There is always a temptation to be different. One has a choice to be intelligently different or belligerently foolish. And AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi chose the latter.
Owaisi, at a public rally in Udgir tehsil of Latur district on Sunday, said: I don’t chant that slogan. What are you going to do, Bhagwat sahab. I won’t utter that (slogan) even if you put a knife to my throat. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that one should say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president stirred a row on Sunday by making contentious remarks against the slogan of Bharat Mata ki Jai. Addressing a gathering of party worker and supporters, Owaisi had said, “I will not chant that slogan.” He was replying to the public appeal made by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, demanding that children all around the nation should be taught to say Bharat Mata ki Jai.
Bharat Mata Ki Jai is a popular nationalist slogan.
Owaisi’s remarks drew sharp reactions from political opponents who called him ‘separatist’ and ‘anti-national’. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu criticised Owaisi for his refusal to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Talking to media persons in Delhi on Tuesday, Naidu said that “he should be ashamed for saying that he won’t say Bharat Mata ki Jai.”
RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha went on to compare Owaisi with Pakistan’s patriarch Muhammad Ali Jinnah. “Your comments show that you are ‘Jinnah in the making’. Jinnah never called Gandhi as ‘Mahatma’, despite Maulana Abul Kalam Azad saying so. Jinnah never said Bharat Mata ki Jai, despite our freedom fighters like Maulana Abul kalam Azad saying it,” he said during a TV debate.
Why is Owaisi refusing to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai? The slogan of Bharat Mata ki Jai has been, over the years, been appropriated by the Hindu right, and Bharat Mata is also worshipped.
Meanwhile, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed against Owaisi in Allahabad High Court. The PIL is moved under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If the bench agrees to press charges against Owaisi, then he would be the latest ideological opponent of the ruling dispensation to be charged under sedition.
Citing the colonial law, petitioners would argue that Owaisi has attempted to excite disaffection towards Bharat Mata (Mother India) among his Muslim followers by asserting that they would never raise this slogan.
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