CHANDIGARH: Made famous by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the salutation “Jai Hind” was coined by Major Abid Hasan Zafrani of the Azad Hind Fauj. Two decades after Zafrani’s death, a Muslim priest of the Indian Army has approached the President of India, the National Commission of Minorities and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav alleging that his superior officers have censured him for using the slogan because it “sends a message of religious hatred and extremism”.
Subedar Ishrat Ali alleges his commanding officer has served him a notice warning him to “rise above narrowmindedness”, and instead salute by using “Ram, Ram” and “Jai Mata Di” — the official battalion slogans — or face “disciplinary action”. Ali told ET from Bikaner that he has protested and written to his superior officers.
He has informed them that it is impossible for him to use the said salutes as they are Hindu religious chants and he is an Islamic priest. On his behalf, his wife Shehnaz Bano has written to the President of India and the National Commission for Minorities, Delhi, with a copy to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister complaining of “mental torture and harassment” and demanding justice.
Ali’s commanding officer Colonel Chitra Sen refused to comment on the issue and said Army HQ had all the relevant information. “Army is absolutely secular. We respect salutation of Jai Hind and all battle cries,” said Major General Shokin Chauhan, additional director general, public information, without getting into the details of Subedar Ali’s complaints.
Newly inducted Indian Army paratroopers participate in their passing-out parade ceremony at JC Nagar in Bangalore
Leading lawyer Rajeev Anand, who took premature retirement as assistant commandant of Border Security Force, was critical of the notice issued to Ali.
The notice issued to Ali asks him to change his salutation. “The task of Army’s religious teacher is to enthuse the spirit of patriotism, zeal and unity in the jawans, while the slogan of Jai Hind (Long Live India) sends a message of religious hatred and extremism. If you do not rise above narrowmindedness and do not salute by shouting ‘Ram Ram’ and ‘Jai Mata di’, as per the rules of the battalion disciplinary action will be taken against you,” it says. “You are a religious teacher and your job is to enthuse patriotism, zeal and spirit of unity in the jawans. Your action (the utterance of Jai Hind) does not only send a message of religious hatred and extremism but also reflects upon your lack of knowledge; and that will not be tolerated.”
In his 22 years of service as a maulvi, Ali claims he was never asked not to use “Jai Hind” until July when he was verbally “warned” to shun the slogan and resort to shouting “Ram Ram and Jai Mata Ki” or else face a court martial.
“I have served the Army for 22 years, saluted many chiefs including General VK Singh and others who never objected to it. Jai Hind is a slogan, which marks patriotism. How can I be faulted for being a patriot?” he asks. Ali claims his “harassment” began in May this year after his return from Sudan, after a seven-month special assignment.
According to him, he is being targeted for his earlier complaint against a junior maulvi being sent to Sudan. “I had served at Rajputana Rifles centre, Delhi, for 10 years but was transferred to Rajputana Rifles (3 Raj Rif Bikaner) because I had complained against the move to send a junior of mine to Sudan.
Ali added that he petitioned the Delhi high court against the transfer citing the ill health of his wife who is a heart patient and is undergoing treatment. In his petition, Ali had also mentioned that since he is left with two years of service and his two daughters and a son are studying in Delhi, he be allowed to serve in the capital.
Although his initial case was rejected on the grounds of delay, his review petition is hanging fire in the Delhi high court.
Ali says that on August 17, he refused to sign his annual confidential report (ACR), which according to him was tarnished “deliberately”. A second notice was issued to him over this issue.