Another patriotic song to counter ‘Mere desh ki dharti’

Justice Pratibha Rani began her bail order on Kanhaiya Kumar with the patriotic song “Mere desh ki dharti”, an upbeat celebration of the beautiful land that yields gold and pearls. Her judgement was emotional about the soldiers who give their lives so that the rest of us can be safe.

Here is another sort of patriotic song from another Hindi film, which Justice Pratibha Rani might connect to. This haunting song about the futility of war also goes out to all those who say it is insulting to the armed forces to raise our voices against widespread militarization of the Indian subcontinent.

The refrain of the song is – “Ask the departing solider, where do you go?” It talks about death and destruction, of weeping women and hungry children. The poet is Makhdoom Mohiuddin (a communist and a Muslim – anti-national on two counts). Whose wars do these men fight?

Would we all be safer, including our soldiers, if the elites of neighbouring countries and a global military industrial complex did not have immense stakes in keeping tensions running high?

8 thoughts on “Another patriotic song to counter ‘Mere desh ki dharti’”

  1. > Would we all be safer, including our soldiers, if the elites of neighbouring countries and a global military industrial complex did not have high stakes in keeping tensions running high?

    The reason why military is necessary is that we don’t live in an ideal world. If there’s no one to protect us from aggression, then life for ordinary citizens would be quite miserable.

    Take the Godhra riots, for example. I think most people would say that the state failed to protect the citizens who were killed, mostly Muslims who were outnumbered by the Hindu mob. But in asking for the state to protect citizen’s lives from mobs, you’re requiring that some of your fellow citizens risk their lives in providing this protection. Wouldn’t we have all been better if everyone was just civilized and the Godhra riots hadn’t happened? Sure! But Godhras do happen and the state needs to use violence to counter violence.

    External aggression is no different from internal aggression. If any state with a powerful military or any random group of militants are able to impose their will on India, we’ll be in quite a puddle. Hence the reason why we have a military staffed voluntarily by citizens who risk their lives so that the state (as imperfect as it is) may survive. Since you or I aren’t brave enough to join them, the least we can do is to show them that we are grateful for their work.


    1. First, the riots were not “Godhra” but Gujarat. Godhra was the train burning, which the Justice Banerjee Report said was an accident, and the Patidars now say was a pre-planned political stunt by the BJP, as we always suspected.
      The coercive apparatus of the state – police and military – are assumed to be necessary to maintain law and order for law abiding citizens, but what we do in fact know is that in India they largely maintain law and order for the powerful. As you point out yourself, during the Gujarat violence, the police connived with the Hindutvavaadi (I will not call them ‘Hindu’) mobs.
      With the military, it is a more complicated issue. The point about the military industrial complex (do follow the link), is that there is money (big big bucks) to be made by arms manufacturers, and by politicians, in keeping tensions running high.
      Think about it, every nation thinks it is civilized, and the other is not? Isn’t a negotiated political solution always better than a military one – which is never in fact a solution, because it just keeps the conflict going.
      The soldiers who die “for us” – theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die. Why don’t “we” die for ourselves? Why do the sons of poorer people have to do it?
      There is a debate about demilitarizing the Siachen glacier, for example, which the Indian state resists furiously, but is the cost of not doing that too high? And who pays it? Hanumanthappa and his fellow soldiers, not the hawks planning strategy in air-conditioned rooms.
      After this recent tragedy, calls to demilitarize Siachen have grown in India. In Pakistan this demand arose after 2012 when an avalanche wreaked heavy casualties on its base.
      And here is a link to the whole debate.
      My point is that militarization is not about “civilized people” (us) versus uncivilized people (them).
      It is about putting strategic interests of a military elite and the powerful lobbies of arms manufacturers above the interests of the people on both sides of the border, which includes soldiers.


  2. Thank you Nivedita and the whole team of Kafila for the prompt well researched responses to the senseless actions of the institutions of the day, like the police, the UGC, the courts, and some sections of the media. Kafila along with students like Kanhaiya, and his supporters from the student unions, and faculty who have nurtured him, have managed to install optimism in these difficult times. Look forward to many more inspiring posts on Kafila.


  3. “Whose wars do these men fight?” is a question the answer to which these Sanghi Bandhus shall never attempt to give..One wishes that all those involved in defining who is anti-national or national also make an attempt to catch the import of this heavily -loaded question.Once they find an answer they will be worthy of being what they are..Otherwise they do not deserve any respect at all howsoever high positions they may occupy.Alas !none of them seems to be so capable as to fully comprehend this.


  4. Ms. Menon, great counter point (or should that be countersong?). Precisely this same question has been asked by many other poets. Wilfred Owen, who was also a soldier in WW1, and his compatriot war poets all asked the same thing. In any case, Justice Pratibha Rani’s judgement is atrocious on many points. To take just one, if she feels that university students unfairly abuse the safety of their campuses by indulging in non scholarly activities, then the same can be asked of her. Why is she sitting in the safety of the court room to indulge in non-judicial, Bollywoodized, puerile utterances? In fact, of all the people who accuse JNU students of not doing their duty, and whose sole definition of natinalist duty is to serve in the army, how many of them have done so themselves?


  5. wow I’m actually intrigued by ‘(a communist and a Muslim – anti-national on two counts)”, you honestly think it is funny??
    In the US when soldier is recognised in public, he is applauded. He is not even fighting his own war, he is fighting for freedom (at least that’s what they think) in iraq for afghanistan, or even communists in the vietnam or korean war (btw as a communist, one would really be a anti-national there, so a muslim these days, but that is besides the point).

    Okay, the military industrial complex is massive, but how can we not spend on weapons when we have neighbours spending 3 times more on military/research every year??How safe are we?? we might be ‘civilised’ or ‘uncivilised’, the fact remains that we have to survive.
    Do follow the link.

    You also talk about poorer dying for us, recently two Captains lost their lives in the Pampore incident, isn’t this the military elite you talked about. And if they had not given their lives, we would probably have blown up in a bomb blast somewhere in Delhi yesterday. How ready/equipped are you to actually fight your own wars from your ”air conditioned” villas??

    Armed forces provide employment to 1.3 million ”poorer” as you say. best health facility for all their lives, best education to their children and various other benefits including an equal chance to rise to the ranks of ”military elite”.

    Yes the life is tougher than we can comprehend, but you go to parts of haryana and punjab where even today people want one family member in the army because it is a matter of pride for the family and not just a source of earning bread.


    1. Ashish,
      “you honestly think it is funny??” you ask. I do actually, that the desh-bhakts are violent, casteist and misogynist, (not to mention criminal extortionists) and the rest of us anti-national. Very funny indeed.
      Point by point then:
      1. In the US there is a widespread anti-war sentiment, not everybody “applauds” the war, even war veterans and families of war veterans have stood up against the war, that as you note, is not even their own.
      This is a site of US Conservatives against the war, and this is a more radical anti-war coalition. There are many others.
      2. Yes, officers die at the front too, should we celebrate their deaths? The point is not to question, let me say again and again, the courage, dutifulness and sacrifice of the armed forces, it is to ask the question why such sacrifice is necessary, for whom is the sacrifice – on both sides of the border?
      3. Yes, the armed forces give a better life to those who join them – why are not such conditions of work available in other jobs? If equally good conditions of work were available in less dangerous jobs, wouldn’t anybody prefer that? Why do you think that despite the excellent conditions of work in the Indian armed forces, they face a shortage of over 52 thousand personnel? A good dignified job is always a source of pride, why should men have to risk their lives for dignity?
      4. Take a look at what Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, who retired in 1996 as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch, has to say:
      Whose Idea Of Which India? Leave the Army Out Of It Please!


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