27 May 2018, Sunday

What is our stand on the slogan “Bharat Mata ki jai”?

Rajat Ghosh
Howrah, West Bengal
What is your stand on the slogan of “Bharat Mata ki jai” which is a nationalist slogan?

The CPI(M) is very clear that there can be no imposition on any Indian citizen as far as slogans and greetings are concerned.  Every citizen is free to raise slogans of his or her choice and this right cannot be infringed upon in the name of carrying out ‘patriotism tests’. India is a secular, democratic republic which assures all its citizens equal rights and equal treatment.  There is no room in our constitutional set up for the loyalty of any citizen to be submitted to any special tests.  In fact, any individual, group or political party that sets out to do this is acting against the constitution and the unity of India. 

It is in this context that the manufactured controversy over chanting of the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in order to give proof of one’s patriotism has to be viewed.  This is a controversy that has been created only to deepen polarisation between people belonging to different religions and to brand members of minority communities as ‘traitors’.  While it is the Sangh Parivar along with its rabid supporters like Ramdev, who are making the most outrageous statements threatening those who refuse to raise this slogan with death and deportation, in pursuit of their well-known agenda of strengthening suspicion and antipathy towards the minorities in order to gain adherents for their creation of a Hindu Rashtra, some members of parties that claim to be secular like the Congress have also added fuel to the Sangh Parivar’s fire by demanding the suspension of MIM MLA, Pathan, in Maharashtra for refusing to voice this slogan.  The leader of the MIM, Owaisi, who also benefits from communal polarisation because of the kind of politics that he espouses, has also helped the Sangh Parivar’s cause by announcing that he would never utter this slogan when, in fact, no one had asked him to.

What the Sangh Parivar (and its ally, the Shiv Sena) are doing today using the Bharat Mata ki Jai slogan as a test of patriotism is a repetition of what they had done earlier with the slogan Vande Mataram.  Since both these slogans were raised by many leaders of our independence movement, they find an emotional resonance among many sections of our people.  It is, therefore, important to understand that while these slogans (especially the latter) were certainly raised by some freedom fighters, they were never the definitive slogans of our national movement as the Sangh Parivar is now trying to establish.

Bhagat Singh, the most beloved martyr in our struggle for freedom, went to the gallows shouting ‘Inquilab Zindabad’.  BJP leader, Venkaiah Naidu has repeated the fraudulent claim in the last few months that Bhagat Singh went to gallows shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ but eye witness, written records have left the truth for posterity:  Bhagat Singh died with Inquilab Zindabad on his lips.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who belonged to Bengal and would have been more familiar than most with both these slogans did not find either to be appropriate as a national slogan.  On his historic journey by submarine from Germany to Japan, he asked his companion, the young Abid Hasan, to think of a slogan that would express the patriotic feelings of all Indians.  Hasan came up with ‘Jai Hind’ which Bose immediately accepted.  This was to become the slogan of not only the Indian National Army but also of millions of Indians from that time to the present.  It is also the official slogan of the police and para-military forces in many parts of North India.

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote that he asked the crowds that thronged to his meetings, how they defined ‘Bharat Mata’.  He then proceeded to tell them what his own definition was.  It was the people of India, in particular, the poor and exploited men and women of India, struggling for freedom and their rights.  This vision of Bharat Mata is far removed from what the Sangh Parivar is trying to impose.  Their vision of Bharat Mata is that of a Goddess who is, quite indisputably, a Hindu goddess.

The CPI(M) strongly believes that patriotism is to be judged not by words but by deeds.  Serving the cause of the people, fighting for the rights of the exploited and oppressed is what is required to build a strong and united India that upholds the principles of equality and democracy.  There can be no place for divisive sloganeering, jingoism and the demonisation of sections of our own citizens in the constitutional republic to which we belong.