are guided by the same set of rules and laws given by our Constitution?  Or is it a Mother (literally)?

I am one of those Indians who get irritated when people take this country to be a literal mother – this came up during my debates on M F Husain’s paintings where some of the Indian Hindu nationalists believed India to be a real mother, and therefore portraying her nude was tantamount to portraying his own mother nude.   I find such metaphors, probably hyperboles, extremely dramatic - may give you some kicks in your otherwise mundane life, but does not actually bring in a reasonable and rational discourse.  Because there could be a moron out there who believes India is a real Mother and then stops drilling bore wells saying, ‘you are murdering my Mother’.  

Think about this – We have different emotive feelings for people, institutions and places.  We cannot go about legalizing or mandating our feelings.  For example, I adore my mother, I like my alma mater, and I love my hometown.  Different set of feelings for each.  My feelings for my alma mater (college) stops at being liking, but not loving.  If you force me to love my alma mater, I will resist.  I will say, ‘I don’t think I want to love it, and who the hell are you to push me into loving it?’  Many of us have go to a college, not necessarily loving it.  Some of us go there even while hating it.  Loving one’s college is not a prerequisite to be attending that college.  

Let’s extend this argument a little further.  You cannot force me to love my alma mater, or my hometown, or my district, or for that matter my state.  And by that extension, you cannot force me to love my country.  Whether I want to love these physical locations or not is up to me.

Let’s say I do indeed love all of these physical locations out of my own volition.  Even then, you cannot force me to personify them, equate them to a real Mother and force me to love them the same way I love my mother.  It’s little too much to ask from me. 

Love for one’s mother is a special feeling – it cannot be extended to a college, a town, a state, or a country.  My mother is far more personal human being to me.  I don’t share her with billion other people in this country.  And she treats me very specially, because she shares DNA with me, and also because she doesn’t have billion other kids. 

Whereas, my college, my hometown, my district, my state and my country, are different physical entities, so unlike my real Mother.  In fact I want to stand outside and protest against my college when things go wrong there.  Same applies to my hometown, my district, my state, or my country.  I want to be in a position to criticize them. Because I could be angry at them when I want to, and be able to hate them when I want to.   

For me India is a political entity, a geographical entity, a constitutional entity, but definitely not a Mother.  There is nothing in Indian Constitution that says that my feelings for my country should personify the country.  I want to treat India as a country –without bringing personification into the whole topic.  I don’t want to treat India as a mother, nor a father, nor an uncle or an aunt.  Does that make me a traitor? If I refuse to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’,  does that make me anti-national?

Today, Mr. Rakesh Sinha also accuses Owaisi of being not a patriot because he doesn’t sing Vande Mataram.  I wrote long ago why Muslims do not sing Vande Mataram.  For Muslims, who do not deify any object, most importantly any real person, including Mohammed Prophet, praying to a nation as a real mother or a real goddess is a problematic concept.  They would want to love their mothers, but not deify their own mothers. They have not problem in loving their country, they just don't want to personify it, and they just don't want to pray to it.

During the debates in 1937 on whether Vande Mataram should be National Anthem for free India, Rabindranath Tagore wrote in his letter to the then Congress President Subash Chandra Bose:

The core of Vande Mataram is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it… No Mussalman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as ‘Swadesh’ [Nation]… Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song cannot be appropriate. [1]

This foolishness of imposing onto everyone that India is a Mother should stop.  For each of us, India is different.  We love India in our own way.  It is foolish to say that, ‘if you don’t send red roses, then you don’t love the person’.  There are many ways of expressing one’s love.  Just because you think sending red roses is the only way, please go ahead and send red roses.  But don’t expect me to! 

Owaisi has no problem in saying 'Jai Hind'.

Now, Watch Owaisi in Pakistan:

[1] Source: K Datta and A Robinson, Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), Letter 314. From the Book: The Longest August by Dilip Hiro.


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