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5 Bloody Good Reasons Why I Won't Be Saying Bharat Mata Ki Jai

05/04/2016 8:22 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Baba Ramdev is dreaming of heads rolling and Devendra Fadnavis thinks those that don't say Bharat Mata ki Jai have no place in India, but I think there are some pretty good reasons for refusing to utter this slogan.

Firstly, 'patriotism' can't be reduced to a single slogan. Certainly not a slogan that has historically been non-inclusive (for religious minorities as well as for those who may identify as atheists).

Secondly, shoving "Bharat Mata ki Jai" down people's throats is not only unacceptable but also counterintuitive. If getting people on board with this slogan is the ultimate aim, then I'm afraid, it's only going to backfire and turn them away.

A nation that is so misogynistic has no moral authority to compel its people and, women in particular, to chant "Bharat Mata Ki Jai".

Thirdly, judging 'patriotism' is an absurd idea in itself. Nobody has the right to issue 'patriotism certificates' to anyone. The greatest irony is that the self-proclaimed 'nationalists' who are handing out patriotism certificates today are the same people who played little or no part in India's independence struggle and even went out of their way to pledge allegiance to British colonial rule. A case in point is VD Savarkar, founder of the concept of 'Hindutva', which the BJP swears by. Savarkar appealed for mercy multiple times during his stay in the Andamans Cellular Jail. In one of his mercy petitions*, he wrote:

Therefore if the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress.

He then went on to say,

Moreover my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?

I refuse to be a part of this buffoonery, of this circus of jingoistic hyper-nationalism that values an empty and hollow slogan over people's lives.

The far-right, however, continues to lionize Savarkar, revise and rewrite history and perpetuate propaganda otherwise.

Fourthly, a nation that is so misogynistic has no moral authority to compel its people and, women in particular, to chant "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". A nation where Dalit women still face unimaginable atrocities. A nation where Adivasi women like the brave Soni Sori and Kawasi Hidme get brutally raped and beaten in police custody. A nation where Kashmiri women and women from the North East get raped by the security forces with impunity under the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers) Act. A nation where marital rape is not criminalized on the grounds of the supposed 'sanctity of marriage' and to protect 'Indian values and culture'. A nation that wages a war on women's bodies, where their sexuality, labour and reproductive capacity are still colonized. Such a nation lacks the moral authority to force its people to raise the slogan 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.

Lastly, 'Bharat Mata', and the very idea of it, was artificially constructed in the 19th century. The chauvinist manner in which it is invoked today by the far-right, comes off as a rallying cry for establishing a theocratic Hindu state. Establishing a Hindu Rashtra has been a long-held dream project of the RSS, something that it has publicly gone on to state on multiple occasions. Invoking the deity of Bharat Mata or creating an image of India as a mother goddess, thus, serves this purpose. It not only embodies a Hindutva imagination of India but also isolates, demonizes and punishes those who are either unable to take part in it or those who refuse to be a part of this buffoonery.

I refuse to be a part of this buffoonery, of this circus of jingoistic hyper-nationalism that values an empty and hollow slogan over people's lives.

(*From R.C. Majumdar, Penal Settlements in the Andamans, Publications Division, 1975)

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