Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Nationalist vs. Patriot Debate

Row Over Chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai

Row Over Chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai

While I was thumbing through my Twitter timeline, I discovered a thought that said, “Patriotism is loving one’s country; Nationalism is hating everyone else’s”. What immediately followed was a barrage of similar tweets on nationalism. It took me some time to realise that the patriotism vs. nationalism debate has taken a new turn. Two figures who have taken the centre stage in the debate are RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

Just to give you a backdrop, Bhagwat had announced on 3 March that “the new generation” should be taught to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (hail mother India). Bhagwat had also categorically explained that the chant “should be real, spontaneous and part of all-round development of the youth”. Owaisi, the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, took a cue from Bhagwat’s comment and whipped up a controversy on Sunday evening by stating in no unclear terms that he would not chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan even if Bhagwat holds knife to his throat.

Reactions on Twitter and Different School of Thoughts

People lapped up this opportunity to give a piece of mind to these two leaders in their own rights. Once again, the country launched a fierce debate with polarised views. The discussions on Twitter soon turned into a Congress vs. BJP debate and a debate between nationalists and patriots. Two broad school of thoughts emerged. While one school of thought found nothing wrong in Owaisi refusing to say Bharat Mata ki jai and claimed that one can be patriotic even without worshiping India or addressing it as a mother, the second school of thought questioned “Why wouldn’t anyone say Bharat Mata ki Jai or Jai Hind? What’s unislamic about wishing victory for your motherland?”

Political Leaders Take Sides

The leaders from across the political spectrum have taken sides in this controversy that has its origin in the alleged anti-national slogans being chanted at Jawaharlal Nehru University last month. Vinod Mehta, an Indian journalist and a political commentator, was one of the firsts to voice his support in favour of Owaisi by tweeting, “Is ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ & ‘Jai Hind’ less patriotic than ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’?” A tacit support came from the Congress leader Salman Khurshid when he said that chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ in public should be a matter of choice and not forced upon someone.

Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development, made a sharp reaction to Owaisi’s statement by saying, “He should be ashamed for saying that he won’t say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’”. Minister of State for MSME, Giriraj Singh, whose Twitter Bio tells that he is a ‘Nationalist’, was very blatant in his remark: “Nobody should hesitate in saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ & those who hesitate in saying, can take shelter somewhere else”. Sanjiv Bhatt, the ex-IPS officer from Gujarat, was one of the few moderate voices as he made a simple observation: “I don’t get diminished when I say “Insha Allah” or ” Khuda Hafiz”. Why should anyone make an issue of saying “Bharat Mata KI Jai”?

In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, Owaisi told him that the RSS is no one to question his loyalty to the nation. He had also pointed out that nowhere in the constitution is it said that he must say ‘Bharat mata ki Jai’.