The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s statement that he will not say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, supported by a Maharashtra MIM legislator, Waris Pathan, has drawn sharp criticism across political lines.
A three-time Member of Parliament representing Hyderabad constituency in the Lok Sabha, Owaisi claimed he would not say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Hail mother India) even if he had a knife to his throat while addressing a rally in Maharashtra.
Reacting to the issue, Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam said Owaisi should go to Pakistan if he had issues with the slogan, and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said such statements should be “completely avoided”.
The Nationalist Congress Party’s Jitendra Awhad hit out at the Lok Sabha MP, saying that the matter ‘is being politicised to make it an issue of vote banks’, as Rajya Sabha MP and film lyricist Javed Akhtar countered Owaisi in the Parliament, saying, “I don’t care to know whether saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ is my duty or not but it is my right.”
In Allahabad, regional vice-president of the BJP youth wing Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Shyam Prakash Dwivedi announced a reward of Rs 1 crore to whoever cut off Owaisi’s tongue, for making the “anti-India statement”. Shyam Prakash allegedly also drew out a signed blank cheque.
His father, BJP’s Allahabad district president Ramraksha Dwivedi however distanced himself from the statement and maintained that if it had been issued, such a statement was wrong.
MIM legislator Waris Pathan was suspended from the Maharashtra assembly on Wednesday when he refused to say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” in the house, after a Shiv Sena member brought up the issue of Owaisi.
“We will say ‘Jai Hind’ but not ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as there was no compulsion on this nor did the Constitution say it,” was Pathan’s response, leading to assembly members calling for his suspension.
Other MIM legislators were also pressed for an apology, but they rejected the move, demanding that they should be suspended from the house too.
Pathan later commented that slogans such ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ were a diktat from the RSS and he would not follow them.
Owaisi reacted to the Pathan’s suspension, stating it set the wrong precedent in the matter.
“Here a member is being forced to say something which the Constitution allows him not to say. That is his freedom of expression… Parliament and Assemblies are a forum for debates where sloganeering is not allowed,” he said.
While the Speaker has discretionary powers, a member can only be suspended if he uses unparliamentary language or indulges in unparliamentary behaviour, he added.
“We are heading into an age of darkness. By supporting the suspension motion, Congress and NCP, who call themselves secular, have been completely exposed,” he said.