Maharashtra MLA suspended for refusing to say 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'

The Maharashtra state assembly on Wednesday unanimously suspended All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA from Mumbai Waris Pathan, accusing him of disrespecting India after he insisted in the house that he won't chant Bharat Mata ki Jai even if it costs him his life.

"I am proud of being an Indian," Pathan said, describing his suspension for the rest of this session as "the murder of democracy". He added, "I say Hindustan Zindabad. Not Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

Pathan's stance led to uproar from all MLAs, who accused him of disrespecting the country and unanimously demanded of his suspension. The assembly was adjourned five times after ruling and opposition MLAs refused to calm down, after which assembly speaker Haribhau Bagde called for a meeting of all party leaders in his chamber.

Following the meeting, Maharashtra's Minister of state for Home Ranjit Patil presented the resolution of suspension of Pathan, accusing him of taking wrong advantage of freedom of expression and disrespecting the country.

The resolution to suspend Pathan from the assembly for the period of budget session was passed unanimously.

Assaduddin Owaisi, chief of the MIM, a Muslim party, instigated a major controversy and outrage, including among prominent Muslims like Javed Akhtar, by publicly declaring this week that he will not say "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", which, he said, finds no mention in the constitution, even if "a knife is put to my throat".

He was retaliating to a recommendation by Mohan Bhagwat for nationalist slogans to be encouraged at universities. Bhagwat heads the RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling BJP.

The uproar in the Maharashtra Assembly began today after an MIM member questioned spending money on memorials. When asked by a Shiv Sena legislator if he can demonstrate his patriotism by saying Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Pathan refused, reiterating the argument offered by his party chief, Owaisi.

It was the Congress that first proposed his suspension, though in the JNU controversy, the party took on the government with great fervour, declaring it was not up to the administration to define what is acceptable as patriotism.

In 2014, Owaisi's party contested elections outside his home state of Telangana for the first time, and won two seats in Maharashtra. He is known for incendiary remarks, and has been accused of multiple hate speeches.

''We live in a country and everyone who lives here must love the country. We fought the battle of Independence irrespective of religion, caste and race. The venom of anti-nationalism was limited till JNU, but now it has spread even inside the assembly. If any person is speaking like this, then it must be considered as treason,'' said Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse inside the assembly.

The Congress' Abdul Sattar and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil too supported the demand of suspension. ''These certain elements utter such remarks and the entire minority community has to pays the price of this,'' said Sattar.

Nationalist Congress Party's Jitendra Awhad said that the dirty politics played by the BJP and MIM are complementary to each other. ''We had sensed something was brewing when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat made his statement regarding sloganeering of 'Bharat Mata ki jai'. Owaisi picked it up nicely and now the politics is being played on these issues,'' he said, adding that these two entities are creating rift within two communities.