The national politics of India has recently been consumed by the furore over Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s refusal to chant the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. What was once a unifying slogan rooted in the freedom struggle has now been co-opted as a political cause by rival factions.
The RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat sparked the dispute by issuing a new rallying cry
Responding to the recent accusations of sedition against JNU students, Rashtriya Seva Sangh (RSS) leader Mohan Bhagwat, said that the youth should chant slogans hailing India like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and said that “some forces may not say it”.
Owaisi escalated the situation by taking the bait and refused to chant the slogan
Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the political party AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), came out in response to Bhagwat’s comments, saying that he would refuse to chant the slogan “even if a knife is put to [his] throat”. This comment immediately drew criticism and accusations of anti-nationalism. Owaisi argued that this was a part of RSS’ Hindutva agenda, as the slogan ascribes divinity to Mother India and is against Islam. The resulting controversy soon engulfed the political world.
Other politicians soon joined the fray, aggravating the issue and leading to suspensions
An MLA from Owaisi’s party AIMIM named Waris Pathan was suspended from the Maharashtra State Assembly after he replicated Owaisi’s stand. On his outgoing speech as a Rajya Sabha MP, noted lyricist Javed Akhtar waded into this issue and responded to Owaisi’s comments without mentioning him by name, saying that he was proud to chant the slogan as a Muslim. Other politicians too weighed in and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The fallout from this story is spreading across the nation and everyone has an opinion on it. Owaisi’s supporters contend that nationalism is being used to muzzle free speech, while his opponents accuse him of destabilising the country to score cheap political points. One thing is for sure; the biggest loser in this whole affair is Bharat Mata herself.