I had this conversation with a Hindu friend who wanted every Indian child and adult to compulsorily say, "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". "If they don't say it, then it means they are unpatriotic, and they don't love India. Anybody who doesn't love India should get out and go to Pakistan or wherever," she said. And so we had an argument, which went like this:
I: For Sunni Muslims, bowing before or even imagining any deity other than Allah feels sinful. So the idea of saying "Bharat Mata" makes them very uncomfortable. You know that, right?
She: Since when does an atheist like you sympathize with people's religious feelings? And what is the harm if Hindus, Muslims and everyone else is compelled to express love publicly for our motherland? We must all be patriotic and love and respect India, who is like our mother.
I: Personifying India is a very Hindu thing to do. We tend to personify and worship anything, and it comes naturally to us.
She: So? What is your point?
I: So personifying India doesn't necessarily come naturally to people of other religious faiths, or even to atheists like me. I can shout, "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" if I'm in the right crowd setting and the right mood. Its the same way I can shout "Ganapati Bappa Morya" during Ganpati Puja if I'm being polite and joining in prayers. But the more I think about it, the weirder it feels. So, I would rather not be forced to say it. If you leave it voluntary for people like me, we feel a lot better saying it.
She: It is necessary to force people like you to show patriotism for the good of the nation.
I: What is good of "the nation"? You mean "good of the nation's people", right? I mean, what is a nation if not the collective of all its citizens, right?
She: No, India is something above and beyond its people. Our nation is greater than all its people put together. Small-minded people and intellectual posers like you will not understand this truth.
I: Are you saying this about all nations? Like, is Pakistan greater than all its people? Is Nepal greater than all its people? Is every nation great?
She: No, India is the greatest nation on earth. Every nation is not great. No other nation except India is great.
I: You mean to say that Russia, China and USA are not great nations?
She: Not in the way that India is great. India is like a goddess. Only India is Bharat Mata. Other countries are only pieces of land and collections of people living on them.
I: So, are you saying that Indians are the greatest people living on earth?
She: Not all Indians. People like you are not great at all. Pseudo intellectuals and leftists and sickulars like you are a burden on India. You bring shame to India.
I: So who are the great Indians who make India the greatest nation on earth?
She: People like Shivaji and Rana Pratap who lay down their lives willingly for our motherland. People like our army jawans who live and die for Bharat Mata, because of whom people like you are able to experience freedom. People who are true patriots. People like you are like dirt under their feet.
I: What percentage of people are patriots like you? And what percentage are pseudo-intellectual leftists like me?
She: I don't know percentages, but all sensible people are patriots like me. Only pseudo intellectuals, congis, leftists, muslim sympathizers and JNU types are like you. Because of all the people like you, India is being prevented from becoming great again. And that is why traitors like you must be made to bow down before Bharat Mata or expelled from India.
I: Can you compel someone to love and respect Bharat Mata, against their will?
She: It is the duty of every Indian to love and respect India as if she is their own mother. Why should anybody have to be compelled? They should love with their own free will! They should have gratitude for this country, which is giving them so much freedom of speech! Even Muslims are living in India with more freedom than in Pakistan, Iran, etc. People like you would have been killed for saying things like you do, if you were in Pakistan! Why are you taking your freedom for granted? Be grateful for your freedom, and say "Bharat Mata Ki Jai!"
I: But, if it is uncomfortable for me to say "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and you force me to say it, where is the question of my freedom? Isn't India becoming like Pakistan, with their blasphemy laws and all?
She: Traitors like you understand only the language of force that is spoken in Pakistan. You deserve to have Shariat law imposed on you. You don't understand the true meaning of freedom of speech, you only understand the language of the whip and the boots. You are abusing your freedom of speech and taking undue advantage of the goodness of Indian government. If bitter medicine is necessary, the true patriots of India will force you to drink it! If patriotism is like bitter medicine for you, it is because there is something wrong with your way of thinking. You should love Bharat Mata. Everybody should love Bharat Mata like their own mother. What is wrong if we tell you to love Bharat Mata? Are you ashamed of loving your own mother? Say "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". Say it now! Say it loudly, and repeat it again and again, until you are comfortable saying it.
And that's how this argument went. I know a lot of people will feel very happy and satisfied that this lady "won the argument" and I lost. "She shut you up good and proper" is how the popular sentiment is likely to flow.
And yet, I am sharing the gist of this conversation here, because I feel that it gives us food for thought.