Jaipur: The Rajasthan government on Wednesday organised a ‘Vande Mataram’ (Voice of Unity) event in collaboration with the Rajasthan Youth Board and the Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair (HSSF) to “encourage the youth to remain attached to their cultural values, evoke nationalism and encourage them to fight against social evils.”
Over 50,000 youth, including those enrolled in the National Service Scheme, National Cadet Corps, Rajasthan State Bharat Scouts and Guides as well as students from schools and colleges were told to assemble and sing the national song and the national anthem.
Ironically for an event that was supposed to ‘evoke nationalism’ among the youth, the organisers got the tricolour wrong. About a dozen ‘national flags’ hoisted at the stadium and thousands of them distributed among the students were missing the Ashoka Chakra.
Asked about the reason for such a blunder, one of the organisers replied, “They must have forgotten.”
The Wire asked a few students who were present at the event if they found something odd about the flags handed to them, and after giving it a thought, Poonam, a class XI student of a government school in Jaipur’s Gangori Bazar said, “There is something missing in the flag. Yes, the Ashoka Chakra is not there.”
With no one to explain to the students how and why the national flag should be respected, the flags handed out to the students were seen lying in bits and pieces on the ground later.
Boys and girls seated separately
Oddly, the students were segregated by gender right at the entrance. The boys were made to sit in the stands while the girls had to occupy the ground. The stands were locked so the boys couldn’t come out and the girls were also not allowed to move from their positions.
“Boys and girls can’t be made to sit together. You cannot have an eye on them in the crowd,” said Rakesh Bharadwaj, one of the coordinators at the event.
The students were not allowed to move in the stadium and barred from even using the toilet. “We started from home at 7 am and it is 10 am now, I want to use the bathroom but I’m not allowed to even stand up,” said Vandana Meena, a student from a government school in Amer.
“The students want to go to the toilet but we can’t permit them because if they leave the ground, the guards will not let them come in again,” said Asha, a lecturer in a government school.
Soon after the recital of Vande Mataram, Anandji, part of the famous Bolywood composer duo from Gujarat along with a team of 300 singers gave a performance of several Bollywood ‘patriotic’ songs, urging the students to ‘get up and dance.’
Pratap and Savarkar as youth icons
Images of several leaders and historical figures including Maharana Pratap, Rani Laxmi Bai, Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, BR Ambedkar, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Veer Savarkar that were displayed in the stadium to inspire the youth but missing among them was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.
While the event was essentially organised for a massive Vande Mataram recital, in reality, the students were merely made to sit and listen to the team of 300 singers who recited the song.
Gunwant Singh Kothari, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak while addressing the audience said, “The main objective to recite Vande Mataram here is to make the youth recall their duty towards ‘Swachh Bharat’ which would lead to ‘sampann’ and ‘samridh Bharat.’ I recently visited Indore and saw the cleanliness in the city and realised the hard work our prime minister has done to make the India clean.”
Several students were not even aware of the lyrics of the national song. However, they did not have any objection to attending such events. “I am enjoying the event even if it is boring, at least this way I’ll not have to sit in the same classroom for a day. It’s like a mini picnic for us,” said Preeti, a student from a government school in Alwar.
A press briefing released by the HSSF, however, claims otherwise: “Thousands of boys and girls recited the Vande Mataram which filled the environment with patriotism.”
Shruti Jain is a freelance journalist.