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Sab's world

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Idea of INDIA Under Assault
Kanchan Gupta
The Pioneer
August 28, 2006

The two of them walked into the moonlit night. Mahendra was grieving, but also
strangely curious.

Suddenly Bhabananda became a different person. He was no longer a calm and
patient sanyasi; nor did he look like a bloodthirsty warrior. In the stillness
of this full moon night, amid the verdant forest and its rippling brooks, he
became joyous. Bhabananda repeatedly tried to draw Mahendra into a
conversation, but finding no response he burst into song:

Vande maataram
Sujalaam suphalaam

Mahendra was surprised by the lyrics, partly because he could not follow the
words. Sujalaam... Suphalaam... Malayajashiitalaam... Sasyashyaamalaam...
"Who's maata?" he asked Bhabananda. Without answering the question, Bhabananda
continued the song:

Shubhrajyotsnaa pulakitayaaminiim
Pullakusumita drumadalashobhiniim
Suhaasiniim Sumadhurabhaashhiniim
Sukhadaam varadaam maataram

Mahendra said, "This is desh (my country), this is not maata!"

Bhabananda replied, "We recognise no other mother - our mother is our
motherland... We have no mothers, fathers, brothers, friends... we don't have
wives, children, homes. All that we have is this sujalaa suphalaa,
malayajashiitalaa, sasyashyaamalaa... "

With realisation dawning, Mahendra said, "Do continue with your song."

Bhabananda began to sing again:

Vande maataram
Sujalaam suphalaam malayaja shiitalaam
Sasyashyaamalaam maataram
Shubhrajyotsnaa pulakitayaaminiim
Pullakusumita drumadala shobhiniim
Suhaasiniim sumadhura bhaashhiniim
Sukhadaam varadaam maataram
Koti koti kantha kalakalaninaada karaale
Dwisapta koti bhujaidhrat kharakaravaale
Abalaa keno maa eto bale
Bahubaladhaariniim namaami taariniim
Ripudalavaariniim Maataram
Tumi vidyaa tumi dharma
Tumi hridi tumi marma
Tvam hi praanaah shariire
Baahute tumi maa shakti
Hridaye tumi maa bhakti
Tomaara i pratimaa gadi
Mandire mandire
Tvam hi Durgaa dashapraharanadhaarinii
Kamalaa kamaladala vihaarinii
Vaanii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaam
Namaami kamalaam amalaam atulaam
Sujalaam suphalaam
Vande Mataram
Shyaamalaam saralaam susmitaam bhuushhitaam
Dharaniim bharaniim Maataram

Mahendra saw tears streaking down an emotional Bhabananda's face. Amazed,
Mahendra asked, "Who are you?" Bhabananda said, "We are santaan (children of
the motherland)."

(Free translation from Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's Anandamath)

Contrary to popular belief, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote the lyrics of Vande
Mataram, or at least the first two stanzas of the song, much before he penned
Anandamath, his novel celebrating the sanyasi uprising against the tyrannical
rule of Bengal's Muslim subedars. The original version was written sometime in
the early 1870s - probably 1875 - and was later expanded into its full version
and incorporated in Anandamath in 1881.

Much later, when Vande Mataram became the rallying cry of India's freedom
movement, after it was set to music by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and adopted
as the National Song at the Varanasi session of the Congress on September 7,
1905 (it was accorded this status, bringing it at par with the National Anthem,
officially by the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950), leaders of what was
then incipient Muslim separatism began to raise the bogey that Bankim Chandra
Chatterjee's creation was "idolatrous" and, therefore, unIslamic. In time, this
became, and continues to remain, the chant of those sections of the clergy and
community who remain hopeful of setting the clock back by 150 years, if not
more, when much if not all of India was ruled through firmans issued from the
masnad of Delhi, more specifically Lal Qila.

There is little reason for either surprise or anguish over the ulema's whiplash
response to Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh's letter to
Chief Ministers, in which he said, "The year-long commemoration of 100 years of
adoption of Vande Mataram as the National Song started on September 7, 2005 and
will be coming to a close on September 7, 2006. As a befitting finale to the
commemoration year, it has been decided that the first two stanzas of the
National Song Vande Mataram should be sung simultaneously in all schools,
colleges and other educational institutions throughout the country..."

In Hyderabad, Maulana Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri, president of the Sunni Ulema
Board, issued a fatwa, instructing Muslims not to sing the National Song and
added that Muslims should not send their children to schools where Vande
Mataram is sung. In Allahabad, India's all-weather Islamist and Shahi Imam of
Delhi's Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari turned apoplectic with rage and
described any attempt to make Muslims sing the National Song as "oppression of

Such resistance and refusal has been registered by the ulema earlier too.
Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, aka Ali Mian, who, while he was alive, came to
represent theological fanaticism and practised it with unabashed gusto as
chairman of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, often raved and ranted
against Vande Mataram while rubbishing all suggestions that the National Song
defines the idea of Indian nationhood as something sacred and divine.

Nor is it surprising that the same Ali Mian, in his stirring address to a
gathering of Indian and Pakistani Muslims in Jeddah on April 3, 1986, should
have exulted, "Cow slaughter in India is a great Islamic practice, (said)
Mujadid Alaf Saani II. This was his farsightedness that he described cow
slaughter in India as a great Islamic practice. It may not be so in other
places. But it is definitely a great Islamic act in India because the cow is
worshipped in India."

Hence the renewed rage against Vande Mataram because it symbolises the
motherland India worships; it must be profaned because we associate with the
"ode to the motherland", to quote Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, "the purest
national spirit"; it must be denigrated because, as Bipin Chandra Pal (a
"terrorist" in the present UPA regime's jaundiced eyes) put it, "The new
nationalism which Vande Mataram reveals is not a mere civic or economic or
political ideal. It is a religion." It is this religion of nationalism and
patriotism, and not merely India's National Song, which is once again under
attack from those who hawk Islamic revanchism and preach bigotry and separatism
in the guise of protecting the identity of India's Muslims.

The fresh fatwa against Vande Mataram is not without history and can be traced
to the Congress's capitulation in the face of Islamic opposition. In 1923, the
Congress met at Kakinada and Maulana Mohamed Ali was brought to the venue in a
procession led by a raucous band. As was the practice, the session was
scheduled to begin with a rendition of Vande Mataram by Pandit Vishnu Digambar
Paluskar. When Pandit Paluskar rose to sing what had by then become the anthem
of India's freedom movement, Maulana Mohamed Ali protested, saying that music
was taboo to Islam and, therefore, singing Vande Mataram would hurt his
religious sensitiveness. Pandit Paluskar snubbed the maulana, pointing out that
the Congress session was an open gathering and not a religious congregation of
any one faith. For good measure, he added that since the maulana had not found
the band that led his procession a taboo to Islam, he could not object to the
singing of Vande Mataram.

Maulana Mohammed Ali may have been stumped on that occasion, but by the time
India became independent from foreign rule, the Congress had conceded ground to
those who today have the temerity to scoff at the National Song or refuse to
sing the National Anthem as activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India
or members of the Jehovah's Witness sect do. By 1937, Vande Mataram had become a
"Muslim grievance" and Ali Sardar Jafri convinced fellow-traveller Jawaharlal
Nehru that the song which had inspired the freedom movement and sent martyrs
like Khudiram Bose to the gallows without any trace of regret, was actually
"idolatrous in spirit". Nehru went a step further and described the mantra of
Indian nationalism and patriotism as "out of keeping with modern notions of
nationalism and progress."

The Muslim League was quick to take its cue from Nehru and a month later, on
October 17, 1937, passed a resolution at its Lucknow session, condemning the
Congress for "foisting Vande Mataram as the national song upon the country in
callous disregard of the feelings of Muslims." When the Congress Working
Committee met in Calcutta later that year with Nehru as president, it
officially recognised "the validity of the objections raised by the Muslims to
certain parts of the Vande Mataram song" and "recommended that at national
gatherings only the first two stanzas of the song should be sung."

But appeasement does not have any limit - the Muslim League was not reassured
either by Nehru's action or his promise that Vande Mataram in "future (will)
become less important." The Pirpur Committee, which was set up by the Muslim
League to compile a list of "atrocities against Muslims", submitted its report
on November 15, 1938. Among the "atrocities against Muslims" was listed Vande

As September 7, 2006 approaches, we hear a similar refrain from the League's
legatees: "Asking us to sing Vande Mataram is oppression of Muslims." The
Pirpur report is being written all over again.

Before independence, the Congress sacrificed the cultural and civilisational
content of Vande Mataram, which even in its truncated form is nothing but a
hymnal tribute to an idyllic Mother India, on the altar of the Muslim League's
separatist politics. We see a similar capitulation today with the Congress
declaring, in response to the ulema's rant against Vande Mataram, that it is
not compulsory to sing the National Song.

Soon, it will be the turn of the National Anthem, and then the idea of India as
a nation and a nation-state. No price, it would seem, is too high to pay in
order to keep the ulema in good humour.

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