King Lear Tells his Daughters to Say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” but Youngest Daughter Keeps Quiet

2015 was the year of controversies over bans from maggi to pornography to beef. India seems unable to tide over controversies, while a greater part of the world is grappling with refuge crisis. The ongoing controversy “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” spiraled like ripples in water from the Jawaharlal Nehru University row and spread from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Ramdev’s yoga camps to drought-hit regions in Maharashtra. The way everyone from Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Ramdev, Devendra Fadnavis, Asaduddin Owaisi to others has been fanning the fuss, the “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” controversy seems to have a long way to go.

It reminds me of the beginning of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. King Lear of Britain decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters on the basis of who of them loves him the most. King Lear chooses verbal eloquence of love as a yardstick to decide which daughter deserves to inherit his realm and how much, without realizing that love is a silent language of the heart. It may not necessarily be expressive and eloquent. Two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, declare their love for the retiring king in effusive terms, while the youngest daughter Cordelia with teary eyes says nothing but that her love for him is incomparable and inexpressible. King Lear feels pleased with Goneril and Regan but becomes angry with Cordelia.

The eldest daughters’ flattery to King Lear under the garb of love was like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” in today’s context.

Some orthodox politicians are trying every possible means to inject the slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” into our nerves as a new dose of patriotism. Some are trying their best to make us chant it just as children hum advertising jingles every now and then. In one of the recent incidents triggered by the nationwide debate on chanting the slogan, a school in Gujarat asked admission-seeking students to write “Bharat Mata ki Jai” on their application forms. It is one of the three schools headed by BJP leader Dilip Sanghani. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis unhesitatingly said that those not chanting the slogan have no right to stay in India.

Patriotism is not a product which should be promoted or advertised in new fashions from time to time.

I am afraid if forceful imposition of the seemingly patriotic slogan continues, the day is not far when we will have to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” while seeking medical treatment at government hospitals and appearing in interviews for government jobs. Even LPG subsidies may be given to us on condition of chanting the slogan in the coming days. FIRs against rapists may be written only if rape victims chant “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.

The slogan is also being associated with our constitutional rights. Our constitutional right to freedom permits us to express patriotism in our individual and personal ways. It may not always be verbal, loud, and public. Like Cordelia’s unfathomable love for her father King Lear, our love for Mother India is not obliged to serve the whims of political parties.

Our salute to the Tricolor, our support for the national cricket team during matches with other countries, our contribution to relief funds for victims of natural calamities, our sympathy for Nirbhaya, our anticorruption movement, our votes, our empathy for the soldier martyred in the Pathankot attack, and likes are evocative as well as expressive of our patriotism which does not need any slogan.

In the recent few incidents, the antics of pseudo-nationalists seem to outshine the vibes of the current national anthem with the new slogan. The Shiv Sena called for revoking voting rights and citizenship of those who don’t chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. The slogan seems to be less patriotic and more a political propaganda. It has become a flying dish which the political parties of India are playing with to strike each other. AAP Minister Kapil Mishra wrote a letter to BJP President Amit Shah asking if Mehbooba Mufti would say “Bharat Mata ki Jai.”

I would like to quote Mr Anupam Kher’s words from his recent speech on intolerance at the Telegraph National Debate in Kolkata that effusive talks of tolerance vs intolerance suit only those who live in luxury. The same is true in case of the slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai” which does not appeal to those who make their ends meet somehow.

Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik said that the chanting the slogan in praise of Mother India sounds like the voice of a cuckoo bird, whereas the voices opposing it are as harsh as cawing of crows. I am wondering whether he is curious to know how parched voices of farmers in drought-hit regions of the country sound in praise of Bharat Mata, how hungry voices of half-fed children at government-run primary schools where the midday meal quality is a serious concern would sound in praise of Mother India…..

There are millions of Goneril and Regan who will loudly chant the slogan “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” for anything, but people like Cordelia to genuinely feel for the country are the few.

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