The opposition to Vande Mataram by All India Muslim Personal Law Board has given rise to a totally uncalled for controversy. This is an issue that was settled in 1937, and if there were any lingering doubts they were finally put to rest when the Constituent Assembly adopted Vande Mataram alongwith Jan Gan Man as national song. I feel that those who are still persisting in opposition are not merely opposing the song but they are opposing a constitutional ideal and we must not forget that the constitution is not merely an exercise in semantics but expression of national faith of a people.
This song was composed in 1870 and with new additional stanzas was made part of the Anand Math novel in 1881. In 1896 at Congress session in Calcutta, the song was sung by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and he himself had composed music for the song. That session was attended by good number of Muslim delegates and nobody had objected to the song. In fact from 1896 the song had become permanent part of the proceedings of Congress sessions held in various cities of India.
It is important to remember that at the time this controversy was raging, Maulana Azad was President of the Congress and Vande Mataram was sung in all Congress sessions. In fact Mr Rafi Ahmad Kidwai in his statement that was published in Pioneer on 19 October 1937 said that ?for years the song was sung at the beginning of Congress sessions and Muslims including Jinnah began to object only in late 1930s. Mr Jinnah left Congress not because he thought Vande Mataram was an anti-Islamic song but because he had found the idea of swaraj unacceptable.?
There is no denying the fact that Vande Mataram was a great source of inspiration for freedom fighters and became a powerful expression of Indian resolve to free motherland from foreign subjugation. On the other hand the British government saw it as challenge to their authority and subsequently declared singing of the song a crime. The opposition to Vande Mataram came from Muslim League who under the leadership of M.A. Jinnah had developed a different attitude from those of nationalists on the question of India'sfreedom from foreign rule.
It is worth recalling the comment of Mr. Reyazul Karim a leading litterateur of Bengal who wrote a critique of Vande Mataram. Mr. Reyazul Karim said that ?the main purpose of opposition to Vande Mataram was to bring Muslims out of the freedom struggle.? He further said that the song gave language to the dumb and courage to the faint hearted, and this remains Bankim'slasting gift to his country. In fact he went to the extent that ?even if criticism against Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay is accepted, is his literary worth lessened by that. Literature should be read as literature.? In fact there are people who hold Allama Iqbal as one of the ideologues of Pakistan, but are we going to allow them to demand that because of his authorship we should jettison singing ?SARE JAHAN SE ACHHA HINDUSTAN HAMARA? But fortunately no one has ever raised such demand nor that can be entertained.
With this historical background, I have no doubt that opposition to Vande Mataram was not rooted in religion but in the divisive politics that led to the Partition of India. This song is important not only because it became very powerful instrument that inspired our freedom fighters, but also because it gives most remarkable description of beautiful and beneficent aspects of motherland.
The Muslim Personal Law Board in its opposition has gone to the extent of advising Muslim parents not to send their childrens to schools on coming 7th September. May I inform them that every session of Parliament concludes with the singing of Vande Mataram? Are they going to advise the Muslim MPs to abstain from Parliament when Vande Mataram is sung or will they ask Muslims not to participate in elections because of Vande Mataram? Not just that. Almost all political parties including the Congress have singing of Vande Mataram as essential part of their annual or biennial sessions. Is MPLB going to advise Muslim members to sever their connection with these political parties? Or they think that only singing outside Parliament or political establishments would result in undermining the faith?
From Islamic viewpoint the basic yardstick is Innamal Aamalu Binnayat i.e. action depends on intention. Hailing or saluting motherland or singing its beauty and beneficence is not sajda. Maulana Azad was a great Islamic scholar, he found nothing anti-religion about this song. Rafi Ahmad Kidwai strongly defended Vande Mataram. Moreover we must remember that Prophet (puh) has said that ?the whole earth has been made mosque for me?. Now no body would dispute that Mosque deserves reverence. More so the piece of earth where we are born and brought up, the piece of earth that God has blessed us with to enjoy its beneficence. And if we join our compatriots to hail and salute and revere that piece of earth as our motherland, can this be an anti religious act? To my mind certainly not.
Now the question whether singing can be made compulsory by law. I honestly feel that in the realm of ideas force or compulsion proves to be counter productive. To my mind there is no way you can compel any person by force of law to love another person, idea, nation or motherland. Love, affection or belief comes naturally. But at the same time you can not allow anybody to insult national icons or symbols by opposing them. There is no device which can help you to find out who in a gathering of hundred or thousand is not singing and force him to join the group singing. At the same time you have no business to sit as helpless spectator while national symbols are being subjected to opposition and ridicule. I can understand some reservation on the part of some individuals and they can act as they choose but can we allow them to incite and arouse others to show disrespect to national ideals and aspirations. In fact even if we have no feeling or respect for national song, at least show some respect for those who with Vande Mataram on their lips, sacrificed their lives so that we can live as free men and women.
I am against judging anybody'spatriotism on the basis of singing or not singing the national song. But I can not ignore the historical background that the leader and party that demanded fragmentation of united India, that advocated two nation theory, that created hurdles in the path of India attaining freedom was mainly responsible for organising opposition to Vande Mataram. Soon after Independence. Maulana Azad had said on 23 October 1947 ?Now that Indian politics has taken a new direction, there is no place in it for Muslim League.? May I add that now after 61 years of Independence there is no place for perpetuating the legacy of Muslim League under the garb of separate identity.
The Government of India have rightly asked the educational institutions to organise collective singing of Vande Mataram as a tribute not only to the author but numerous freedom fighters who laid down their lives with this song on their lips. But the strange thing is that now they are sounding totally defensive and sheepish as if they have done something wrong. History tells us that by giving concessions to communal and divisive demands we can buy temporary peace but the country pays dearly for these concessions and we become abettors in perpetuating the legacy of divisive politics. We have not been able to overcome the malignant fallout of what we did in 1986 at the instance and under pressure of Muslim Personal Law Board. We simply can not afford another blunder. But a leadership that has helped to resurrect the dead horse of Muslim League, and a so called secular coalition that can award ministerial position to Muslim League in the central Government is capable of going to any length to keep itself in position of power.
Challenge to religion comes from those who indulge in shedding the blood of innocent human beings in the name of religion not from those who sing songs of love and express their gratitude for all the beneficence of motherland and thus strengthen the bonds of national fraternity. Vande Mataram
A Free translation in Urdu
Tasleemat, Maan Tasleemat
Tu Bhari Hai Meethe Pani Se
Phal Phoolon Ki Shadabi Se
Dakkin Ki Thandi Hawaon Se
Faslon Ki Suhani Fizaaon Se
Tasleemat, Maan Tasleemat
Teri Raaten Roshan Chand Se
Teri Raunaq Sabze Faam Se
Teri Pyar Bhari Muskan Hai
Teri Meethi Bahut Zuban Hai
Teri Banhon Mein Meri Rahat Hai
Tere Qadmon Mein Meri Jannat Hai
Tasleemat, Maan Tasleemat.
This is an attempt to translate Vande Mataram in easy spoken language. I wonder if those who declare the song anti-Islamic may have a look at this rendering in Urdu and point out the line or portion they find objectionable?