"Don’t we all have mothers?" Maa ko beech mein na laate toh achha tha!
If a college wants to change its name, and its governing body passes a unanimous resolution to this effect, then what is the problem with it?
Well, may be a thousand.
Those calling the shots at Delhi's Dyal Singh College clearly wanted to trigger a crisis by changing its name to Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya. No one had demanded a change of name, no one had proposed a name, there was no public debate on the issue and there was never felt a need for a change of name.
All of a sudden, people were presented with a fait accompli.
If you name your college as Vande Matram, you are a nationalist. If you refuse to sing this song, you are an anti-national. If you want that the name of the college should be changed back to Dyal Singh College, you are the latest item on the list of anti-nationals.
The college named after a man who bequeathed his hard earned wealth for public institutions, and who was known for a completely secular outlook, was given a highly provocative name.
Everyone and his uncle knows that Vande Matram has become a divisive song, less due to any issue of content but more because those of a particular political persuasion have made it a test of nationalism.
If you name your college as Vande Matram
, you are a nationalist.
If you refuse to sing this song, you are an anti-national.
And now, if you want that the name of the college should be changed back to Dyal Singh College, you are the latest item on the list of anti-nationals.
If the move is backed by saffron parivar masters, they have opened the floodgates for thousands of students, teachers, Delhi's people, Punjabis at large and those with a secular outlook to now bear that badge of honour.
An educational institution's prime function is to inculcate in its students a questioning outlook. A college equips its students with a healthy dose of cynicism so that they question the most established truths and explore the most complex notions and debates.
For too long, Punjabis had stayed away from the national-antinational debates. The ghar vaapsi and love jihad did not find much traction in Punjab. Now the Dyal Singh College nomenclature coup has recruited the entire Sikh community and the larger Punjabi society, from Tanda Urmurr to Toronto.
At a time when India is going through the throes of identity politics, those running this college have snatched away from their students the biggest opportunity to be part of the robust debate about nationalism. Opting for the Vande Mataram name, this is the authorities' way of saying – Do not question. You cannot question the decision of making Vande Mataram a mandatory song. Ergo, you cannot question the decision to name a college after this song.
If the authorities at Dyal Singh College wanted to change the name of a decades-old institution, they should have proposed this name, asked for feedback, convinced the key stakeholder student community, taken along other sections of society and gone ahead with the change.
Instead, it seemed like a nomenclature coup carried out with stealth. By the time the whiff of the news got out, it was already done. The Dyal Singh College missed its date with the 'To be or not to be' moment.
Rest assured, those behind this move have succeeded in earning the legacy of an illegitimate name from day one.
The opposition will not come just from the NSUI, or its parent Congress party. Neither will it come from those flying the red flags. It will come from students. It will come from the Sikh community. It will come from Punjabis everywhere in the world. It will come from the broadspectrum of secular voices.
For too long, a huge section of Punjabis had stayed away from some of the most noisy recent debates. On few campuses in Punjab did students got together to protest the disappearance of a Najeeb in JNU. The debates about ghar vaapsi and love jihad did not find much traction in this part of the country, largely because even the BJP here did not push the core agenda of the saffron parivar – at least not overtly.
Dyal Singh College, Lahore remained Dyal Singh College. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Lahore retains its name till date. But Delhi’s Dyal Singh College has a new name.
However, this newest college of Delhi, named after a nationalist song, is now set to recruit a whole new crowd into this debate. Of the many things India's educated youth has learnt to live with, fait accompli is not one of them.
The chairman of the college's governing body, Amitabh Sinha, who is also a BJP leader, has brought the mother of all arguments to the table. Asked about the controversy over the new name he favoured, he said, "Why is ‘Vande Mataram’ being seen in a religious context? Don’t we all have mothers? It is just a method of paying tribute to our mothers.”
Well, an argument like this is the father of many reactions. Since the college management has dragged everyone's mother into the row, it will be interesting to see the next move in this battle. Maa ko beech mein na laate, to achha tha.
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