Assam National Anthem
It was a Human Resource program attended by me almost ten years ago. The location was Hotel Peerless Inn, Kolkata. The HR faculty was a Parsi lady from Mumbai. The participants were from various states of East India. I was the only one from the state of Assam in the program.
Today I can’t recollect much of the HR program except for the informal chat that I had with the HR professional across the breakfast table.
She was a friend of the wife of late Sanjay Ghosh,an activist who was allegedly killed by ULFA militants in Majuli, the river Island in Assam. In the conversations I had with her, she conveyed her understanding and feelings about the state of Assam. She also talked about her visit to Assam and that during her visit to an Assamese family there a little child of the family was asked to sing the “Assam National Anthem” by her parents. The HR faculty then responded by declaring that “Jan Gan Mana” is the National Anthem for the country and there cannot be anything like “ Assam National Anthem”.
I was not keen on knowing what happened thereafter and did not wish to put across any of my views as I love to be a listener and assumed that reacting on emotive issues would lead us to nowhere.
“O mor apunar desh” a poem by Laxminath Bezbaruah has been accepted as “Asomor Jaitya Sangeet” in Assam for long and similarly people in Assam show due respect to “Jan Gan Mana” as “ Rastriya Sangeet”. But the English word for both the words “Jatiya” and “Rastriya” has to be “ National”. Perhaps the use of the word “ Rastriya” is used to create space for the use of the word “Jatiya” in the regional context . In Assam “ Jatiyatabad” is a strong force associated with strong emotions and perhaps the word “Jatiyatabad” cannot be used in same spirit as the word “Regionalism”.
Khasi National Anthem
Recently I was present in a Financial Literacy Camp organized by NABARD in a village at the outskirt of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. The camp was addressed by bank officials . The participants were from nearby Khasi villages. The first speaker , a lady khasi bank official delivered her speech in the local language. It was a long interactive speech and I could make out that the questions put to the gathering by the lady were like” How many of you have bank accounts”, “ How many of you have insurance cover”, “what is the use of saving” so on and so forth. The crowd composed of diverse age groups such as children, young adults and elderly people. Enthusiasm was limited and it seemed they were accustomed to such camps and questions. After the first speech, rest of the speakers spoke in English using Khasi interpreters. The monotony in the gathering looked apparent and people looked tired and sleepy. The meeting concluded with vote of thanks etc and then a young organizer requested an elderly Khasi gentleman to sing the “Khasi National Anthem”.
It seemed the crowd got rejuvenated as everybody stood up and sang the “ Khasi National Anthem” –‘Ri Khasi” passionately . Till such time I was unaware that just like the Assamese , Khasis also have their own “National Anthem” What I loved most was the spontaneity and passion in singing the song by all Khasi people present in the meeting. Later I also learn that the participants and organizers of the event were mostly active members of Bharatiya Janata Party.
Recently I read that many Indian States including the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have adopted “ State Anthems” just like Assam declaring “ O mor apunar desh’” as a state anthem. So far I am unaware of any constitutional validity of a “State Anthem”. In the context of Meghalaya I do not think that “Ri Khasi” can be a “State Anthem” as there are some other native tribes also in the state of Meghalaya.
For many Assamese “ O mor apunar desh” is indeed a “National Anthem” considering the emotions associated with the song and so is the case of Khasis for their “ Ri Khasi”.
Years have passed and I am not in touch with the HR professional whom I had met in Kolkata. Not sure if she has changed her views by now.