‘ Patriotism and nationalism are different words’

IN VIEW of the BJP’s recent national executive’s political resolution that said refusing to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai amounts disrespect to the Constitution itself, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reacted saying, “ Absolutely not, because first of all, this is a huge stretch. Nobody is refusing to say anything about Bharat, it is about Bharat Mata . Bharat Mata is fine for me, probably fine for someone else and certainly, a lot of Hindus and Muslims do not have difficulty with that.” He added: “ But some Muslims have explained patiently that to them it seems deification of the nation as a Hindu goddess. Bharat Mata as you know depicted in Hindutava iconography as Hindu goddess, a figure with six arms and seated on a lion, and this kind of worship of a goddess figure, they find uncomfortable. They say tell us to say Jai Hind, Hindustan Zindabad, Jai Bharat we’ll do it but do not ask us to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. Our democracy and our Constitution give them the right to say or not to say it. That is what we should respect.” The Congress leader said, “ The same Constitution that gives us the right to freedom of speech also gives us the freedom of silence. We cannot put words in people’s mouth.” Mentioning BJP’s justification for the political resolution that Bharat Mata ki jai is not merely a slogan, he said it was a mantra for inspiration to countless freedom fighters during the independence struggle and it is the heart beat of a billion people today.

“ But there are some muslims for whom it is a problem and surely we must respect their freedom of religion and as well as their constitutional rights to allow them not to say it. I do not think nationalism can be linked to forcing someone to mouth a particular expression that they do not believe in.” In other words, he said every Indian citizen has a right to refuse to say Bharat Mata ki Jai . Tharoor said in case of our national anthem, there is a SC ruling that says that merely standing up and refusing to sing is acceptable. “ When people can refuse to sing the national anthem, of course people can refuse to shout any particular slogan from Bhrat Mata ki Jai to Vande Matram , to even Jai Hind .” He further said, “ Last Monday, Pratap bhanu Mehta said for any political sytem to force and coerce people into saying Bharat Mata ki Jai would be objectionable. I do agree to this and I have objected to that. There is no acid test or litmus test for nationalism.” When asked if the slogan Bharat mata ki jai has precedence over other slogans like Jai Hind , sare jahan se acha or even the left favourite Inquilab Zindabad, he said, “ No, it does not. The irony is that various slogans were used in different times that has a tremendous potency in the national movement. People have to accept that history has thrown up a lot of such expressions.” On the second issue whether it is acceptable or unacceptable for an Indian citizen to criticise the nation? Quoting PM Narendra Modi from a national daily, Tharoor said, “ His party was accepting a political criticism of itself but not of the nation.” “ First of all you have to decide what the criticism of the nation is. I worry about the tendency of the BJP to quickly dismiss issues as antinational, there is a conflict in the BJP’s mind between the party which is not the government and the government which is not the nation. The nation is something larger than both the ruling party and the government.

The BJP does not seem to understand that. Patriotism is love for your own country and nationalism is associated with the power — the notion that your country is right and beyond criticism. Tagore wrote against this kind of nationalism,” Tharoor said.

‘ Patriotism is love for country and nationalism is associated with power’ Shashi Tharoor