Is it okay if someone doesn’t want to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in India?

Published: April 14, 2016
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It begs the question about why radicals like Asaduddin Owaisi and are showing such extreme resistance and making such a big deal out of it. PHOTO: AFP

Humans have been organising themselves in some sort of collective national structure since time immemorial. As much as many intellectuals, including Rabindranath Tagore, may argue that nationalism is a Western construct which doesn’t apply to India, or advocate the concept of a wider community of humanity, the value of the nation in the lives of its people cannot be trivialised.

While these intellectual ideals are definitely worth pursuing, it is critical to factor in the harsh reality of human nature that has determined the history of humanity and shaped political boundaries. Weak states and kingdoms have been wiped out and untold sufferings have been unleashed on their populace. The ‘nation’ plays a major role in the lives of individuals by providing security and a larger identity. Just like people need the protective umbrella of the nation, the nation itself needs symbols to rally, inspire, and unite its people.

Flags, national anthems, and emblems are amongst the most prominent symbols that define nations today. The slogan, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is one such symbol for India; it has gained widespread acceptance and usage during India’s freedom struggle. This slogan can be translated to mean ‘long live Mother India’ or ‘victory to Mother India’. The word ‘mata’ is a popular synonym for ‘mother’ and not just another word for ‘goddess’. While some artists may have chosen to interpret and depict Bharat Mata as a goddess, it is by no means a religious slogan or symbol. Think of it as a salute to the motherland, or ‘matribhoomi’ as it is known in Hindi.

Respect for mothers is an integral part of Indian culture. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and all other communities virtually venerate the mother. It is natural for this veneration to be extended to the nation as well. To portray the country as the mother is to assign it maternal attributes like affection, nurturing, and fertility, which are again, completely religion neutral.

Most Indian Muslims see this rationale and therefore have never had a problem saying these words. Those who object to it, either incorrectly interpret the meaning of the slogan, or are being misguided by those with vested interests. Delhi’s Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and poet Javed Akhtar are amongst the several prominent Indian Muslims who have come out in support of the slogan.

That being said, it is perfectly okay if someone doesn’t want to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, especially since that alone cannot be a yardstick to judge one’s patriotism. Nowhere has the government made it a mandate either. At the same time, it is also clear that chanting it is not a religious act and does not violate the tenets of the Islamic faith. So, just as people should not be forced to chant the slogan, there should be no communal diktats to not chant it either.

When there is no religious element involved, it begs the question about why radicals like Asaduddin Owaisi are showing such extreme resistance of it. Is it just opportunistic posturing to stir the pot of communalism in these sensitive and highly charged times? Or are there deeper issues that are playing out?

The answer to this question lies in the uneasy coexistence of the larger pan-Islamic identity and Indian nationality in the minds of some Indian Muslims. The moment the Indian identity becomes secondary, it opens up avenues for conflict with the interests of the Indian nation.

The feelings of nationalism, like love and all other personal emotions, cannot be imposed. For a nation to be truly successful, its citizens must give it primacy over secondary identities such as religion, ethnicity, or language. It is the duty of the citizens to cherish and respect their nation and the nation’s duty to value each individual and allow them the liberty to fully express themselves. However, there has to be a distinction between not being nationalistic and being anti-national. Not loving someone is not the same as hating them.

In order for this arrangement to function effectively in the Indian context, it is vital for that segment of Indian Muslims to stop seeing themselves through the prism of an Arab driven identity and as exceptions to the fabric of India. Most Indian Muslims are of sub-continental ethnic stock and not of Arab, Turk, or Persian descent. The understanding and acceptance of their Indic roots and civilisational context will lead to smoothening out a lot of the fissures and conflicts that keep erupting in the sub-continent. The comments of Tarek Fatah, a Pakistani author and intellectual, are illuminating in this regard.

Muslims are an integral part of India and are as attached to its soil as any other community. They have made vital contributions to its progress and have also had the opportunity to flourish in its secular and inclusive ecosystem, again, like any other community. Feelings of ‘otherness’ or victimhood is counterproductive since all Indians face common challenges in the path to greater peace and prosperity. Moreover, Islamic heritage and symbols have had widespread, unconditional acceptance and bear significant influence on India’s cosmopolitan identity.

The spirit of give and take becomes an important healer when rifts surface. Just as there is no coercion to chant any slogan, a certain amount of grace and sensitivity towards symbols that have great meaning for a large segment of a country’s population is also vital. Peaceful co-existence and progress are only possible when everyone rises above petty differences and rallies towards the common good. Drawing from shared roots and civilisational ethos are perhaps a good way to strengthen the nation.

Amit Nangia

Amit Nangia

The author is a learning and development professional with a background in finance and human resources that informs his commentaries on geopolitical and socioeconomic trends. He tweets as @amitnangia06 (twitter.com/amitnangia06)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Srinivasulu Mekala

    This probably is the best wrte up I have ever read on the controversy. I appreciate the blogger’s clarity of thinking and logic. Recommend

  • Read Below

    Tarek Fatah makes the most sense in terms reiterating blunt facts. The only thing I do not like about him is his continuous tirade on breaking Pakistan into multiple pieces to achieve peace in the region.

    The Iraq and Syria scenario is there for everyone to observe. Sometimes it makes more sense to live the bad than to invite the worst.

    Recommend

  • HZR

    This tolerance they enjoy in India is
    not valued by the minority and refuse to assimilate as open-minded citizens. But
    tolerance of a new virulent strain is to be perversely
    segregationist and intolerant of liberal India’s ways.Recommend

  • Uzair

    Sadly, patriotism is restricted to hateful rhetoric and chanting slogans. Futile exercises to coerce minorities into meaningless ‘nationalism’ should be avoided.Recommend

  • LS

    A certain community:
    – Refuses to sing the national anthem but claims they are patriotic
    – Refuses to say “Hail Motherland” but claims they are patriotic
    – Refuses to sing “National Song” but claims they are patriotic
    – Frequently caught committing terrorist activities but claims they are patriotic
    – Speak against India but claim they are patriotic
    – Most of them never fought for freedom but claim they are patriotic
    – Worked to divide the nation but claim they are patriotic
    – Commit most of the crime but claim they are patriotic.
    – Incite most of the violence but claim they are patriotic.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Even the learned natives like Gul Agha, Proph of CS at UIUC, have been asking for break up of Pakistan since 1986 (on soc.culture.indian) to save native culture and people. Bangladesh the majority Pakistanis broke away so today they have some sanity, humanity and nativity.Recommend

  • usman778

    Outside of Indian ‘administered’ Kashmir, this is your internal matter. Resolve it as you see fit. Tarek Fatah does not identify as a Pakistani and has on multiple ocassions called for Pakistan’s destruction. If you trying to convince Pakistanis, I suggest you find some other resource but I doubt it could change our level of interest in the matter. Futhermore, Pushtun and Baluchis are not “Indic” by any stretch of even the author’s imagination or ethno-linguistic classification. The people of the Indus River system have spent more time in the Iranian, Central asian orbit than Peninsular and Gangetic India or independent altogether. Regards.Recommend

  • Uhhuh

    Fatah is a widely celebrated intellectual but in India…. nowhere else. As for breaking up Pakistan, keep fantasizing, this ain’t 1971 and Pakistan is not Sikkim, Goa, Hyderabad, Junagadh et al. Any such attempt will not be bad for Pakistan but ALL of “akhand bharat”.Recommend

  • uhhuh

    you are right. please punish said minority by electing a prime minister who has massacred them in the past…. oh wait.Recommend

  • Escaped Dalit

    Get a life. While it is understood, that Bharat is a Third World
    Country, with ridiculous aspirations and pretensions of being
    an economic power, the truth is, it is a biggest open toilet of the world.
    With 3/4 of the population hovering below the poverty line and a
    permanent Caste System, that guarantees failure, Bharat should
    worry about Christians, Dalits, Muslims, Untouchable and other
    minorities. Before singling out Muslims for revenge.
    Take care of the people first. Before thinking about the World.Recommend

  • Unknown

    Yes highest level of tolerance, where people are killed just on the doubt of eating meat.Recommend

  • Karmanye Thadani

    Well-written, Amit.Recommend

  • bn

    If you are a dalit as your name implies, forgo the reservation for education and employment and then utter such nonsense.The problem with such people is they will claim all the privilege and then start abusing the country.
    Recommend

  • Vikas Pandey

    We don’t need lessons on minorty from you. Look at the pathetic condt. of minority in our neighborhood. And if india is open toilet then pakistan is the septic tank of tge world. An entire country runs on foreign donatioation have no rights to crticise others. Terrorist breeding ground.Recommend

  • Benny

    And who are you to decide the fate of India? Escaped Dalit LOL on you.Recommend

  • LS

    I never said anything about India achievements.. Yes it is a third world country with poverty and lot of problems but that does not make Pakistan look better does it? You are neither a economic power house, nor liberal, neither educated, nor fed properly and are inbred… yeah I can also say the same things.. worry about other pakistanis like barelwis, sikhs, hindus, christians, ahmadis, shia and other untouchables in your own country before you accuse us of caste system.. you sects are becoming caste system at least we are not calling dalit wajibul qatal — YOU ARE!! I am just talking about a certain community in India,, NOT the world… I know education and comprehension is a big in pakistan so not much was expected.Recommend

  • LS

    No “Escaped Dalit” means he is a Muslim.Recommend

  • LS

    Yup the same community also has a “Victim” mindset not only in India but world over.
    – They came to India and massacred 80 Million and called themselves victim and demanded certain special rights and privileges in the name of democracy and went on to divide the nation.
    – A certain Kashmiri ruler converted whole Kashmir and massacred them but they only point to Dogra atrocities.
    – A certain community in kashmir colluded with pakistan to start a separatist movement killed hundreds of hindus and when army came and beat them back they claim that they are victim
    – they destroyed a temple to build the Masjid but when the masjid got destryed the burned a train with Hindus in it and when beaten back they played “Victim” card again.
    – In Muzaffarnagar they ambushed people returning from a function without any provocation and when beaten back they play “victim” card and police arrests only hindus
    – In same town.. that community eve teases girls from other community and her brother beat them and in turn those brothers are killed and police only arrest the family of those killed brothers. No one is arrested for killing those brothers.

    So yes.. we need a spade to be called a spade. you should worry about the raped, killed hindus, christians, barelwis, wajibul watal type people in your country.. The father of your nation was a murderer, haq was a murderer, bhutto was a murderer … you have string of those, but I also know .. you don’t care about anyone except that specific community members…Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Not sure I can make a sweeping statement: most of them never fought for freedom.
    Also, one cannot make the generalization that muslims commit most crimes in India.
    I live in Bangalore, South India and find muslims honest, hard working. Most crimes here are committed by Hindus.
    I also think “Bharat Mata ki Jai” cannot be a yardstick. If muslims shun any kind of imagery, then this slogan invokes the imagery that they may not like. They may not have problem saying “Hindustan zindabad”.
    It is said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I have little patience with people in India who talk of patriotism while flouting all rules.
    Only 5% of Indians pay an income tax. Are the rest of 95% who do not pay taxes patriotic even if they say “Bharat mata ki jai”?Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    You are obviously a Pakistani with an assumed name. Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Yes, Pakistan can live in relative peace with India if its “establishment” gives up the 2 nation theory.
    What this theory says is: Hindu is my enemy and since Hindustan is hindu majority, it is an eternal enemy to be fought and defeated (“Ghazwa-e-Hind).Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Breaking Pakistan is being discussed in intellectual circles in USA.
    Many nation states have come and gone. Remember Soviet Union, Yoguslavia, Prussia?
    Pakistan was formed as a buffer state by British to resist Russian invasion. It did resist that creditably and was a strong ally of the West until Soviet Union fell apart and the cold war ended.
    We live in different geopolitical situation where Pakistan is fast becoming a liability with nukes and terrorism going hand in hand.Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Define Indic.
    Indic has nothing to do with religion but everything with the local culture.Recommend

  • Umesh Kumar Sahu

    Dalit lol… Recommend

  • Umesh Kumar Sahu

    You need Nursery education.. Recommend

  • gp65

    IT is absolutely okay if someone does not say Bharat Mata Ki Jai. But if they issue fatwas forbidding others from saying it, that is unacceptable.Recommend

  • gp65

    Calling someone a mass murderer because there were 3 days of riot under his watch in which people of BOTH communities were killed (754 Muslims and 294 Hindus) is absurd . By that logic Jinnah and Nehru under whose watch a million people were killed in partition riots are also mass murderers.
    Over a 100 policemen died during those riots – who do you think they were trying to protect?
    Modi did everything possible to stop the riots and they stopped on day 3 when he called the army.
    Do you know the trigger for the riots? A gang of Muslims burnt 58 Hindu pilgrims including women and children alive. I do not justify the riots that followed but am explaining why they happened. Can you imagine what would happen if 58 Hajis were burnt alive by a gang of Hindus?
    The opposition Congress did everything it possibly could to get Modi convicted but there simply was no evidence against him.Recommend

  • gp65

    Dadri murde was a criminal act and will be punished. No one has justified it and it has been criticized by one and all. You will be the first one to say that all Muslims should not be called terrorists for the acts of a few but you have no qualms of labeling 1.2 billion people on the basis of the acts of couple of criminals.Recommend

  • gp65

    Totally agree that coercion is completely undesirable. But I include attempts to coerce by the mullahs who issued a fatwa against saying Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
    People should say it or not depending on how they personally feel about it.Recommend

  • abhi

    Very valid point indeed. If islam is really so much against the concept of motherland and nationhood why all of the muslim countries have their own national flags, national anthem and all other symbols.Recommend

  • usman778

    the people in the train were taunting the muslims after having destroyed a mosque. forgot that part?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Please continue with this mindset for another generation, that’s all we need.Recommend

  • Vivek Vikram

    do you know what a third world country means ? the term is no longer valid since cold war ended. somalia was a second world country, botswana and southern african countries were first world.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Muslims in general do not care if non Muslims are killed at their hands, they infact think it is macho of their men to kill and rape people of other communities, terrorism and violence is not so prone to Muslims by chance but it is a product of their mindset towards other communities.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    The more the better, I want every Pakistani to believe in the pipe dream of Ghazwa E Hind. We need not fight them, we just need to convince them each day that our intentions towards them are getting worse day by day, the Pakistanis are their biggest enemies.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    How is Zaid Hamid mate, have the Saudis treated him good?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    I love you man!!

    If your comment gets published by every urdu daily in Pakistan, you will end up scaring the Pakistanis the way even Modi could not do until now.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Muslims do not understand that, there is only one culture for them which is their religion. if you have a difference of opinion, you may end up not dying if you live in Europe and America else it is just a matter of time.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Why blame Mullahs, if there is anyone among Muslims who is educated and doing justice to their education, it is the Mullahs.

    It is better to be hateful but honest rather than pretending to be loving contradicting the education you have received.Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    Pakistan (Indus Region) has always been ruled by different kingdoms and empires as compared to Mainland and Peninsular India. The languages and culture are different. The only time before the arrival of Islam that the two were united were for a short 80 years by Buddhist rule under Ashoka. Bengalis never represented Pakistan and were historically, genetically, culturally and linguistically different from Pakistanis therefore they were incompatible with us.Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    The culture in the Indus region has always been different to that of Mainland and Peninsular India. The languages have been different. The genetics have been different. Historically they been ruled by different empires as compared to ‘India’ (Mainland+Peninsular).Recommend

  • Pure Ind

    Dear Pakistani Friend may be you don’t know the number of facilities that the Govt provides for its minorities. The condition of minorities is improving day by day in India, as compared to other religious based countries. & still if these minorities cant hail their motherland its definitely shameful.Recommend

  • sai kiran sharma

    What a load of crapola are you trying to serve here based on your Pakistani studies?Recommend

  • LS

    Yes. Most of them did not fight for freedom in fact they were busy serving in British Army suppressing the independence movement. Can you give me the names of 10 of them from what is today Pakistan and 10 from what is today Bangladesh?
    South India is NOT a yardstick.. Whole of India IS!! Look at the population in Jails to know more.
    It is NOT anybody’s problem if “Hail Mother India” invokes an imagery in their minds… It is their problem where Mother becomes an image? Really? Who cares what they have problem with? Why is that most people joining Islamic terrorists in India again are Muslims… Do you want to know why? Because they care less about the land they live in and more about the quran and hence it is easy to rile them up and get them to work against the state. It is true world over. Ask a question to them if quran is more important than constitution of the nation – they will 100% choose quran. I don’t care if they are patriotic or not and can do anything for the nation… all I care about is don’t work against the nation but you can rest assured that most would work against the nation..
    “Samuel Johnson” said “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” in 1775. No one knows the context in which it was said. If this is your stance then you just sullied the effort of everyone who worked for independence and gave us freedom from the clutches of colonialism and you just voided the lives lost in the struggle.
    Try to come up with something original. A nation that did not care about its freedom initially was ruled by outsiders for quite some time and it does not take even a 5th grader in India to realize what that did to us as a nation.Recommend

  • Rana Choudary

    Anyone who writes the truth becomes a Pakistani?Recommend

  • LS

    This is a lousy theory that Pakistan was created as a buffer state by British.. There is no documentary evidence of that. Do you think lousy paki army would be able to defend Russians if they really wanted to enter?Recommend

  • LS

    And what kind of tolerance are we talking about in Pakistan? Where bully pulpit and TV programs are used to call for murdering Christians, Ahmadis and all other minorities? What kind of tolerance are you talking about when a fan is jailed? Where people settle scores with minorities by invoking blasphemy law and promptly serving them “goonda” justice on the streets that leads to their death or destruction of their prayer homes? Did you forget the lahore bombing so quickly? you situation is like a guy in tatters poking fingers at someone who has a hole in their suit. You are not on any sort of moral high ground here.Recommend

  • Simla

    No one but Pakistanis call India as Bharat when writing in English. They also use another name Endia which is rather wishful on their part.Recommend

  • Rana Choudary

    Is’nt this blog about ‘Bharat’…Mata ki Jai…?
    Hindus don’t use Bharat? Even in English? Since when?
    Poor you!!Recommend

  • Chitral wala

    This comment is offensive. And need to be checked
    for Anti Pakistan content.
    ET is an anti Pakistan newspaper. It supports India by
    allowing such drivel from Hindus. But will not print
    rebuttals from Pakistanis to counter these sick opinions
    from Pak hating Hindus.
    This comment forwarded to ISPSR, JI, JUI-Fazl, ANP,
    PTI, PPP, Sindh Secretariat, Qaim Shah, Interior Min.
    Int. Minister, PM Secretariat etc.Recommend

  • Simla

    No, poor you as you haven’t got a clue as to what Hindus do or don’t. Read my comment again for comprehension.Recommend

  • Simla

    So murder is the answer to a taunt. No wonder the world is afraid of your coreligionists.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Pakistanis are creation of Londoners like Jinah and UP-Bihar Nawabis. This Pakistani tells the truth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCwlZZsM0m8Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    Donating toilets to the over 600 million Indians who are forced to defecate in public too is being discussed in intellectual circles in the USA.Recommend

  • LS

    And? It has nothing to do specifically with Pakistan… I also suggest you send it to deobandi, Wahabi and UAE, Saudi Arabia, OIC for maximum impact…Recommend

  • Rana Choudary

    Only a Super Hindu like you has the clues.
    Rest of us Hindus must stop using Bharat,
    because, as per YOU, only Pakistanis use
    Bharat in English.
    Oh woe, woe, woe….Recommend

  • 🚙 Drift_King 👑

    and you are an indian commentator on pakistani page.Recommend

  • 🚙 Drift_King 👑

    also use a few others which frankly i cant use, as it might lead me to a ban here.Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    India meanwhile is the world’s biggest toilet, most of the population living in sub humans slums and defecating in public and having a system where they are classified as touchables, partially touchables, slightly touchables, maybe touchables and untouchables. Recommend

  • Jatt Sher

    India is the creation of racist caste-ist Gandhi where people are classified as touchables, non-touchables maybe touchables etc. That is simply barbaric and a result of a confused identity due to Aryan invasion and following a religion that oppresses them. Pakistan meanwhile is genetically, historically, culturally and linguistically different from Mainland and Peninsular India and therefore has every right to exist as a nation.Recommend

  • LS

    1) After worlds largest slum in Mexico; Neza-Chalco-Itza, the second largest Slum Orangi is in Karachi. Dharavi on the other hand has paved walkways, water supply, garbage disposal as well as waste management and looks better than middle class Karachi homes. Unlike Pakistan where there are pipes but no water, no toilets, no food, Pakistan ranks #11 on world hunger Index way along with sub-saharan countries.

    http://ghi.ifpri.org/

    2) Poverty is defined in Pakistan as an income of Rs. 15,000 per annum or ~41 PKR, which is lower than ~19,000 PKR (converted the currency) on Indian side. Point being what Pakistan defines as middle class is defined as poor in India despite higher cost of living in Pakistan.. So when your SBP says 33% of pakistan lives below poverty line in reality it is close to 65%

    http://www.dawn.com/news/1250694

    http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.jsp

    Next time you try to banter on rhetoric remember to back it up with data. As far as untouchable is concerned people would take ability to live and not culled by being called as Wajibul Qatal or embroiled by fanatics on the street for blasphemy… Lastly, preempting your next argument on beef, wake the world when pork is allowed and eaten legally on the streets of Pakistan or any Muslim country on earthRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Then why artists come from Pakistan to India? Why Kirket & Kabbadi players want to come to play in India and also even Urdu shurdu writers?Recommend

  • someone

    Yeah he probably is like “Asmaan se gire, Khajoor me atke”.Recommend

  • someone

    Apparently yes. There are millions in India who don’t say that are living as per their life code.Recommend

  • someone

    But mostly it is your fellow “Dalits” who are the ones defecating in open. It is personal responsibility to get a toilet build in home. Why don’t you guys build toilets? Also the most of the poor are “Dalits” like you who despite education almost free, do not get enroll in schools. As for caste system, indeed it is something that should be eradicated and I think you managed to use the quota system to get some education so say thanks to India and chant “Bharat Mata Ki jai”. Had you been a dalit in any other country, you probably would have end up in streetsRecommend

  • usman778

    i have read 37 books on the subject written by non-pakistani archaeologists, anthropologists and historians…. your credentials? let me guess… the pushtun and tamils are the same people. jai hind.Recommend

  • rationalising argument.

    first look at your own beggar nation.Recommend