This has become news. A BSP MP walked out of Parliament when Vande Mataram was being played at the end of the dud budget session. No one seems interested in what came out of the proceedings, but the fact that Shafiqur Rahman Barq insulted the national song.
He was even interviewed for it. He told CNN-IBN: "I won't apologise to anyone. I respect the National Anthem, not the national song Vande Mataram. Vande Mataram is an ode to motherland. Muslims like me bend only before Allah, not before any other god."
We'll get to him in a bit, but the speaker of the house Meira Kumar responded rather quickly: "One honourable member walked out when Vande Mataram was being played. I take very serious view of this. I would want to know why this was done. This should never happen again."
Has it happened before? How often?
The BJP had a nice token Muslim Shahnawaz Hussain to speak up: "Members have no right to insult the National Song especially when they have taken oath. The Speaker has taken the right move by naming the MP. He has insulted Parliament."
Say he has insulted the national song, not Parliament, for the oath does not specify what you will sing. Does the oath specify whether watching pornographic clips in the assembly is an insult to the House, and the oath taken by members?
Unfortunately, this has turned into a communal debate. I do take exception to those who take up the Muslim cause and say most Muslims are nice folks, unlike Burq. This is not about terrorism or some crime, and the community can do without this granting of certificates for good behaviour. And for those who are concerned about Muslims and ready with their “Go to Pakistan" 'anthem', let me remind them that the song that registers most even for them is “Saare jahaan se achhaa" written by Sir Mohammed Iqbal, one of the main architects of the idea of Pakistan. Enjoy!
I reproduce here some views expressed in 2006 - read it as past tense:
How many Indians know the Vande Mataram song? Are they aware it was written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee as a cry against British oppression? Does knowing it make them better patriots?
On September 7 (2006) school children in Uttar Pradesh will have to compulsorily sing the ‘national song’ to commemorate its centenary; government papers have been passed to that effect. Forget the communal colour of the controversy for a moment. What should really bother us is the dictatorial nature of such a directive.
We are making children into pawns of our divisive mindsets.
The Muslims are cribbing that bowing before anyone but Allah is un-Islamic. These clerics ought to know that people regularly bow at tombstones in dargahs. Don’t many Muslim organisations carry around pictures of religious leaders and even rebel political figures in a crass mockery of obeisance? Where is their Islam, then?
On the other hand, we have the BJP’s token symbol Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying, “Those who oppose our national song should better leave the country. Their opposition is a reflection of their separatist mindset.”
At a sensitive time when almost every Muslim is a target of some suspicion, the last thing anyone ought to be talking about is separatist mindsets, especially if it hinges on the singing of a song. If people of the North East refuse to sing or do not know the Vande Mataram, will they be asked to leave the country? Would you tell this to some Christian or Parsi or even a Hindu?
Our motherland has survived this last century without off-key singing. If you wish to pay tribute to a national song, then do it with dignity. Play it in the background and everyone will stand silently and respect it. Those who wish to hum along could do so. But do not force false ideas of patriotism on the minds of vulnerable children.
By doing so you are ironically conveying that we are not even a democracy.
© Farzana Versey
1. Rabindranath Tagore rejected Vande Mataram as the national song:
"The core of Vande Mataram is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankimchandra does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussulman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as 'Swadesh' [the nation]. This year many of the special [Durga] Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from Vande Mataram—proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song cannot be appropriate. When Bengali Mussulmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating."
2. Besides the Muslim 'problem', the song has had objections from other communities: