On Tuesday, members from the Punjab unit of the Shiv Sena allegedly stopped trucks on their way to Jammu and Kashmir and forced the Muslim drivers to chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Pakistan Murdabad', the Indian Express reported. They were also reportedly made to burn the Pakistan flag.
Of the many things ultra-nationalists have been attempting to enforce in India, the raising of the 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' slogan, or even the willingness to raise it, is probably seen by them as a definitive test of patriotism. In many instances vigilante groups have used the slogan, an ode to 'Mother India', to target and marginalise minorities.
The chant, however, was not used to inspire a sense of brotherhood, quite the opposite. The Express report claimed it was to "pay back" Kashmiri Muslims for allegedly harassing Amarnath pilgrims. According to the paper, some drivers were even beaten up for refusing to chant the slogans.
"What they (Kashmiri Muslims) did to Hindu pilgrims on Amarnath Yatra has been done to them," the paper quoted Shiva Sena's Punjab chief Rajiv Tandon as saying.
This news comes even as the national media reported a few days ago how Muslims in south Kashmir defied curfew restrictions to rescue Amarnath pilgrims from a bus that collided with a vehicle on the Pahalgam-Jammu National Highway and rush them to nearby hospitals.
At least 30 people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir during protests after the killing of 22-year-old militant leader Burhan Wani.
Incidentally, Tandon's unit of the Sena in Punjab last year instigated people to slap Aamir Khan and "earn" one lakh rupees because, ironically, the actor told a news organisation that he felt insecure in India due to rising intolerance.
This strong-armed enforcement of the slogan as a benchmark of nationalism isn't new to India. A probe team sent by the district administration made students of a Christian school in Madhya Pradesh's Shahdol chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' in early July to prove that the slogan had not been banned on campus.
In April, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) forced organisers of a seminar at the Deshbandhu College to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' if they wanted the event to go on.
Express said an FIR has been lodged against Tandon following the incident.