I have watched the elder Owaisi of AIMIM on many debates on national television on a variety of subjects. I do admit that I do not subscribe to a lot of what he says or stands for or the manner in which he approaches many issues. Yet, I have to give him credit for one thing – he invariably comes well prepared for most debates with a lot of background material at his fingertips unlike many others who are just having an evening out on national television. He is also generally composed even in awkward and difficult situations, though I have seen him getting riled a few times. His brand of politics is not what an average Indian can endorse but then his target audience is not an average Indian. He has a very definitive target audience and therefore most of the times he speaks in very measured tones that invariably fall just short of that invisible line where tolerance ends and intolerance begins. This is not to say he has never crossed that line but I presume that too is more by design than default.
His recent reaction to the suggestion of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that the new generations in India need to be taught to chant slogans hailing ‘Mother India’ is indeed rather intriguing. Mr. Bhagwat stated “Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (hail Mother India). It should be real, spontaneous and part of all-round development of the youth,” This suggestion was, in all probability, made in the aftermath of the JNU incident where matured doctoral students resorted to anti India slogans. To me it is most unlike the normal Owaisi that I have seen so far. His response to the suggestion was immediate, swift, unmeasured and something that most Indians will view as anti national in nature and spirit. If one were to analyse the statement of the RSS Chief some facts stand out immediately. First and foremost it was only a suggestion. Next it is a well established fact that India has been known as Bharat Mata from times immemorial which dates back to much before the advent of Islam in the country. ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is a slogan that too is possibly as old as Bharat itself. Next, whether one may admit or not, it is a fact that there is a drought of national fervour and nationalism all around us in the country today. There could be many reasons for such a situation to have developed, some genuine and some just fabricated for the sake of vested interests of a few in the overall Indian society. So clearly there is a need to address the issue since a motivated youth can be nothing but an asset to the aspirations of the nation as a whole. All that Mr Bhagwat has said is that love and pride for the nation should come spontaneously to the youth which is also the need of the hour.
I wonder what Mr Owaisi’s objections to this suggestion were and what were his reasons for such a zealous reaction. Is his objection to India being called Bharat? Would he have been happier if Mr Bhagwat had instead said ‘Mother India ki Jai’ or ‘Maa Hindustan ki Jai’? Would he have let it pass if it was implied that only Hindu citizens of the nation should be taught to chant such nationalistic slogans hailing our nation? Unfortunately Mr Owaisi did not clarify his stand in any manner apart from categorically stating that he would never chant such a slogan even if a knife was held at his throat. I am sure Mr Owaisi would certainly like to hail the country that he lives in and is a citizen of. This is a universal phenomenon and citizens in every nation of the world do it in some form or the other. It is also equally true that every nation has a few slogans that all its citizens subscribe to without any reservations. Slogans like ‘God save the Queen’, ‘Long Live the queen’, ‘Vive la France’ or ‘Long live America’ have been in vogue for centuries in their respective countries. If that be so one fails to understand what are Mr Owaisi’s objections to this simple slogan of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’?
It may be too naïve to assume that Mr Owaisi would not like to hail his motherland in some manner or the other for in all his public speeches invariably he makes it a point to state that he is a citizen of India and proud to be so too. One wonders what kind of slogan he would like to chant whenever he has an urge to hail his motherland. The simple slogan of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ has been used by armed forces and Para military forces at all times. Whenever Indian sports personnel or other groups have represented India in any completion against other nations, they too use the same slogan. So obviously this slogan has no religious overtones or no particular organisation has any special lien on this line. It is a neutral slogan as far as one can see and used by all Indian citizens when required. It does not have any religious or community bias whatsoever. One ready explanation of the stand taken by Mr Owaisi can be that since the suggestion came from RSS Chief therefore it had to be objected to. After all his dislike and abhorrence for RSS is well-known, some genuine but mostly misplaced. The fact that such a feeling would be mutual between RSS and AIMIM is an entirely different matter. The other logical explanation may be that the use of the word Bharat may not have been acceptable to Mr Owaisi since he may feel it has Hindu origins. But then neither Mr Owaisi nor anyone else can wish away the name ‘Bharat’ that has been synonym with our nation since the times of Rig Veda and Mahabharata.
If either of the above was the main reason for Mr Owaisi’s personal opposition to the suggestion of Mr Bhagwat, then Mr Owaisi does come out a rather small person in more ways than one. No constitution of any nation lists out slogans that any citizen may or may not chant in hailing or praising ones country. So Mr Owaisi’s assertion that it is not written in the constitution anywhere that such a slogan must be chanted is a bizarre defence in support of his argument. If one were to use the same analogy then most of what he and his younger sibling propound in their speeches too is not written in the constitution of India but still they keep on repeating it again and again even at the cost of obvious harm to the nation since more often than not their statements vitiate communal harmony and increase tension among communities.
May be it will be good for all concerned if Mr Owaisi could provide some answer to a few pertinent questions to clarify his stand. Is he against cheering for his country –India? If not, then what would be his slogan? Does he have any reservation on the use of the name ‘Bharat’ for the country? If yes, then what are his reasons for the same since this name is nearly as old as probably India is? Does he believe that the use of Bharat amounts to promoting Hindutwa? Does he think RSS is not eligible to make any suggestion which in their view is good for the nation? Does he not feel that there is an imperative need to promote nationalism in the youth of the nation today? Finally why has he taken such an obnoxious and reprehensible stand against a simple slogan like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’?
Finally there is a lurking feeling that this whole approach is once again being taken to play to the gallery in view of the forthcoming elections in states like West Bengal, Assam, Kerala in 2016 and then Uttar Pradesh in 2017. It is no coincidence that all of these states have a sizeable Muslim population and polarisation of votes is possibly the real motive. If this be true, then Mr Owaisi you are nothing but a narrow-minded, selfish politician exploiting the feelings of your own Muslim community for totally vested political interests at the cost of your own country – Bharat.