In a familiar high-pitched hyperbolic monologue, another episode of Arnab Goswami’s Daily Newshour ‘The Debate’ wrapped up on August 22. The topic chosen for the hour-long debate was – “What’s wrong with chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai?” in the wake of former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah being heckled by a crowd in Srinagar two days after he chanted the slogan in Delhi. The show started with Goswami urging everybody to shout ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ended with a lecture on the Indian Constitution by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. In between, there were comical moments like Abdullah accidentally referring to Goswami as ‘pagal’ and hastily correcting his faux pas. However, the gaffes were not limited to Abdullah and this article is about the ones that Goswami made during the length of the show. These were originally pointed out by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, an artist, curator and writer with the Raqs Media Collective.
“Mohanchand Karamchand Gandhi”
While exposing so-called “pseudo-nationalists”, Arnab Goswami said that these are the people who have floated the false rhetoric of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ being an “RSS conspiracy”. Posing a question at Prof Visweswara Rao he asks, “Was Mohanchand Karamchand Gandhi a member of the RSS?” He can be heard making the statement from 35:03 to 35:11.
Goswami’s intention was to portray Mahatma Gandhi’s nationalism by citing that he had inaugurated the Bharat Mata temple in Varanasi in 1936. However, while doing so, he mispronounced the name of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Misquoted Dr B.R. Ambedkar
“We don’t have to shout ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ to prove our patriotism,” said Prof Rao 40 minutes into the debate. Interjecting, as always, Goswami accused him of “appropriating Ambedkar”.
“You, who dismissed ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as jingoistic, what will you say to Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who you tried to appropriate at every leg and opportunity, when he wrote and I quote – The slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai electrified the whole nation whereas if one were to raise the slogan as India Mata ki Jai, it would look fanciful and uninspiring,” shouted Goswami (from 40:00 to 40:24), concluding that Ambedkar supported the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan.
As it turns out, the quote was actually not made by Dr B.R. Amdebakar. A basic Google search reveals that the lines Goswami attributed to Ambedkar are a part of a book written by Dr Raj Kumar, titled “Ambedkar and His Writings: A Look for the New Generation” and published in 2008.
The book, which is the author’s study of Ambedkar’s work for the Depressed Classes, mentions the lines in the context of India being referred to as “Bharatvarsha”. He writes that “the name India was given to the country by foreigners” and that “a proper noun is never translated”. The difference between “India” and “Bharatvarsha”, Dr Kumar writes, is visible when the two are interchanged in the slogan. Therefore, it is clear that the statement was never made by Ambedkar but was the author’s opinion.
While calling Mahatma Gandhi “Mohanchand” Karamchand Gandhi might have been a slip, it is ironical that Goswami was browbeating his panelists on nationalism and history and ended up attributing a factually incorrect quote to Ambedkar.
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