An All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA was suspended from the Maharashtra assembly on Wednesday for making “derogatory remarks” about India after he refused to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
The decision to suspend Waris Pathan – AIMIM legislator from Byculla in Mumbai – for “showing disrespect to house” was passed by all parties on the assembly.
It came three days after AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said he won’t chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” as it wasn’t made mandatory by the Constitution.
“I don’t chant that slogan. What are you going to do, Bhagwat sahib. I won’t utter that (slogan) even if you put a knife to my throat,” Owaisi said, throwing a challenge to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s chief Mohan Bhagwat.
“Nowhere in the Constitution it says that one should say: Bharat Mata ki Jai.”
The comments triggered a political storm with noted lyricist Javed Akhtar condemning the statement in Rajya Sabha.
“There is one leader, who is not a national leader, not even a state leader but a mohalla leader of Hyderabad. He says he will not say ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ because the Constitution does not ask him to do so. The Constitution even does not ask him to wear sherwani (dress) and topi (cap),” Akhar reportedly said on Tuesday.
“I don’t care to know whether saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ is my duty or not. It is my right,” Akhtar said and then chanted ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ a number of times.
The suspension comes amid a nationwide debate on nationalism. A number of students at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University have been charged with sedition for allegedly chanting “anti-national” slogans, a move that has triggered condemnation from opposition parties and activists.
Critics say the government is trying to use nationalism to muzzle free speech.