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Vande Mataram then, Saraswati Vandana now - The Observer

S Gurumurthy ()
October 24, 1998

Title: Vande Mataram then, Saraswati Vandana now
Author: S Gurumurthy
Publication: The Observer
Date: October 24, 1998

The scene is the conference of education ministers from states. A
melodious voice began rendering Saraswati Vandana, which is the
traditional invocation for education programmes.

And hell broke. The education ministers from the states where the
Congress and the Left, the JD and RJD, TDP and DMK and other known and
less known 'secular' parties are in power walked out - unable to bear
the sacrilege to the divine idea of secularism by invoking Saraswati,
unable to hear the communal melody.

"Saraswati Vandana is unsecular," said the Marxists. Once the Marxists
took the lead, the others had to fall in line. Because the yardstick of
what secular means in the context of Saraswati Vandana having been set,
the others had no option.

It would not have been very different if, not the Marxists, but the
Congress had taken the lead.

Secularism is a herd mentality in India. The psychology for this herd
mentality needs detailed examination. But a simple question may lead to
vital clues. Would these Johnnies have uttered a single word, would they
have dared to shout and walk out, if the conference had begun with a
verse from the Koran or the Bible? Would the secular herd have called
the Bible or Koran unsecular? Would a Sonia, who lectured to Vajpayee on
what nationalism and secularism mean in her letter, regard her Bible as
anti-secular? The answer is obvious. It is not that these gentlemen love
the Bible or Koran and have any distaste for Saraswati Vandana. They
have all a common love, even lust. They love votes and the votes of the
ready-made 'vote banks'.

In fact, there is nothing wrong in showing love for the Koran or Bible
as a disguised measure of their love for the votes of the vote banks. In
such a case, they would have asked for inclusion of verses from the
Koran and Bible, Granth Sahib and Zendavesta in such programmes.

But they would not. For them, secularism means exclusion of Hindu
ideas, symbols and customs only. They have measured the nearness to
secularism by the extent of explicit distaste for anything Hindu in

That is why pure secularists even scorn the idea of lighting lamps at
functions - because it is a Hindu symbol. But in the US, the Government
declares a whole year as 'Bible Year' - that does not make the
Government unsecular. But here a mere suggestion - which would never
become a decision unless all the great men, and the greatest woman from
Italy agree today - that Upanishads and Vedas should be taught in
schools 'is regarded as communal and imposing the 'Hindu Agenda'. Ronald
Reagan was not charged with imposing the Christian Agenda when he
declared 1983 as the 'Year of the Bible' in the US.

When he moved the resolution for the declaration, Reagan said: "Now,
therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America,
in recognition of the contribution and influence of the Bible on our
Republic and our people, do hereby proclaim 1983 the 'Year of the Bible'
in the USA. I encourage all citizens in his or her own way to re-examine
and rediscover its priceless and timeless message." His appeal was to
all citizens - not just to Christians.

But, in India. even common traditional and national values, which linked
the different religions and communities, are being labeled as 'Hindu
values'. The result is that the minorities are slowly and steadily drawn
away from all points which connected them by tradition with their mother
Hindu society.

The "secularists" have convinced the minorities that secularism means
rejecting everything that has a Hindu origin. None of these great men
not to mention the great woman from Italy who pontificates on secularism
to India - even know what role the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita have
played in our national regeneration. And in raising a mighty national
awakening that transformed into the movement for India's freedom. Swami
Vivekananda and Maharishi Aurobindo who built the intellectual
foundation for the freedom movement were influenced by all that our
secularists from India and Italy call unsecular - the Vedas, Upanishads
and the Gita. Balgangadhar Tilak wrote the Gita Rahasya as the guide for
his participation in the independence movement. Mahatma Gandhi said
that but for reading the Gita he would have committed suicide. Whether
it is Guru Tegh Bahadur or Guru Gobind Singh, who sacrificed everything,
including their lives to protect the Vedas and the Cow, or a Ravidas or
a Surdas, a Nandanar or Sri Narayana Guru, their inspiration came only
from ancient Indian thought.

In fact, Dr Annie Besant and Sister Nivedita, with whom the lady from
Italy is often compared by her admirers to indigenise her, upheld all
that is Hindu in origin as the main inspiration for them to serve India.
Besant said: "Minus Hinduism, India is irrelevant."

Yet for the "secularists", Hindu ideas and symbols are anathema. This is
the perversity of Indian secularism. This is what has turned everything
Hindu in origin unsecular. This is what has turned all that inspired the
freedom movement as unsecular and even communal, whether it is the
concept of Hindu nation expounded by Swami Vivekananda, or the idea of
Sanatana Dharma equated to Indian nationalism by Maharishi Aurobindo, or
the ideal of Ram Rajya held out by Mahatma Gandhi as the goal of the
freedom movement or the worship of Mother India sung by Maharishi Bankim
Chandra in Vande Mataram. This one song Vande Mataram - turned into a
war cry and sent thousands of youths to the gallows and jails in the
cause of freedom. The idea of secularism which rejects the concept of
Vande Mataram in effect disowns all those who were inspired by it to
fight for our freedom.

Will the secularists accept any of these great pre-independence ideas
and concepts on which our freedom movement was founded, as secular?

The walkout at the education ministers conference is a replay of what
happened at the Kakinada session of the Indian National Congress in the
year 1934. At the session, Vishnu Dhigambar Paluskar sang the Vande
Mataram as the invocation song. As he uttered "Twam hi Durga dwgja
praharana davinim (meaning thou art Durga, Mother India), which is part
of the song, Moulana Mohammed Ali, who was the President of the
Congress, walked out saying that the song was 'idolatry'. It is this
mentality that later ensured that India was eventually partitioned.

It was Vande Mataram then, and it is Saraswati Vandana today. Then it
was Moulana Mohammed Ali, and today, it is the "secularists". Among
those who approved the singing of Vande Mataram at the Nagpur Congress
was Mahatma Gandhi. Today those who claim to be the political heirs of
Mahatma Gandhi are boycotting Saraswati Vandana.

The only difference is that they have a different Gandhi as their leader

They are as different today as their Gandhi today is different from the
Gandhi who led them, and led this country to freedom.

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