Lucknow Literature Festival: Nationalism evokes a lively debate

Queries by a retired army official and a BJP leader at the Lucknow Literature Festival forced counter queries by a retired high court judge and a Congress leader.

lucknow Updated: Nov 20, 2017 16:09 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Lucknow Literature Festival,Nationalism,BJP leader
Guru Prakash , Justice Haider Raza , Surendra Rajput , Sudhanshu Trivedi, Gen (retd) H. Kakar Lucknow Literature Festival in Lucknow.(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT PHOTO)

What do you make of an RTI query seeking to know how many Muslims are there in the Army? Why should there be an objection if the government decides to rename a road named after Mughal emperor Aurangzeb?

These queries by a retired army official and a BJP leader at the Lucknow Literature Festival forced counter queries by a retired high court judge and a Congress leader, who sought to know if standing for 52-odd seconds when the national anthem is being sung in cinema halls or singing Vande Mataram, are the only barometers of one’s patriotism?

Despite Congress leader Salman Khurshid and Leftist Atul Anjaan not turning up, the topic of the Saturday’s opening session – ‘whose nationalism is it anyway?’ – ensured a lively debate though with some predictable political mudslinging.

General (retired) H Kakar was unambiguous in voicing his displeasure at the RTI query on Muslims in the army.

“In the army, we don’t have Muslims or Hindus. We have responsible and committed men and women ready to lay down their lives for the dignity of the flag and the country,” the retired army official, said wondering why should there even be a debate on whether one should stand for the national anthem and the national flag.

“Yes, we must!” the retired army official said, adding for the men and women in uniform, the flag and the national anthem were the ultimate truth, the greatest worship. Justice (retd) SHA Raza, however, argued that national anthem shouldn’t be belittled by allowing its singing in cinema halls as theatres screening late night film shows hardly were the place to display patriotism.

The BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi used the occasion to nudge his party’s political adversaries on the hullabaloo over Modi government’s decision to rename Aurangzeb Road and then recounting how Vande Mataram used to be sung even by Muslims until politics stepped in.

“We believe in cultural nationalism as even our gods unite the country. Ram believer unites the country from Ayodhya to Ram Setu just as Shiva follower does it from Amarnath to Rameswaram and a Goddess believer tracks the belief from Vaishno Devi to Kanyakumari,” Trivedi said.

Congress representative Surendra Rajput seized the moment to claim that under his party nationalism prospered without the tint of ‘ugra rashtrawad’ (violent nationalism) as was the case now.

“From ‘gau to gobar’ (cow to cow dung) look at what they have reduced the discussion to these days!” Rajput snapped. The debaters hung on beyond time with Trivedi’s provocative take accusing Congress leaders of backing Afzal Guru’s clemency plea – he said BJP prefers nationalist Muslims like APJ Abdul Kalam and forcing a counter attack that sought to nail Trivedi’s party for pursuing ‘communal’ politics. The debaters wanted to go on until the moderator Guru Prakash finally called time, well past the deadline.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 16:09 IST