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National Song that unites

National Song that unites

Author: Sarat Chandra Mallick
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 24, 2006

The ongoing controversy over Vande Mataram is an insult to our freedom movement and the nation as a whole. History is replete with instances when the song enthused our freedom fighters besides providing a common ground for equality of religions in our national life.

Composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1876, the song was incorporated in the novel, Anandamath, in 1882. The first occasion when it was sung was at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1896. Rahamatullah M Sayani, president of that session, was not only a leading advocate, but also the secretary of Anjuman-i-Islam. Rabindranath Tagore composed the music of Vande Mataram for that historic session.

During the partition of Bengal in 1905, the Bengal provincial conference of the year was held in Muslim-dominated Barisal (now in Bangladesh) in August. A leading Muslim presided over the conference and Vande Mataram was sung there. After the conference, the delegates marched in a procession through the streets of Barisal, shouting Vande Mataram to protest the partition of Bengal. Soon, it became a battle cry of Hindus and Muslims alike. Then it was not considered a Hindu song, but a slogan against imperialism and communalism.

Then came the 1906 Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress. Dadabhai Naoroji came from England to preside over the session, which was heralded by Vande Mataram.

Observing popular discussions on the contents of the song, the Congress Working Committee appointed a sub-committee with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Narendra Dev and Fazlul Haque to examine the song in consultation with Rabindranath Tagore. It was found that the original song mentioned that the population of India was only seven crore (sapta koti), despite the fact that it had by that time reached 38 crore. Similarly, Goddess Durga was mentioned in the song. It was, therefore, decided to use the first stanza as the National Song.

Vande Mataram is free from regionalism, parochialism and communalism. It was the first revolutionary song against foreign rule in India. Every Indian should remember its historic importance, which reminds us of the heroic deeds of our freedom fighters.

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