Some controversies die down. Some are reignited, refuelled and again made live by some to keep themselves relevant in the media, unmindful of consequences . A case in point is the raging controversy regarding the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, which is not being allowed to die down.
It all started with the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment, echoed by Baba Ramdev, Sadhvi Prachi, and countered by Asaduddin Owaisi. Not letting go of the controversy, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused BJP supporters of gundagiri and forcing people to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
It is unclear whether Bhagwat’s initial comment was innocent or, as in the past, a tactical remark aimed at a vote bank, in view of the elections in major Indian states. Although one wonders whether such like remarks would actually make or mar the BJP’s chances. Be that as it may, it did cause a lot of ripples in the ruling party as well as provide ammunition to the Opposition.
It is nobody’s case that chanting the slogan makes a person a super-patriot. Nor is it the case that not saying the same makes one a traitor. But the reactions from some quarters, such as Owaisi, border on the other extreme. Fortunately, radicals such as Deobandis represent a minuscule segment of Muslims and their utterances are more a ploy to protect their own election turf rather than to prevent the alleged “bhagavatisation” of India. Fortunately, their utterances have been amply countered by saner, educated Muslim voices. Just when the issue was simmering down, Ramdev proclaimed that he would sever heads in thousands if people refused to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
For a change, let people decide what to chant. Not to be left behind was Devendra Fadnavis, the chief minister of Maharashtra, which is one of the most industrialised and progressive states. He too joined the chorus. Would he not be serving a bigger public interest by focusing on the betterment of marginalised farmers in his state, which has also been suffering year after year from drought, and with no concrete irrigation planning in the state?
Kejriwal, too, has made his contribution to keeping the controversy alive, but it was acceptable for him when huge crowds chanted the very same slogan during the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement, and not when Bhagwat advocated it. He needlessly ties this issue to the unfortunate incidents at NIT, Srinagar. Is he supporting the despicable conduct and violence towards the non-Kashmiri students?
It also seems that Bhagwat does not want to let go of this issue. On the banks of the holy Kshipra, he credited those born in India with two mothers — one biological and the other being Bharat Mata — thus once again carrying on with the issue. Is it not ironical and sad that when the focus of the nation’s energies should have been concentrated on our PM’s favourite theme and slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, non-issues are dominating the discussion? One may also pay heed to the saner voices, like that of Adi Godrej, who has called upon his countrymen to abjure these trivial issues and focus on nation-building, as these needless controversies are hurting economic development. Najeeb Jung, the lieutenant governor of Delhi, has perhaps hit the nail on its head by calling it a manufactured controversy and has drawn a clear line between those worshipping the gods and the nation. As such, there is nothing wrong with the slogan.
It, therefore, seems that the issue has been taken up by individuals to serve their own sectarian interests — the lumpen elements in both the ruling party, and their so-called sympathisers elsewhere, as also by the sectarian leaders in the Opposition. The daily theatrics of players need to be taken to task by the media, citizens and lawmakers. Freedom of expression cannot be unqualified. It also means restraint and that no one is above the rule of law.