Only those who clean the country can chant Vande Mataram: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined the need for social changes during a students’ convention marking the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s centenary.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2017 21:43 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,Vande Mataram,cleanliness
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a gathering of students on the theme of Young India, New India in New Delhi on Monday. (PIB Photo)

People lose the right to chant Vande Mataram if they can’t keep the country clean, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he urged people to fight social evils such as disrespect to women.

He underlined the need to bring social changes during a motivating speech at a student convention marking the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago address and ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s centenary.

“I know many people might be hurt, but do we have the right to say it? Think 50 times if we have the right to say Vande Mataram,” Modi said, minutes after he was greeted with chants of Vande Mataram at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays floral tributes to Swami Vivekananda in New Delhi on the 125th anniversary of his Chicago address. (PIB photo)

“If we chew paan and spit on mother India, can we say Vande Mataram? If we throw all waste on mother India can we say Vande Mataram?” he asked, signaling that patriotic feelings should not come without social responsibilities.

Cleanliness has been a top priority of the Modi government after coming to power in 2014 as it launched a nationwide drive, Swachh Bharat, to make India clean and free of open defecation in five years.

The Prime Minister also linked Vande Mataram, composed by pre-Independence Bengali poet and author Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in the 1870s, with respect to women.

He said he will bow a hundred times before a person who respects women. “But ask yourselves, do we really respect women … how can you then say Vande Mataram?”

To bolster his point of showing respect to women, he took to Vivekananda’s opening words — “brothers and sisters” — during the spiritual leader’s address in Chicago in 1893.

“One feels elated hearing ‘brothers and sisters’, but we should ask ourselves, do we respect women?” Modi asked.

Vande Mataram, which means “I praise you, mother”, was an inspiring slogan during India’s freedom struggle and continues to remain so. In 1947, India adopted the first two verses of the poem as the national song.

Modi also recalled what he said before promoting the Swachh Bharat campaign: toilets, not temples, should be built first.

“Today I am happy that there are daughters of India who vow not to get married if there’s no toilet (in the bridegroom’s home).”

He called the youth agents of change, drawing cheers from his young audience. But he reminded at the same time: “During student union elections, several promises are made. But I am yet to hear students saying ‘we will make our campus clean’.”

Posters pasted on walls, graffiti and other campaign material littering the campus are a common sight during college elections.

Modi said student organisations campaigning for college polls should give priority to cleanliness.

The Prime Minister hailed people working tirelessly to keep India clean, saying they imbibe the true spirit of Vande Mataram.

His speech had a message for fringe elements opposing western celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Rose Day in colleges, and thrashing young revelers.

“I don’t oppose celebrating events such as Rose Day. I don’t want the youth to turn into robots,” he said.

Modi, an ardent follower of Vivekananda, said his government has introduced schemes that the philosopher had thought about more than a century ago such as uprooting social evils and bringing a revolution in agriculture, innovation and skill development.

He illustrated the significance of September 11 in world history — a “youngster from India” delivered a “message of love and brotherhood” in 1893, while a signal of destruction emanated from the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York in 2001.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 14:06 IST