Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Idea of INDIA Under Assault

Idea of INDIA Under Assault

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Sunday Pioneer
Date: August 27, 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 Muslims".

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 Mataram.

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.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements