Vande Mataram is a beautiful heroic song, which successfully infused patriotism among the youth of India. Its music was composed and sung by Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. It was praised by Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and was adopted by the Indian National Congress for generations. It is being despised by some today. Amar Ujala of Nainital (June 10, 2006) reported that on June 9, a fatwa was issued by eminent Islamic clergy institutions at Hyderabad, Bareilly, Deoband and Lucknow that our Muslim brethren must not send their children to schools where Vande Mataram is sung because it is worship of earth/motherland while Muslims worship none except one God (Allah). Fridays, specially after Jumma Namaz congregation, are favourite for starting significant Muslim religious activities, including demonstrations! Bareilly'sMaulana Asad Raza Khan reminded that four years ago the Ulema of ?Bareli Maslak? had given the same opinion, which is firmly held even now.
A member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board at Lucknow reminded that eight years ago the chairman of the Board, the late Maulana Mian Ali, had expressed similar opposition and everyone is firm on it even today. What prompted these seats of Islamic theological learning to issue the fatwa presently is not indicated; the Law Board gentleman was thoughtful enough to observe that there was no justification for expressing opinion afresh on Vande Mataram despite the previous pronouncements.
Perhaps it is in the chain of the learned Muslim theologians keenness to remind the community, from time to time, of remaining alive to various religious and cultural differences, which has dogged development of amicable relations between Hindus and Muslims, and to keep our secular rulers on the tenterhooks. After all, rightly or wrongly, the Muslim vote is now supposed to gain considerable importance today. Banking upon supposed Muslim victories in the last general elections in Assam after constituting a Muslim Front there, Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari announced contemplating similar forums all over the country, and started the exercise by floating UP United Democratic Front to show the strength of Muslims! UP has been the breeding ground of forces which led to division of India; it continues to be so even today unfortunately.
Worship of motherland/earth may be taboo in Islam; but why deprive Muslim children from education in schools simply because Vande Mataram is sung? What the ulemas have declared forbidden is the ?singing?, why prevent children from getting education? The children can stay but not sing; we have the Supreme Court precedent of Jehova'sWitnesses Community children standing quietly but not singing our national anthem along with other school children. Our secular governments have not considered it necessary to bring the Jehova'sWitnesses into the mainstream of national ethos on community singing of the anthem?in our secularism communal rights of religious communities seem to supersede national obligations!
It is time our Judicature gave a clear verdict whether under the scheme of the Constitution of India, religion supersedes national ethos and integration, whether communal concepts prevail over interests of national unity and whether various oaths of office taken by constitutional authorities and public functionaries to abide by the Constitution apply only to the ?enforceable? portions of the Constitution or also to the aspirations of the people contained in Preamble, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties enumerated in Article 51 A. There is no specific Article in Constitution of India, which obliges the State to frame laws conferring special privileges on ?minorities? as a class. Article 15 forbids the State to discriminate amongst citizens on grounds of religion, race etc; legislation to confer benefits on some class of citizens in this Article is confined to women, children, socially and educationally backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; no such relaxation is extended to minorities. Articles 29 and 30 confer power upon minorities to establish institutions of their choice. Yes, let minorities establish institutions; but how does that oblige State to frame law as for the same purpose? If not, how does the Executive Power of the State extend to secure the same object?
The question at the root is whether the word vande really means ?worship?. The word banda does not mean worship; it is referred to God'ssupreme creation, man. We often address our friends as bandaparvar; village-folk often make salutation to fellow beings with bandagi. Are such salutations forbidden in Islam? ?Worship? is only a narrow meaning of vande which has several other wider meanings.
Vande really means ?admiration?, ?praise?; there is no conflict between ?praise? and ?worship?. One may worship Allah and also praise His creation; Matrabhoomi is one of His creations. If the popular practice to praise human beings like political leaders, saints and intellectuals is acceptable, why not that of Bharat in Vande Mataram. Puja/archana are the words for worship?but this distinction has no meaning for Muslim ulemas or the likes of them.
National Anthems of several Muslim countries contain praises of country'sland?sometimes of rulers too; national anthem of Egypt and Bangladesh invoke the country as ?mother?.
Bankim Chandra Chatterji wrote Vande Mataram in 1870 and published it in Anandamath in 1882. Its symphony was composed by Rabindranath Tagore and it was sung at the 11th Session of Indian National Congress in 1896; the song captured the hearts of people. It began to be sung everywhere to express national sentiment. When Viceroy Lord Curzon initiated a motion for partition of Bengal on communal basis, the entire country stood up against it and the people used to express their sentiments by singing Vande Mataram and by greeting each other with the title. The expression became a ?battle-cry? against the proposal of partition of Bengal. Feelings of revolt against the British government were generated by the song; finally the proposal for partition of Bengal was given up.
In 1905, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that Vande Mataram should be our national song. He wrote in Indian Opinion (2.12.1905): ?Its only aim is to arouse in us a sense of patriotism. It regards India as the mother and sings its praises. The poet attributes to Mother India all the good qualities one finds in one'sown mother.?
Indian National Congress adopted Vande Mataram again and again in its sessions. In Barisal Session of Bengal Congress Committee in 1906 it was sung, and in the succeeding session of the Indian National Congress, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore himself sang it; the beauty of its meaning, the sweetness of the symphony, the grace of the words and the thought-appeal was so immense that the people accepted it as national song with their hearts. Vande Mataram became the mantra of People'sawakening and patriotism. Perhaps some sections of our population do not want similar awakening and patriotism to be generated now!
In 1937, Indian National Congress constituted a committee of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Acharya Narendra Dev to consider about a national song. After consulting Rabindranath Tagore, the committee decided that the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram should be sung as national song during its functions. These very two stanzas only (out of many) are sung everywhere even now.
Jana Gana Mana, written by Rabindranath Tagore, was sung for the first time at the Session of Indian National Congress on 27.11.1911 and Mahatma Gandhi called its Bharat ka bhakti geet (the devotional song of India). Azad Hind Fauz of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, rendered it into Hindi and used it as national song. Along with Jana Gana Mana, the slogan Jai Hind also received currency. The two and the slogan Dilli Chalo made lakhs of Indians crazy for freedom. On attaining freedom, India adopted Jana Gana Mana as national anthem. On January 24, 1950 (two days before adoption of the Constitution of India), Dr Rajendra Prasad as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly said that Vande Mataram which had played a historic role in freedom movement shall also be given the same respect as Jana Gana Man. The call of the Muslim clerics against Vande Mataram is as bad as insulting the national anthem.
Such is the aura around Vande Mataram that the history, status, dignity and popularity were accorded to the song by the people in praise of the motherland. It is wrong on the part of communal forces to denigrate and insult it and thereby denigrate the nation and prompt that their children should not be sent to schools which sing Vande Mataram. To promote national fervour and integration, every school and educational institution should sing the song?never mind the fanatics.
The current controversy over the song, in fact, has deeper overtones. Read it with the threat given by Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari of Jama Masjid, Delhi?a threat to show the ?muslim power?. It is reminiscent of pre-partition riots, the Direct Action of Jinnah and Suhrawardy (of Bengal); it is a threat to the nation. With ever increasing militancy in Kashmir?with its too many harrowing tales of continuing massacre of Hindus?attacks on Hindu temples, institutions (even Parliament) and pilgrimages any where in India, the Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh?reflected in daily newspaper of the north-east for the last over five years?the Naxalites enjoying tacit support of Marxist leaning, our governments at the Centre and states like UP, Assam and Bengal?one should see these dangers without further delay. They have among them elements who would be too happy to have Muslim rule over the country?Minister Ram Vilas Paswan openly yearned to have a Muslim Chief Minister of Bihar.
The Indian National Congress, specially its young dynamic blood, must look back to its own history on Vande Mataram, of its strong nationalism of late 19th and early 20th centuries, and prevent its fair name from being tarnished by siding with elements who decry Indian culture respected since ages, should beware of ministers who denigrate Hindu ideals and traditions to please non-Hindus, and should act courageously and strongly enough to ensure a powerful united/unified democratic India, on the basis of equality for all and crush threats flowing from any quarter. Presently, they have wrong partners?let them find out proper ones.
Under clause (b) of Article 51A of our Constitution, it is the Fundamental Duty of every citizen ?to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom.? The government should accord protection to Vande Mataram under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 69 of 1971.
For him who does not honour Vande Mataram the following lines by Sir Walter Scott'spoem are very apt:
?Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!?
(The author is a retired Judge, of Allahabad High Court and can be contacted at Gunjan, C-105, Niralanagar, Lucknow-226 020)