oppn parties An Essay on Being Nationalist

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  • Supreme Court holds hotels liable for theft of vehicle from their parking area if parked by valet, says "owner's risk" clause is not a shield from such liability
  • Finance Minister says she is receiving feedback from many sectors that recovery is happening as there is lower stress
  • Sabarimala temple opens, but police bar the entry of women below 50 years
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India and BPCL to be sold off by March
  • Media person Rajat Sharma resigns as DDCA president
  • Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress postpone meeting the governor of Maharashtra
  • Shiv Sena not to attend the NDA meeting on 17th November, says break up "a formality"
  • Shiv Sena says that the confidence the BJP is showing about forming the government in Maharashtra is based purely on its expectation of getting numbers through horse trading
  • Anil Ambani resigns as director of the bankrupt Reliance Communications
  • India beat Bangladesh by an innings and 150 rums inside three days in the first Test. Indian pacers excel after Mayank Agarwal's double century
  • Sena-NCP-Congress work out a common minimum programme, will form the government soon and it will last 5 years, says Sharad Pawar
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal upholds the decision to withdraw the charitable status of Young India, making it liable to pay Rs 145 in income tax. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra are the majority shareholders in the company
  • CBI raids offices of Amnesty International across India
  • Supreme Court quashes NCLAT order against Arcelor Mittal and paves the way for the company to take over ailing Essar Steel
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says concerns of telcos will be addressed and no company will close down
Supreme Court dismisses plea for review in Rafale case, says no need for roving inquiry, maintains clean chit to government
oppn parties
An Essay on Being Nationalist

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Picture by artist mskumar

One-upmanship and the desire not to be left behind in the nationalist debate made self-confessed secular parties like Congress and NCP to support, indeed demand, that Waris Pathan, the MIM MLA in the Maharashtra assembly be suspended for refusing to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. In the process, these parties have contributed in seeming to make Bharat Mata ki Jai the only slogan that establishes one’s nationalist credentials.

This is distressing and a sign of the times when the Hindu majoritarian parties are bent on deciding what constitutes nationalism. If they were to review their policies during the fight for Independence, they will find that many of their actions and utterances of their leaders then would have qualified as being anti-national. But that did not mean they were anti-national. Their view and the means to achieve Independence were different from those who were in the forefront of the fight but they were strongly nationalist despite that.

Hence, they should realize that trying to force a particular slogan down the throat of someone is not right. It is not as if Bharat Mata ki Jai is the given cry that every citizen makes when seized by nationalist fervor. Indians have various ways of praising their motherland. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat, Bharat Zindabad or Hindustan Zindabad are all equally nationalist proclamations. Anyone of them can be used instead of Bharat Mata ki Jai.

The insistence on using Bharat Mata ki Jai stems from the fact that like all other manifestations of gods & goddesses in Hindu religion, the motherland has also been deified and a goddess like image created for Bharat and this is now being used to challenge the Muslims. This is not right. Bharat is a conglomeration of many cultures, many identities and many religions. One of its major religions does not believe in idol worship. To expect its believers to hail something which has been deified as an image or idol is to tell them to go against their religion, which is blatantly unconstitutional. But Muslims should also see that the idols are an artists’ impression, not sanctioned by any Hindu religious text. They should ignore them and say Bharat Mata ki Jai in the spirit of hailing the motherland. In fact, the community is divided over the issue and some leaders feel there is nothing wrong in saying Bharat Mata ki Jai.

The motherland has a place in every citizen’s heart and mind and it transgresses his religious beliefs. No religion has said that its believers should be disrespectful or unfaithful to their motherland. But when any proclamation clashes with a citizen’s religious beliefs and if it is not mandated by the Indian constitution, the citizen should be free to choose any of the other proclamations to hail the motherland. It does not make him or her any less nationalist and at the same time allows him to be faithful to his religion.

It is for the same reason Muslims object to reciting Vande Mataram. The first two words (which mean Hail Motherland) are all that most people know and they get perplexed why anyone should have problems in hailing the motherland. Later in the nationalist song, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee gives mother India the shape of an idol and equates her to goddesses Durga and Lakshmi. Will any Muslim, whose religion does not permit idol worship, sing paeans to Hindu goddesses? And does it make him anti-national for not doing it?

Vande Mataram is a Hindu’s description of how he sees his motherland. It is very patriotic and nationalist. A Muslim might see Bharat differently and that could also be very patriotic and nationalist. In fact, Mohammed Iqbal wrote Saare Jahan Se Accha in 1904 which was extremely patriotic. It is another matter that Iqbal changed his views in 6 years and started saying Hindustan belonged to the Muslims. But it does not take away from the fact that he expressed strong nationalist fervor, peaceful co-existence of communities and message of peace by all religions in the original Saare Jahan se Accha. Poet Allama Iqbal had also written "Pathar ki mooraton mein samjha hai tu khuda hai/ khaake watan ka mujhko har zarra devata hai (for you, an idol of stone is a god/every particle of the country's sand is a deity to me.)" Stirringly patriotic lines, although currently, Hindu nationalist might say that it insulted Hindus for their idol worship.

The literature of our great nation is rich and diverse. There are proclamations that hail the motherland in different ways and in different languages. All these are equally nationalist. Every citizen, irrespective of where he lives, what religion he follows, what he eats, what he wears and what politics he follows should be allowed the freedom to choose the way he expresses his nationalism. It is wrong to insist that one particular phrase signifies nationalism.

As for the Congress party, its duplicity is there for all to see. It had no problem when anti-national slogans were raised in JNU, another country was hailed and people talked of breaking India into thousand pieces. In fact, it supported the students in the guise of supporting free speech as it suited it to cause embarrassment to the government. Where were its nationalist credentials then? Now it is supporting the suspension of the MLA for not saying Bharat Mata ki Jai. Isn’t it far more anti-national to support ones who chant Pakistan Zindabad than protest against ones who do not say Bharat Mata ki Jai but are willing to say Jai Hind?