'Unnecessary And Irrelevant'

Challenge to religion comes from those who indulge in terrorism in the name of religion, not from those who sing the National Song and express their gratitude for all the beneficence of motherland - thus strengthening the bond of fraternity and broth

'Unnecessary And Irrelevant'

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 easyspoken language. I wonder if those who declare the song anti-Islamic may have alook at this rendering in urdu and point out the line or portion they findobjectionable?

The new controversy regarding Vande Mataram is unnecessary and irrelevant. It is true that in the 1930s, there were differing opinions. The Congress Working Committee after lengthy deliberations took a view in 1937 to adopt first two stanzas as National Song. It is also true that the Muslim League persisted in its opposition till the country was divided. But the Constituent Assembly adopted Vande Mataram as NationalSong ('the song Vande Mataram, which has played ahistoric part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally withJana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it'). Those who persist in their opposition are actually negating a constitutional ideal. After all, the Constitution is not merely an exercise in semantics but expression of the people's national faith.

Vande Mataram was composed in 1870s and was made part of the Anandamath in 1881. In the Calcutta session of the Congress, the song was sung by Rabindranath Tagore, who had composed music for the song as well. This session was attended by good number of Muslim delegates and nobody had objected to the song. In fact, since 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 when Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was the president of the Congress, Vande Mataram was sung in all party sessions. In fact, Mr Rafi Ahmad Kidwai in his statement that was published in The Pioneer on October 19, 1937, observed:

"For years the song was sung at the beginning of Congress sessions and Muslims including Jinnah began to object only in the late 1930s. 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 the nation from foreign subjugation. The Britishgovernment, on the other hand, saw it as challenge to its authority and subsequently declared singing of the song a crime. The opposition to Vande Mataram came from the Muslim League, which under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah had developed a different attitude from those of nationalists on the question of India's freedom from foreign rule.

It is worth recalling the comment of Reyazul Karim, a leading litterateur of Bengal who wrote a critique of Vande Mataram. Karim said,

"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 Chandra Chattopadhyay's lasting gift to the country. 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".

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 achchha Hindustan hamara? Fortunately, nobody has raised this demand.

With this historical background, I have no doubt that opposition to Vande Mataram is not rooted in religion but in divisive politics that led to Partition. This song is important not only because it inspired our freedom fighters, but also because it gives remarkable description of beautiful and beneficent aspects of the motherland.

While opposing Vande Mataram, the Muslim Personal Law Board has gone to the extent of advising Muslim parents not to send their ward to schools on September 7. May I inform them the every session of Parliament concludes with Vande Mataram. Are they going to advise Muslim MPs to abstain from Parliament when Vande Mataram is being sung, or will they ask Muslims not to participate in elections because of the National Song?

From the Islamic viewpoint, the basic yardstick of an action is Innamal Aamalu Binnyat (action depends on intention). Hailing or saluting Motherland or singing its beauty and beneficence is not sajda. Maulana Azad was a great Islamic scholar, but he found nothing anti-religion about this song. Rafi Ahmad Kidwai strongly defended Vande Mataram. Moreover, we must remember the words of the Prophet: "The whole earth has been made mosque for me." Now, nobody 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 revere that piece of earth as our motherland, can this be anti religious? Certainly not.

The government has rightly asked the educational institutions to organise collective singing of Vande Mataram as a tribute not only to the author but also freedom fighters who laid down their lives with this song on their lips. But the strange thing is that now they are sounding defensive as if they have done something wrong.

History shows us that by giving concessions to communal demands, we can buy temporary peace but in the long term the country pays dearly and we become abettors in perpetuating the legacy of divisive politics. We have not able to overcome the malignant fallout of what we did in 1986 under pressure of the Muslim Personal Law Board. We simply can not afford another blunder.

Challenge to religion comes from those who indulge in terrorism in the name of religion, not from those who sing the National Song and express their gratitude for all the beneficence of motherland - thus strengthening the bond of fraternity and brotherhood.

Senior BJP leader Arif Mohammad Khan is a former union minister, well-known for the stand hehad taken as a part of Rajiv Gandhi's government on the Shah Bano issue. This piece first appeared in thePioneer.