"In Maharashtra assembly, the Congress was dancing to the tunes of the RSS" - Waris Pathan, AIMIM legislator
Iss desh me rahana hoga, to kutto, Bharat Maa ki Jai kahana hoga [If you want to live in this country, you dogs, you will have to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'].” When Shiv Sena legislator Gulabrao Patil thundered in the Maharashtra assembly, he left little doubt about the direction of the course of the nationalism debate in India. He was responding to All India Majlis-e-Itehadul Muslimeen legislator Waris Pathan's refusal to chant the slogan as demanded by a BJP MLA.
Congress and Nationalist Congress Party MLAs, too, joined the nationalism bandwagon, demanding Pathan's suspension. And the speaker obliged amid huge uproar.
It all started when AIMIM legislator Imtiaz Jalil suggested the government should stop spending big amounts on memorials and use the money for improving government hospitals. Ram Kadam of the BJP immediately stood up and questioned Jalil whether he respected national heroes or not, and asked him to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. “I was pointing at the first paragraphs of the Governor's speech where he had talked about the government's intention to spend hundreds of crores on various memorials,” said Jalil. Pathan was sitting next to him. “BJP and Shiv Sena members asked Waris to chant the slogan to show his patriotism,” he said.
Kadam kept shouting, asking Pathan to chant the slogan. “I said I would chant Jai Hind, Hindustan Zindabad, and I love India, but I won't chant something just because you are forcing me to,” said Pathan. That was when Eknath Khadse, revenue minister and the senior-most BJP leader in the house, came in and expressed unhappiness over Pathan's refusal to chant the slogan. He asked for an apology. The NCP and Congress leaders, however, started demanding immediate suspension. “That was the most shocking part,” said Pathan. “[Congress vice president] Rahul Gandhi in Delhi says that the Congress will not succumb to the hidden agenda of the RSS, and here in Maharashtra assembly, the Congress was dancing to the tunes of the RSS.”
Himself a lawyer, Pathan said he had not uttered a single word which could be termed as anti-national or anti-constitutional. “My only objection was to the forcible chanting of certain sloganeering just to prove my patriotism. I do not need certificates for my patriotism from BJP-Shiv Sena or anybody else,” he said. “Prioritising allocation of funds from memorials to health care was a justified issue, especially when malnutrition deaths in the state are at its peak. But the BJP-Shiv Sena diverted the focus and the Congress-NCP walked into the trap.”
Congress spokesperson Ratnakar Mahajan said the party should not have participated in the obscene show of patriotism at the behest of the BJP. But the central leadership is yet to respond to the incident.
Professor Mugdha Karnik of Mumbai University said the incident had permanently damaged the secular reputation of the Congress. “The Bharat Mata as displayed by the BJP and RSS is essentially shown like a Hindu goddess holding a saffron flag. Why would any secular and Constitution-abiding person call it a 'Mata'? What if Waris Pathan had chanted Bharat Ammi ki Jai?”
Pathan compared his suspension to that of Rohith Vemula, the dalit research scholar in the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide. “He, too, was suspended with an allegation of being anti-national,” he said. “But I strongly believe that our Constitution will reinstate my right as a legislator.”