Random Recollection

Loving the slogans, and some more

Yatindra Bhatnagar

The entire world loves slogans. We Indians love them probably most. Some slogans are old, some still popular. But some are temporary, they just fade away with time.

Politics frequently creates slogans; some invent them for temporary gains, some remain just slogans. Some have a lasting effect and can inspire generations and become a household thing.

Let’s go back to India of the 1870s when Vande Mataram, probably the oldest slogan to continue even now, was coined. The meaning is: I bow to thee, Mother – here Mother is Mother India.

The celebrated Bengali writer Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, wrote a  poem titled Vande Mataram sometime in 1870s and a decade later included it in his famous novel Anandmath in 1882.

According to Wikipedia, the poem was first sung by Rabindranath Tagore in 1896. The first two verses of the song were adopted as the National Song of India in October 1937 by the Congress Working Committee, 10 years before India gained independence.

[Decades before that it had become a marching song for freedom fighters, though banned by the British. The song was the inspiration for the freedom movement and the slogan Vande Mataram was on the lips of many revolutionaries when they went to the gallows and were put to death by the British rulers.]

After India became free there was a demand that Vande Mataram be declared as the National Anthem of India. However, a ‘secular-minded’ Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru succumbed to the opposition among a section of people and this inspiring ode to Mother India was not given its due. However, because of an overwhelming support it was accorded the status of the National Song; it’s sung on several official and non-official functions where people stand at attention like when the National Anthem Jana Gana Mana is played.

Let’s come to later slogans like Jai Hind (Hail India or Victory to India) and Chalo Dilli (March to Delhi) given by the other foremost freedom fighter, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who formed free India’s first army and the first (provisional) government outside India.

Jai Hind remains the most popular salutation among people and also among the uniformed services throughout India. It’s the most popular slogan even after 80 years and, I hope, would remain so.

Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the country two-in-one slogan, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan (Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer). It woke up the nation that realized the twin importance of national security and food. 

It was a very realistic slogan that asserted the importance of both the soldier and the farmer. It served its purpose to a great extent of educating, and inspiring people.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also loved slogans and soon a political slogan Garibi Hatao (remove poverty) was coined. It was meant to appeal to the poor in India to vote for the Congress party. That remained a mere slogan; poverty remained where it was, even increased.

Then Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader, and later Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, blasted Garibi Hatao saying that Hatao (remove) means you take poverty from one place and move it elsewhere. Our slogan, he said, should be Garibi Mitao (end poverty).

Made sense.

Ending poverty is a gigantic task in over-populated India though strides have been made and because of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India is on the right path to bring down the poverty level.

World Poverty Clock estimates that about 44 Indians escape extreme poverty every minute.

According to United Nations Development Programme Administrator, Achim Steiner, India has lifted 271 million people out of poverty in just 10 year time period from 2005/06 to 2015/16.

Well, I am a little digressing from my essay on slogans.

Coming to the most modern period, the last five years or so there have been many new slogans in India and also America. Slogans frequently become controversial also with different interpretation by different people with different ideology and divergent politics.

The current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is also a good discoverer of slogans, with his Swachchh Bharat (Clean India) to Swastha Bharat (Healthy India) becoming popular. They are meaningful also and are making strides despite the opposition playing it down. These two slogans have once again made Indians aware of their own responsibility; the government effort being supplemented by the people and social organizations.

In the United States, the most popular and controversial slogan is embroiled in political controversy it should not have. President Trump raised the slogan of Make America Great Again and it created panic among the opposition. Some said America was never great; others said America is already great. Some saw in the slogan (and the MAGA hats it symbolized) racism.

What’s wrong if someone wants the country to be great again? To disapprove the slogan, and decry the Hat, don’t make sense. If you don’t agree and would still like to oppose what the President does, you coin your own slogan – but don’t make it look just the opposite (Make America Weak Again).

The opposition, in panic and without solid issues to solve the nation’s problems, came up with the slogan ‘Impeachment.’     

Some shouted right after their election…..Impeach the M..F… Others repeat it day-after-day without finding any solid reason or evidence for impeaching the President. So Impeachment, has remained just a slogan about which even the opposition leader, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is not convinced as of the solid reasoning or the urgency of action. She has decried even going ahead without solid evidence and usefulness of the slogan and the clamored action, for now.

But slogan is a slogan, some people stick to it and will remain stuck till even that slogan slips out of their grasp.

So help me God ….. Though there are frantic attempts even to remove God from America.

Thank God, I don’t hear any slogan about removing God, so far.