Ranjona Banerji​: How well do our nationalists know their ‘Vande Mataram’!?

03 Nov,2017

​By Ranjona Banerji​


Have to thank so many of our news channels for enlightening us on how few of our patriotic politicians, ideologues, sundry nationalists actually know the words to our national song, Vande Mataram. From RSS “ideologue” Rakesh Sinha refusing to sing the song on NDTV for some obscure ideologue-ish reason to do with lawyer Dushyant Dave being mean to columnist Tavleen Singh. Vikramjit Banerjee of the BJP’s legal cell also did not sing Vande Mataram but offered some general explanation of why a combination or lack of knowledge of Bengali and Sanskrit may make Vande Mataram difficult to sing. It was left to theatre impresario Amir Raza Hussain to recite a couple of verses of Vande Mataram which he said he had learnt in school.


On India Today TV, after the Jaipur mayor made singing of Vande Mataram and the National Anthem compulsory in all Jaipur’s civic offices, we saw various BJP leaders and functionaries across Rajasthan fumbling, laughing, stopping and confusing Vande Mataram with Jana Gana Mana. They all however claimed that they knew Vande Mataram. Obviously though not at that precise moment when the TV cameras were on them.

The cherry on this pie was shown on Zee, when after a heated discussion, a BJP spokesperson was sort of coerced into singing Vande Mataram. He read the words off his phone and still couldn’t get them right, making up words like “Pulkistan” along the way.



Kudos to our news channels for educating us on the ignorance of our politicians. As an aside, for years, with a number of newspapers I worked for, we regularly did a pop quiz with politicians, bureaucrats and prominent citizens about their basic knowledges about India’s emblems and symbols. The number of people who did not know the National Anthem, the first line of the Preamble to the Constitution or even our national bird or animal was quite outstanding.

This is a useful exercise because it reminds us of the hypocritical, lying nature of people who try to force nationalism on us when they themselves flout their own rules.




However, far more significant is the Rajasthan government’s attempted legislation to gag the media. Permission is needed for investigations into judges, magistrates and senior officers. This effectively means that journalists cannot write anything about these government functionaries without government permission. The subsequent outrage led to the Rajasthan government sending the proposed bill to a committee for assessment.

However since then, the discussion has been forgotten as invariably happens. The only brave exception has been the Rajasthan Patrika which has sworn not to cover the Rajasthan government until the bill is abandoned. Given the atmosphere of sycophancy in which the media operates, this an uncharacteristically courageous stand.




Abandoning courage and falling straight into the now usual norm of government chamchagiri was a programme advertised by CNN


News 18. After Rahul Gandhi put out an amusing video of his dog Pidi on Twitter, one of News18’s most senior journalists thought it good journalism to have a discussion on whether the Congress is offering a dog to voters while the BJP is offering “development” re: the Gujarat elections.

Added to that, News18 was also going to discuss whether the battle for Gujarat was the “ultimate” battle for India, whatever that means.

Does India agree? For me, that is now a “burning question”.

No, really!


​Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal​



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