It is very well known that, up to 1922, every Congress session commenced with the singing of Vande Mataram. Even during the ?Khilafat Movement? of 1920-21, a religion-political issue of the Muslim world, concerning Sultan of Turkey as the ?Khalifa?, it was sung both by Hindus and Muslims on the streets of India. The movement failed. The fundamentalist Muslims started distancing from the Congress. In order to lure them, Congress made Maulana Mohammed Ali its president for the 1923 annual session. True to his separatist Islamic thought, he tried to stop the singing of Vande Mataram. Seeing the defiant mood of the singer and the delegates, Mohammed Ali walked out and came back only after the song had been sung. When the matter was referred to Gandhi, he decreed in favour of Mohammed Ali. As a result, a sub-committee was set up to resolve the matter. It recommended deletion of certain passages from the song. The amendment was accepted. As Muslim separatism increased, their objection too became more pronounced.
What people in general don'tknow is that, on August 7, 1947, the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad, respecting public sentiments expressed through various memorials and representations, wrote to the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, suggesting that the coming Independence be hailed by a proclamation of banning cow slaughter in the country and commencing the first session of the Constituent Assembly on August 15 with the singing of Vande Mataram. In a detailed 3 page reply, the same day, Nehru rejected both. For banning cow-slaughter he, inter alia, wrote, ??the stoppage of cow-slaughter means stopping non-Hindus from doing something which they might do. For economic reasons step can always be taken because they are justified on economic grounds?. As to Vande Mataram, he said that it was improper because there already was ? a well recognised official national anthem?, (perhaps ?God Save the King?), and a new national anthem was yet to be decided. However, the matter was left to Dr Prasad'sdiscretion in latter'scapacity as the President of the Constituent Assembly. That is how and why proceeding of the Constituent Assembly on the night of August 14, 1947, in the Parliament House, commenced with the singing of Vande Mataram.
By January 26, 1950, when the Constituent Assembly had to take a decision on free India'sNational Anthem, Jawaharlal Nehru managed to get and opinion that Vande Mataram did not suit band music, while Jana Gana Mana did. Following Nehru'sdictate, the same Dr Rajendra Prasad, presiding over the Assembly on January 24, 1950, proposed Jana Gana Mana, (a song that Rabindra Nath Tagore had sung in the honour of King George V in 1911), to be the National Anthem and Vande Mataram the national song. That is how, on the very first day of ?Independence?, Hindu sentiments were made subservient to the ?minorities? and nationalism was made optional. It is unfortunate that Dr Rajendra Prasad did not make Nehru'sletter public. It can now be seen in the Selected Works, 2nd Series, volume 3, and pp. 189-192).
(The author can be contacted at A-2B/94-A, MIG Flats, Paschim Vihar, New Delhi-63)