Why I Won’t Sing Jana Gana Mana

Jana Gana Mana’s nationalist cartography terminates where West Bengal ends in the east. India’s nationalism can climb the Himalayas and scale Mt. Everest, but it cannot climb the hills beyond West Bengal in the east, and I am from further east beyond the eastern boundary of West Bengal.

Jana Gana Mana embraces the territory/land from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, and from Gujarat and Punjab in the west to West Bengal in the east.

Being a person domiciled in Manipur (currently, that is temporarily, living in Delhi, and I don’t know how long I will continue to live here; but, THANK YOU DELHI), Jana Gana Mana does not make any more patriotic sense to me than a verse from the Holy Quran, an inscription on a pre-India Mohenjodaro civilization, Tito & Tarantus’s After Dark, Leann Rimes’s Life Goes On, Britney Spear’s Toxic or Pakistan’s national anthem.

If any Jana Gana Mana chanting patriot argues that this song represents all India and what it covers is India and nothing beyond that forms part of India (e.g., Pakistan is not covered, and so it is not part of India), then they should prove that India extends beyond West Bengal to put, say, Manipur within its national boundary and for this Supreme Court order to have its force in the cinema halls in Manipur.

A national anthem should not necessarily do cartography and name all its territorial divisions, but if it does at least to identify or represent the length and breadth of the territory of the state/nation it sings the way Jana Gana Mana does, then it should not stop midway, leaving a chunck of landmass (big or small) the way Jana Gana Mana does. This means that at least in territorial terms, Jana Gana Mana, written before India’s independence and long before the annexation of princely states beyond West Bengal (Manipur’s was in 1949), is inadequate to be India’s national anthem.

Do I say India ignores and excludes whatever beyond West Bengal, and am I hurt by this? I have the ego of being not easily hurt. I have been a formidable argumentalist against separatist arguments in Manipur. The same reason I give to my opponents can be given as a reason for my not being shocked by the “Indian mindset” of “exclusionism”–there is no absolute, natural, universal law holding people together as political nations or separating them as ununitable naturally. So, India has no special charm for me. Separatism, by the same logic, has no special charm for me. If we agree to stay together, we stay; if how at least one party behaves is irresolvably problematic to the health of the relationship and if we cannot live together, then separation, settlement or divorce is the only option left. Manipur and India, for example. If the situation turns so bad, all wheels of the logic involved should reason and grind toward this end. So I don’t feel excluded. I have this die-hard EGO. If India’s biases national agenda in all its forms loses me and people of my type, India loses a lot, and that involves a dear price.

Most of my friends will vouch for my rationality verging on what some of them call “emotionlessness” and “heartless,” and also for my being slow at getting irritated. If I am irritated by several politically, religiously, culturally, and racially motivated changed in the country, it is crystal clear what people with less patience and tolerance than me beyond West Bengal would feel and how they would react.

In any case, why do we think a nation should necessarily have a national anthem?

The Supreme Court should see this. If the apex court fails to understand such sensitive and legally controversial issues, who else will manage it?


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