Bharat, Mother of Invention
Ultranationalism has been attached as the fifth wheel to the Hindutva rath
Flash back to the summer of 1989 when Hindutva jargon sounded Greek. In a press conference after his party passed the watershed Palampur resolution that made construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya its official agenda, Lal Krishna Advani said that the agitation wasn’t just to build a temple. It was all about making the idea of cultural nationalism the only prism to view the nation and nationhood.
Advani’s explanation that the Ayodhya issue was “a symbol of a struggle between genuine secularism and pseudo-secularism” and provided a “context for a sharply polarised debate between two opposite conceptions about the source of India’s nationhood and national identity” repeatedly came to mind while deciphering the recent three-pronged assertions on unsettled issues.
Is it necessary to proclaim ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ as way of affirming loyalty to the country? Which ‘song’ should be given primacy? Jana Gana Mana? Vande Mataram? If the national flag is the official standard, what is the place of the Bhagwa Jhanda?
Of these three incitements, let’s begin with the latest — and with the longest running history: Jana Gana Mana vs Vande Mataram. But before its history, some lessons from Bhaiyyaji Joshi, second-in-command of the RSS, are in order. Country, state and nation are distinct. But the English language blurs the lines, he says.
The country is a territorial entity, the state an administrative necessity, and the nation is a self-propelled cultural entity that, unlike the other two concepts, is not subject to alteration. This means that the idea of Akhand Bharat remains, but because of geopolitical and administrative limitations, the nation is ‘sadly’ not part of our present country and state.
Citizenship, the RSS leader said, can be acquired with the benefit of laws of the land. But only those with a mother-son (not ‘daughter’ or ‘child’) relationship with the country can be nationalists. Joshi then juxtaposed the national anthem with the national song: Jana Gana Mana imagines the idea of the state, Vande Mataram evokes the nation.
Pitting these two creations against one another denigrates its creators. Few remember offhand that when Vande Mataram was first sung in the Calcutta Session of Indian National Congress in 1896, its verses were set to music by Rabindranath Tagore.
In the 125 years since then, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s lines have been deployed variously: poem, song, slogan, poster call for freedom and communal war cry. Because of the context of his novel Anandmath, there was never any doubt that it was an invocation to Goddess Durga (‘Dashaprahardharini’, or the Ten-Handed Goddess).
Yet, nationalists, especially of the revolutionary variety, used Vande Mataram as a motivational slogan. Yet, when the song got embroiled in communal controversy in the 1930s, Tagore advised Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Bose that the song, though appropriate in the novel, but because Parliament had representatives of “all religious groups”, it “cannot be appropriate”. Tagore favoured the “balanced judgement” and feared an “endless tug of war”.
The Constituent Assembly left the decision on this till the end: January author wants to convey. Whatever may be the interpretations of Bhaiyyaji Joshi or any other leader, an average citizen of this country cannot tolerate anyone who raises anti-national slogans in the name of freedom of expression.
M S Vaidyanathan 24,1950, when Rajendra Prasad announced that the two “shall have equal status”. The momentous midnight session began with Vande Mataram and ended with Jana Gana Mana.
Joshi’s attempt to revive the controversy with contrasting descriptions attempts to provoke hawks like Asaduddin Owaisi, whose belligerent refusal to proclaim ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ stirred up the controversy over Mohan Bhagwat’s statement.
By playing off the tricolour against the Bhagwa Jhanda, Joshi attempted yet again to force the debate on a settled issue. He said that while it was the duty of citizens to respect the national flag, the saffron flag symbolised the nation since antiquity and people must revere it.
Whether it is the matter of imagining the nation as goddess, a patriotic song that duplicates as a hymn to a goddess and a Flag claimed to be rooted in the nation’s ‘culture’ (read: religion), all are objects that must be considered sacred.
Paradoxically, the nation was not always imagined by Hindutva votaries as Mother. The territories of the nation, wrote V D Savarkar, must be considered as pitribhu (fatherland) and punyabhu (holy land).
Moreover, Bharat Mata was preceded by imageries of Hind Mata and Hind Devi — both popularised in the late 19th century by the cartoon magazine The Hindi Punch, ironically edited and published by a Parsi, Barorjee Nowrojee.
Bhagwat and other Parivar leaders have revived controversies over the country as goddess, the national anthem-national song, and the two flags because it enables them to force debate within their ideological framework. Different leaders strategically speak in divergent tones because it enables them to limit arguments within the spectrum chosen by them.
Since the 1980s, the Hindutva rath surged ahead on four wheels: temple, culture, cow and (protection of) women. After the events in Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, all-inclusive ultranationalism has been fabricated as the fifth wheel.
This addition is aimed at preventing the bandwagon’s breakdown in the event of one issue losing steam momentarily. The three prongs now being used to stoke social embers are spokes of this fifth wheel.
Rally around her